The Leeds United party that took the train down to London for
the final game of the 1973/74
do so secure in the knowledge that the First Division title was
en route to Elland Road whatever the result of the match. Liverpool's
defeat at home to Arsenal a couple of days earlier had put an
end to the Merseysiders' dogged pursuit of the Whites.
Leeds' result against Ipswich the previous
Saturday had given them vital breathing space; the Whites'
3-2 victory meant that Liverpool would have to secure every point
from their remaining three games and score eight goals without
reply in doing so. Even then, a goalless draw at Loftus Road would
be enough for Leeds. Arsenal's 1-0 victory at Anfield on 24 April
put an end to all the speculation, ensuring there would be no
last day nerves for Don Revie
in Shepherds Bush.
After hearing the Liverpool result on the Wednesday evening,
the United manager had set out from a friend's home to celebrate,
saying: "When I look back on this season with all its injuries
and setbacks, I honestly believe this is the greatest achievement
of Leeds United in the last 13 years. When we lost at home against
Burnley and then drew with Sheffield United, it was possible Liverpool
would catch us but we took the points that mattered. Tonight I
am going to go out and have a good time at last.
"I am absolutely delighted for all the players and staff because
they have earned it. We have lost only four games out of 41 and
after the first seven matches we have never been free of injury
"When we were going through the shaky patch of losing against
Liverpool, Burnley and West Ham, I thought we had lost it, but
the players' tremendous application, character and ability showed
over the Easter period when we didn't concede a goal in four games
and got right back in it. Now on Saturday they can go out at Queens
Park Rangers with no pressures on them and show the country that
they are worthy champions.
"I feel as though someone had come along and lifted six tons
of coal off my back. It's a great feeling. I feel as though I
am walking on air.
"This gives us a second chance to have a crack at winning the
European Cup. I've made no secret of the fact that it is my biggest
ambition to see Leeds United win the greatest of the European
trophies. It is a dream I have had ever since I became a manager,
and now the possibilities of that being realised have opened up
to us again."
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Revie recalled one crucial period in the season: "After we lost
at Stoke and Liverpool, at home to Burnley and down at West Ham,
everyone said we were cracking up. I thought then that there was
a chance of Liverpool being able to catch us.
"But the players got their heads down, put their heart and soul
into their play and in the period around Easter we managed to
take six points out of eight available. At the same time we did
not concede one goal. That to me showed the tremendous ability
and character of the players we have at Elland Road. Never was
the test greater than it was at that game. But they came through
One of the first calls Revie received in his office the following
day was from his great friend and rival, Bill Shankly, manager
Swallowing his disappointment, Shankly told Revie: "Leeds United
are truly great champions. My congratulations to you, your team,
and to everyone at Elland Road. I know Leeds care about everyone,
from the cleaning ladies right through, and that is how it should
Trainer Les Cocker had been watching television when son David
telephoned with the Liverpool result.
"I rang up the boss and found that he had gone out to dinner,"
said Cocker. "Then Don rang me and asked me to a party at his
house. It has been a grand week for Don - the championship, a
great match last Saturday, This Is Your Life, and he even beat
Val Doonican at golf.
"I am really looking forward to the Queens Park Rangers match
on Saturday. The pressure is off and I just know they will all
play a great game."
United striker Peter Lorimer: "Secretly all the players were
praying that Arsenal would do it because otherwise the tension
at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday would have been unbearable.
Now the crowd will see a much better game as a result. With the
pressure off we will have the confidence to go out and show everyone
just how well we can play."
The day before the game at Loftus Road, QPR scrapped plans to
broadcast the game live on closed circuit television. Only hours
earlier London Weekend TV had dropped the match from their schedule
after falling out with Rangers over the financial arrangements.
Rangers secretary Ron Phillips announced that there were only
1,000 terrace tickets remaining for the game and strongly advised
United supporters not to travel to London unless they had a ticket.
While the League trophy and medals would be presented to the
United players before Billy Bremner's testimonial match against
Sunderland at Elland Road on May 6, there was set to be a celebration
of United's title triumph as they stepped out at Loftus Road to
face Queens Park Rangers on April 27.
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There were 7,000 Whites fans among a record crowd of 35,353 that
had Loftus Road bulging at the seams. Rangers rolled out the red
carpet to welcome the new League champions to Shepherds Bush,
presenting the United players with bottles of champagne and giving
them a guard of honour, lining up to applaud them onto the pitch.
They also said a thankyou to their own supporters by having QPR
players kick several dozen footballs into the crowd.
Rangers were determined to end their own season in style by dethroning
the new champions but would have to do so without former Arsenal
defender Frank McLintock.
For United, with Mick Jones unfit to play, Joe Jordan returned
to lead the forward line and Johnny Giles was recalled in the
middle of the park. The rest of the eleven were as expected, meaning
that Billy Bremner and Norman Hunter completed an ever-present
season in the League. Welsh international Terry Yorath was named
According to the Yorkshire Post's Barry Foster, "Leeds
set off as though they were going to run away with the game in
the first 15 minutes but once Rangers settled down it was their
exciting attack that took the initiative. Harvey was brilliant
at times, saving well-hit close range efforts from Bowles, Francis
"It was a fast, open and good natured game with both sides rising
to the occasion despite the hard, bumpy pitch."
There was a lively start with United first to look dangerous,
developing a promising move on the right. Lorimer's cross
found Jordan, but the Scot's header was just over the bar.
The pitch was bone hard with an unpredictable bounce in parts
and it was maybe down to this that when Rangers came out of defence
Gerry Francis mishit a shot from just outside the United penalty
The Rangers defence was split wide open by Hunter's canny through
ball but Jordan shot over.
The West Londoners replied with a spell of pressure but failed
to trouble David Harvey and when Francis had the chance of another
shot, he hammered the ball well wide.
The home side had their best chance thus far after 15 minutes
when tricky winger Dave Thomas created space and time for Mick
Leach but the striker shot wide with Harvey scurrying across his
Thomas, who counted Don Revie among his greatest admirers and
would later be a regular in his England team, was involved in
another good move, giving Don Givens a chance at the far post,
but the Irishman's header flew wide. Givens went close again with
another header soon afterwards as Rangers moved quickly and fluently
in attack, and then Francis shot wide from the edge of the United
penalty area as Rangers upped the ante.
Giles stemmed the tide for a moment when he got United moving
forward with a high ball down the middle. Jordan made a valiant
effort to gain possession but Terry Mancini held him at bay to
allow goalkeeper Phil Parkes to gather.
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Rangers were relentless in their attacking game, and a flick
from Givens gave Francis a running chance. Once more, though,
poor finishing spoiled it for Rangers.
United's goal came under threat again following a free kick,
when a shot from Terry Venables was deflected by a United defender.
It wrongfooted Harvey but flew for a corner.
After a recent spell of indifferent form, Rangers were putting
their moves together in assured and aggressive style, but there
was still a threat from United when Lorimer unleashed a fierce
shot which Parkes required two attempts to gather.
Stan Bowles put Francis through at the Leeds end after 40 minutes
only for the midfielder to be brought down by Reaney just outside
the penalty area. From the resultant free kick Bowles hit a curving
shot over the bar.
A corner just before half time almost brought a goal for United.
Gordon McQueen's header from Lorimer's flag kick found Bremner
but the United captain's close range shot struck the upright.
United were relieved to see the game reach the break without
a goal as the interval came with Rangers on the attack again.
There was no let up after the resumption and the West Londoners
began the second period with a move involving Busby, Thomas and
Givens, which ended with Bowles bringing a fine reflex save from
Harvey. Bowles fell foul of the bone hard surface in front of
the goal and needed treatment for a leg injury after falling.
Two raids by Lorimer finally brought an attacking threat from
hinting that they would still have a say in the game's outcome.
They were the prelude to a breakthrough in the 57th minute as
Allan Clarke, showing his trademark coolness and precision in
front of goal, demonstrated the folly of wasting so many goalscoring
The Times: "Above all, Leeds showed their champion class
in the way they snatched their goal. Under severe pressure at
one moment, they suddenly turned the tables at the other end.
From Bremner the ball flowed swiftly downfield by way of Giles
to Jordan. The centre-forward held his hand cleverly until he
saw Clarke streaming clear through the middle between Mancini
and Gillard. The central pass was perfectly timed; Clarke took
it in his stride and the next second it was in the back of the
net. That was football as it should be played."
The goal, Clarke's 16th of the season, came from a lethal finish
by the most reliable of poachers. Jordan's simple lay off was
all that was required following Clarke's perfectly timed run in
from the right away from the shadowing Gillard. He outpaced the
full-back, went past a leaden footed Mancini as if he wasn't there
and drew Parkes out as he reached the penalty area. It was a perfect
set up for him to then casually slide the ball left footed low
inside the right hand post with defender and goalkeeper helpless.
They never had a chance.
Shortly before the goal, United had lost Reaney with an ankle
injury and Yorath replaced him at right-back.
Only the brilliance of Harvey prevented Rangers from equalising
on the hour. United had conceded a free kick just outside the
penalty area and when Venables took it the ball rebounded to Mancini
whose shot was saved by Harvey at full stretch.
Rangers must have thought an equaliser was theirs when Harvey,
coming out of goal, palmed a cross from Gillard to Thomas. The
winger had a clear sight of goal and, though he beat the stranded
Harvey with his shot, Madeley flicked it over the bar for a corner.
Harvey was quickly in action again, frustrating Francis with
another good save.
Twelve minutes from the end, Rangers had a great chance to equalise,
but Givens pulled his shot across the goal and Harvey was kept
busy again, diving bravely at the feet of Francis to save a long
shot from Leach.
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The game ended in a narrow 1-0 victory for Leeds, the honours
of the day going to the superb Harvey. It was an outstanding display
of goalkeeping, something he would duplicate weeks later for Scotland
during the World Cup finals in West Germany.
At the finish, the United fans poured onto the pitch in front
of the main stand chanting, "Champions, Champions."
When the United players arrived at Kings Cross later to catch
their train, the station was crowded with happy cheering supporters
and it was the same when the United party reached Elland Road
later in the evening. About 600 fans were there to welcome home
United's capture of the points had been clinical and Rangers
manager Gordon Jago summed up perfectly: "We produced some fine
chances but Harvey was equal to it all; we gave them one chance
and Allan Clarke says 'Thanks, pick that one out of the net' and
it's all over. That is the stuff champions are made of."
The Times: "Rangers may have lost on paper, but in so
many other ways they were victorious. They provided the stage
for the final act of the new champions; and they played their
full part in an expressive match free from all tension. Indeed,
it was an exhibition of all that is best in the game, a contest
in which both sides led with their minds rather than their bodies.
"In the last analysis, however, it was Harvey, Scotland's goalkeeper,
under the Leeds crossbar, who kept the victory won for his side
with three world class diving saves from Mancini, Francis and
Leach in the second half. Yet a goalkeeper, like a wicketkeeper
in the summer game, is very much part of a team, a specialist
whose role in many ways is all important. This Rangers finally
had to concede.
"The pity now is that Rangers have missed the bus for a place
in European competition next season… They are the only ones in
the championship to have kept their heads high in London, giving
a lead to others like Arsenal, Chelsea and company in the matter
of entertainment. For this they have much to thank players like
Venables, Bowles, Thomas, Francis and Leach, all of whom measured
up closely on this occasion to the likes of Bremner, Giles, Lorimer,
Madeley and Clarke.
"You cannot fool the electorate all the time and it was significant
that, with nothing at stake, Loftus Road should now house its
record crowd of over 35,000 on a cold, blustery afternoon. No
doubt they rolled up in their thousands in part to pay their respects
to Leeds, the new
champions; in part also in the expectation of seeing some entertaining
football. In this they were not disappointed.
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"From the start there was a sense of carnival in the air. Rangers,
providing a guard of honour, applauded their opponents on to the
field; at the toss up Venables, Rangers' captain, presented his
opposite number, Bremner, with a magnum of champagne which both
sides later sipped happily in company.
"The match sparkled as Bremner unveiled his full repertoire,
setting an example quickly followed by Leach, Venables, Francis
and the elusive Thomas. But at rock bottom it was Leeds who provided
lessons of teamwork as Harvey, Madeley, Hunter and others played
their respective parts in a well-honed performance."
David Lacey in the Guardian: "By their very nature encores
lack surprise, and those who still expected a full-blooded contest
at Shepherds Bush on Saturday were disappointed. Even so, there
was much to enjoy as Leeds United, the championship won, ran through
the repertoire of skills which had taken them to it in a friendly,
at times almost avuncular manner. Queens Park Rangers seldom matched
them for ease and fluency of movement but their persistence was
ill rewarded by defeat; they deserved to draw.
"Though the result was academic, an afternoon of Giles and Bremner
at their best could hardly be called wasted. One would willingly
sacrifice half a dozen hair raising shots at goal for the pleasure
of watching Giles measure a pass, the ball stroked rather than
struck, floating haughtily past defenders, who always seem to
be just a half stride away then dropping, as if by its master's
distant command, into a colleague's path.
"Bremner dominated the first hour, using the combined difficulties
of a blustery wind and bumpy pitch to demonstrate his marvellous
control of the bouncing ball. He faded slightly after a harsh
tackle by Leach, whose forceful presence in midfield helped QPR
to get more of a grip of the game in the second half, but the
most lasting memory is of the Scottish captain's delight in at
least being able to play football free from the claustrophobia
of impending success.
"QPR were not quite
themselves, largely because they could not retain possession long
enough to create the sort of situations near goal that Bowles
relishes. Eventually Thomas found a likely avenue to explore when
Reaney limped off ten minutes after half time to be replaced at
right-back by the equally willing but less formidable Yorath.
Ignoring the less than erudite bellows 'Get it over' from the
stands, Thomas insisted on getting near to the goal line before
he centred, and QPR's attacks achieved much more penetration as
"But they seldom looked like equalling the movement that brought
Leeds their goal in the 57th minute. Bremner broke up an opposition
attack and the QPR defence was strung across the field as Jordan's
through pass sent Clarke striding clear to score. QPR then proceeded
to create numerous chances as Leeds, wrapped up in their new honours,
began to play with careless abandon. All that is except Harvey
who stopped every shot except the one from Thomas which hit Madeley
and flew over the bar. In this instance, certainly, QPR could
count themselves unlucky."
Whatever the degree of fortune about the win, it was fitting
that Don Revie should see his men top off a magnificent season
with victory in the capital. Their remarkable football of the
autumn months was fading from the memory by the end of April but
it had made an indelible mark on a season that United had dominated.
They had made the pace from first to last to recover the championship
title they had won for the first time in 1969. In the intervening
years they had been runners up three times and finished third
on the other occasion, a remarkable show of consistency.
After so many years of heartbreaks, they had won the 1974 championship
by a clear five points. It was the most heart-warming of triumphs.
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