the battle for the 1974 League championship came down to the wire,
long term front runners Leeds United were facing the severest
pressure from arch rivals Liverpool.
On 9 February, the Whites' 2-0 defeat of Manchester United 2-0
at Old Trafford took them nine points clear with thirteen games
left to play. But then an astonishing decline set in, with Leeds
suffering four League defeats in the space of five weeks; their
once-impregnable lead crumbled as Liverpool turned up the heat,
winning match after match in an unbeaten run that began after
they went down 2-1 at Burnley on Boxing Day.
By the time United lost 3-1 at West Ham on 30 March, they had
amassed 52 points from 36 games; Liverpool had four points fewer,
but three games in hand.
At that crucial, fraught moment, Don
Revie's men finally stumbled into something of a revival,
conjuring up a 2-0 defeat of Derby on 6
April. When Liverpool's unbeaten run ended by virtue of a
single goal at Sheffield United two days later, the advantage
edged back towards Leeds.
In the following weeks, the two teams fell foul of the jitters
with a succession of draws, before they both registered convincing
victories on 16 April, Liverpool thrashing Manchester City 4-0
at Anfield and Leeds winning 2-0 at Sheffield United. Those results
left the Whites four points clear with two games to play. Liverpool
still had four fixtures remaining, but crucially the Whites enjoyed
a superior goal average.
Saturday, 20 April, brought home fixtures for both clubs, United
against third-placed Ipswich Town and Liverpool pitted against
Merseyside rivals Everton. The bookmakers were clear about the
destination of the title, quoting Leeds at odds of 9-2 on, while
Liverpool were 7-2.
Neither manager accepted that it was so clear cut, with a defiant
Bill Shankly claiming, "It is not finished yet, not by any means."
Don Revie offered a cautious perspective on the Ipswich game,
saying, "We could not have picked a more difficult match than
this is likely to be. Ipswich are one of the most entertaining
sides in the country. They have a very sound defence and in Kevin
Beattie they possess one of the best sweepers in the country.
David Johnson is one of the liveliest strikers in the business."
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The Portman Road side went into the game without free-scoring
striker Trevor Whymark (cut heel), while first choice goalkeeper
Laurie Sivell was also injured and Paul Cooper, on loan from Birmingham,
took over between the sticks.
The Sheffield United game had saddled Leeds with a testing legacy;
Jordan (ankle and knee), McQueen (ankle), Clarke (Achilles tendon)
and Hunter (thigh) were struggling to be ready, though Bremner
(severe leg bruising), Jones (knee), Yorath (ankle) and Giles
(calf) were considered likely to play. "They will all be in the
squad for the Ipswich game," said Revie. "They have to be, there
would be no team without them. But the injuries are coming all
at once again."
In the end, McQueen, Clarke, Hunter, Bremner and Jones were all
declared fit and in the starting eleven; there was also a welcome
boost in the form of the return of long term injury victim Eddie
Gray, selected for the first time since September.
From the whistle, United came under severe pressure and David
Harvey's goal was fortunate to emerge unscathed from a fourth
minute scare. Roger Osborne, the 24-year-old replacement for Whymark,
seized on a poor back pass by Paul Madeley and slipped the ball
to David Johnson. The striker's low shot was parried by Harvey,
and Trevor Cherry came in to tidy up as the ball rolled along
the goal line. The full-back's clearance deflected off Harvey
to the oncoming Osborne, but the youngster betrayed his inexperience,
fluffing an outstanding opportunity with a rushed effort.
Ipswich remained on the offensive, penning United in until the
eighth minute when the home side finally managed to fashion an
attack. Mick Jones was a prominent figure in the build-up, which
ended with Peter Lorimer's cross from the right flank being headed
out for a corner.
Gordon McQueen got up well to nod the resultant flag kick past
Ipswich keeper Paul Cooper but his effort was chalked off by referee
Baker for a foul.
Soon after that the official spoke at length to Norman Hunter
for a challenge on Osborne and was then subject to jeers from
the home support when he lectured McQueen following a foul on
The reprimands were quickly forgotten when United opened the
scoring after 16 minutes.
Paul Reaney ended one Ipswich thrust by clearing the ball downfield
but Town centre-back Kevin Beattie nodded the ball back coolly
to his skipper Mick Mills. However, the left-back's crossfield
pass to full-back partner George Burley was horribly misplaced
and was picked up deep on the left touch by Eddie Gray.
The winger danced inside before feeding Allan Clarke on the edge
of the Ipswich area. He slipped
the ball back to Paul Madeley but when the midfielder tried to
find Billy Bremner Brian Talbot intercepted. His attempted one-two
with Clive Woods was ended by a forceful Gordon McQueen intervention
which flew out to Peter Lorimer on the right wing.
Clarke and Jones were both waiting unmarked in the middle for
a cross that never came, for Lorimer had eyes only for goal. He
swerved a fiercely rising effort which flew past goalkeeper Cooper
and into the net just inside the nearside angle. It was a classic
example of the wide man's outstanding shooting prowess.
The goal gave United impetus and they showed renewed confidence
and fluency as Billy Bremner drove them forward. Some direct running
from Ipswich's front men continued to cause concern at the other
end, but Leeds had the bit between their teeth and it was 2-0
after 22 minutes.
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After Kevin Beattie nodded out a lofted free kick from Norman
Hunter, Brian Talbot was adjudged to have handled the dropping
ball a few yards outside his own penalty area as he sought to
clear. From the resultant free kick Lorimer stepped up to crack
in another tremendous drive. The keeper managed to block the effort,
low at his right hand post, but when it ballooned up, the onrushing
Bremner dived forward to nod the ball home.
There were subsequent Ipswich protests that the United skipper
had been in an offside position when Lorimer took the free kick
but little argument by the players at the time and the referee
confirmed the goal.
That sparked a vigorous response from the visitors and they forced
United back, pulling a goal back five minutes later. David Johnson
picked the ball up in midfield to feed Mills on the left and the
move continued with Woods in the inside-left channel 30 yards
from goal. An attempted one-two with Osborne foundered but the
ball fell loose to Talbot who fired home from near the penalty
Ipswich continued to press forward in search of an equaliser
and demonstrated how good an attacking outfit they were with Johnson
and Woods figuring strongly and Talbot getting a hold of play
in the middle of the park.
When Norman Hunter was content to concede a corner to stop Bryan
Hamilton's thrust, namesake Allan Hunter, the Northern Ireland
centre-back, headed wide from the resultant dead ball situation.
The same player got in a good tackle to stop Lorimer's advance
after an overhead kick by Allan Clarke and then goalkeeper Cooper
did well to gather Gray's cross from the left as United sought
to restore their two-goal cushion.
They had to be alert at the other end, though, in the final two
minutes of the half as Town enjoyed a couple of good opportunities.
Woods wasted the first by firing wildly across goal and then Harvey
saved a scuffed Talbot effort which had little pace to it.
United were well satisfied with their performance thus far, though
they would have preferred more than the 2-1 lead they had at the
Ipswich began the second half on the attack and it needed some
good defensive play by McQueen, Cherry and Hunter to keep them
There were then a couple of flashes of the old Eddie Gray magic,
though he ended one promising move by watching his cross fade
tamely for a goal kick. There was more of a threat shortly after
when the winger's fine through ball found Lorimer running well,
but Cooper saved bravely at his feet on the edge of his box.
Just as Leeds were getting on top they were rocked when Ipswich
drew level after 54 minutes.
Town midfielder Peter Morris played the ball out to Clive Woods,
but his run was ended by a fearsome foot up challenge from Paul
Reaney and Ipswich were awarded the free kick. Morris played the
ball to Mick Mills on the left and when Osborne fired in a shot
cum cross, Hamilton got onto it to flick low past Harvey into
Far from settling for a point, Bobby Robson's team pushed on
and full-back Mills ran 60 yards down the left to set up another
attack which resulted in a corner. The kick was cleared but Ipswich
still had the momentum, Osborne rounding
McQueen on the left to threaten, though Norman Hunter intercepted
But Leeds had come too far in this, their penultimate game of
the campaign, to pass up their opportunity and they regained the
lead after 70 minutes.
A period of good United possession in midfield saw the ball fall
to an advanced Reaney on the right and his looped cross was nodded
on by Lorimer, not a notable header of the ball. This time, though,
his flick was perfect and Clarke got onto the ball, controlled
it well under pressure from Burley and hammered into the roof
of the net from close range.
The defenders appealed fiercely that Clarke had handled the ball
during the move, but the referee ignored their protests and signalled
the goal was good.
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Clarke claimed later that he went to head the ball and it hit
him on the shoulder: "The referee could not see much because I
had my back to him, but the linesman was in a very good position
to see everything and he had no doubts that it was a good goal.
At first I tried to head the ball, it hit me on the shoulder then
bounced down. The referee cannot award a free kick for that."
The home crowd roared United on as they looked for a fourth,
but they were content to preserve their hard-won advantage in
the final quarter of an hour, intent on running down the clock.
Twelve minutes from time Clarke was booked for refusing to retreat
ten yards from an Ipswich free kick and then the names of Bremner
and Cherry followed into the official's notebook after dallying
unnecessarily over a United free kick.
The points from the 3-2 victory were vital, made doubly valuable
by the news from Anfield that Liverpool had been held to a goalless
draw by Everton. Defiant Reds supremo Bill Shankly thundered,
"There is still a mathematical chance and while that is so we
will not give up hope. That's the trouble with the world today,
people give up too easily. A squirt of Gaelic blood, that's what
you all need. Then you might not make remarks about giving up…
We shall have to win our matches and then hope QPR do us a favour
against Leeds on Saturday. It's not beyond them, they are a very
good side. Nothing is beyond them at home and Leeds must have
had a shaking today by the sound of it."
Norman Fox in the Times: "In one breath Don Revie, the
Leeds United manager, praises the 'hard work, dedication and effort'
that has qualified his team for their tenth successive year in
European competition - whether in the European Cup or UEFA Cup
we will not know for a few more days - and in the next describes
the League championship as the 'major trophy in world club football'.
It is as if he is preparing the Elland Road crowds for disappointment
- the acceptance, perhaps, that a decade is a lifetime for both
a footballer and a team. Next season will bring the culmination
of a short lifetime's work or the end of a remarkable era.
"Their last home match of the season, against Ipswich Town on
Saturday, was a powerful example of Leeds operating Revie's 'simple
facts'. It brought them a 3-2 victory - eventually. Nothing came
easily: every move seemed to require a major overhaul before it
could reach a conclusion, and for a substantial part of the game
Ipswich drew all of the patterns while Leeds traced the outline
of their past with a blunt pencil.
"Leeds are ending their season as a contradiction - leaders chasing
after form, struggling out of difficulties that come with ailing
confidence. On Saturday they had the fillip of Eddie Gray's reappearance
after seven months and the incentive of confronting a team always
prepared to attack. But in the end the roars in favour of the
prospective champions could only deafen our ears, not blind us
to the fact that it was Beattie, Burley, Allan Hunter and Morris,
all of Ipswich, who personified the 'simple facts' of football
but added another more significant quality - vision. Hunter, Reaney,
Bremner and Cherry matched them in effort yet not in imagination.
"Had Ipswich scored in the first three minutes, as they should,
a draw would almost certainly have been the outcome. A desperate
clearance by Cherry nearly rebounded into his own goal and only
impressive dedication by Bremner kept Leeds from collapsing. Suddenly,
the trend changed dramatically as McQueen placed a fine through
pass for Lorimer on the right. Shaping to centre,
Lorimer confused the deputy Ipswich goalkeeper, Cooper, who moved
off his line by no more than two short paces. Lorimer blasted
his shot high into the nearside of the goal - that was a moment
to symbolise the Leeds we remembered with affection.
"Lorimer added more danger by hitting a low free kick that Cooper
could only deflect upwards to where Bremner dived and headed a
goal that should have been decisive. It was at that point that
the Leeds of the past would have consolidated and denied Ipswich
possession. Instead, they made gestures that had no conviction
and left Jones without support. A defensive mistake allowed Talbot
to score and Hamilton, given free movement on the left, deflected
a cross shot by Osborne for the equaliser.
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"For Leeds, the title had been in their hand, snatched away and
was now in no man's land. The crowd spread a wild rumour that
Liverpool were losing 2-0; the noise thundered, everything seemed
to vibrate, and Leeds attacked from their hearts. Reaney played
the ball along the right wing, centred, Lorimer headed to turn
the Ipswich defence on their heels and Clarke pushed the ball
into goal. And that is how English titles are won - Europe can
be another story."
Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "Almost there. That
is how Leeds United must feel this morning, although Don Revie,
their manager, is still saying: 'It's a bit premature to call
us champions yet. I'll not really breathe easily until I see the
trophy is in Billy Bremner's hands.'
"It has been a particularly long and winding road to the title
these past weeks, but on Saturday when Everton took a point at
Anfield, the odds on Leeds taking their second League title swung
heavily towards Elland Road.
"There, for Leeds' last home League appearance of the season,
over 44,000 saw a blood tingling match - a match big enough in
every way to match the occasion. Leeds won, but Ipswich were almost
always at least their equal. 'You have to give them credit for
the way they played,' said Peter Lorimer.
"Lorimer, in fact, should take most of the credit but Leeds had
other unsung heroes, players who defied injuries to play, like
Allan Clarke, who had a painkilling injection in an Achilles tendon
injury just before the kick off and then hit
the priceless winner, like Mick Jones, Gordon McQueen, Norman
Hunter and Bremner, who had fought injuries all week.
"But without Lorimer's goals, April would have been a sad month
for a side which had swept all before them during the opening
29 games of the season to build up a nine-point lead. Lorimer
found his appetite for hitting the net just in time for Leeds,
and probably for Scotland's World Cup hopes. After his efforts
against Derby County and Sheffield United, he had a hand in all
three Leeds scored against Ipswich.
"He smashed the first from the right hand edge of the penalty
area in the 16th minute and six minutes later Bremner, following
up Lorimer's fierce free kick, was able to dive and head home
after Cooper had failed to hold the drive.
"It was just the kind of start Leeds wanted but Ipswich, one
of the sweetest sides to watch in action at the moment, turned
on their power and a flowing move left Brian Talbot in a great
position to pull a goal back in the 27th minute. He made no mistake
and his side continued to press home their aggressive advantage
with Roger Osborne, playing for the injured Trevor Whymark, proving
to be a real handful for the jittery Leeds defenders.
"Just after half time Osborne moved onto a free kick from Mick
Mills and cracked in a shot from the left. Bryan Hamilton followed
through and got a vital touch to give David Harvey little hope
and Leeds' two-goal lead was gone.
"'I thought, Oh no, it's going to happen to us again,' said Revie
afterwards, remembering the times that things have slipped from
Leeds' grasp, and Leeds did not look good enough to pull it out
of the bag at that point. But that is when Leeds are at their
most dangerous and 21 minutes from time, when Ipswich had lost
some of their momentum, Clarke struck.
"A cross from Paul Reaney was flicked on by Lorimer and despite
appeals for hands Clarke's effort stood… He was cautioned, along
with Bremner and Cherry, towards
the end of the game when Leeds marred a great afternoon by wasting
time, but with the title so near which other club would have done
differently? Nevertheless, Clarke has now been cautioned seven
times this season while his club's disciplinary record has gone
downhill since the season's halfway mark.
"Robson has much to be proud of in his side. They had five men
out on Saturday and still gave Leeds, with Eddie Gray back for
the first time since last September, a fright. They may even turn
out to be next year's champions, but in the meantime they have
left a lot of people with great memories for the summer months…
like the hair raising escape the Leeds goal had in the third minute,
the goal McQueen headed only to have it disallowed after 15 minutes
and the five-man attack by Ipswich just before Clarke scored which
summed up why they are the division's leading scorers at the moment."
It was a breathtaking contest and United had been pressed sorely,
but they had done the necessary. Don Revie was left on the brink
of regaining the League title he coveted so dearly, an outcome
that was confirmed four days later without his men even needing
to take the field when Liverpool lost at home to Arsenal.
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