Part 2 - Bridesmaids once more
- Results and table - printer
Leeds United could bask in reflected World Cup glory in the summer
of 1966. Centre-half Jack Charlton
earned a winner's medal as England's defensive rock, while Elland
Road team mate Norman Hunter had been non-playing reserve to skipper
Manager Don Revie sought
to recruit another champion as he continued his covert pursuit
of Blackpool's dynamic 21-year-old wide man, Alan Ball. Revie
had chased Ball all through the summer of 1965 until Seasiders'
boss Ron Suart put up the 'Not for sale' signs. Undeterred, the
United supremo maintained a clandestine campaign to persuade the
player that his future lay in Yorkshire.
Ball: "I kept receiving anonymous phone calls saying that Don
Revie would like to meet me. One day I drove to a bleak meeting
place on the Saddleworth moors between Lancashire and Yorkshire
and met him at a secret location. He told me he was desperate
to sign me, that it was only a matter of time before I left Blackpool
and that he wanted to look after me.
"About ten days after our meeting, there was a knock on the front
door. Lesley answered it. It was a dark, rainy night and there
was a man on the doorstep. He gave her an envelope and said, 'This
is for Alan Ball.' Lesley took the envelope and we counted out
£100 in notes.
"It happened almost every Friday and all the man would say was,
'No names, no pack-drill, here is an investment.' I kept it for
a long time. It was silly of us to even contemplate taking the
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"I didn't even tell my dad about the money because I am not sure
how he would have reacted. Nor did I tell Ron Suart until he pulled
me into the office one day. He told me there had been a board
meeting that morning and that I had been sold. He said there were
two clubs involved and it would be a British record fee of £110,000.
They had both offered that amount and I could take my pick. I
guessed one was Leeds. The other was Everton. He guessed right
when he said that I might want to speak to my dad.
"Making a decision did not take long. Everton, we knew about.
We used to go to Goodison Park to watch a lot of their midweek
games if I was not involved with playing for Blackpool. I had
told him about the envelopes from Leeds United. He was not impressed
and quickly made up my mind for me when he said: 'I would advise
you to go to Everton. It's the type of club for you. It's almost
on the doorstep and they don't suffer fools.'
"Revie heard about the Everton interest and was on the phone
again, almost frantic
in his efforts to persuade me to go to Elland Road, but the Balls
were not for turning."
Andrew Mourant: "Revie had been monitoring Ball's progress since
he was a teenager playing for Blackpool reserves. As the Merseyside
club came in with a bid of £110,000 Revie was still struggling
to persuade his directors to go above £100,000. 'Give me time,
Alan,' Ball claims Revie said. Revie was to tell one journalist
that he was moved to tears by the extent of his disappointment."
Despite his disappointment at the confirmation of Ball's move
to Everton on 15 August, Don Revie had feared the worst for several
weeks. He had seen Ball as the missing piece in his playing jigsaw,
but now had to amend his plans for the new season.
Revie's only dealing in that summer's transfer market thus came
in June with Ian Lawson's
£9,000 move to Crystal Palace. The 27-year-old forward had arrived
at Elland Road in 1962, along with Bobby Collins and Cliff Mason,
and played his part in the battle against
relegation. Since then Lawson had slipped down the Elland
Road hierarchy and managed just 44 League games, returning 17
goals. He had often articulated his irritation at being frozen
out of the picture and had been on the transfer list for some
With Bobby Collins now
fully recovered from a broken thigh, Revie restored him alongside
Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner in a middle trio. It entailed a
bit of juggling, as Giles had slotted smoothly into Collins' deep
lying playmaker role and there was conjecture as to how the two
could be accommodated without disturbing the overall rhythm.
There was an early opportunity to try things out in a showpiece
curtain raiser against a Glasgow Select XI at Hampden Park on
10 August. Revie went with his standard selections for Numbers
1-6: Sprake, Reaney, Bell, Bremner, Charlton and Hunter; while
Collins and Giles filled the inside-forward slots. The three-man
attack comprised the Scots, Jim
Storrie on the right flank, young Eddie Gray on the left and
Peter Lorimer down the middle. There were few attacking options
with Mike O'Grady, Alan
Peacock and Albert Johanneson
all out injured.
The blend was not a success, but Giles grabbed an equaliser with
eight minutes remaining after the Scots took the lead in the 73rd
minute through Celtic's Bobby Lennox. As Eric Stanger wrote in
the Yorkshire Post, "Collins and Giles are of a muchness in style,
and at times they were liable to slow down operations in midfield.
But, as last season, the chief trouble with the Leeds attack was
that it lacked a cutting edge."
Of more concern was a leg injury sustained by Jack Charlton after
20 minutes. The setback was just the first in an injury-ravaged
campaign for United. The England defender strained a hamstring
in a challenge with Celtic's Tommy Gemmell and had to limp off.
Paul Madeley replaced him and slotted in smoothly but the in form
Charlton would be sorely missed. Big Jack joined the ranks of
those in the treatment room, missing the opening game, away to
Tottenham Hotspur on 20 August.
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Spurs boasted a team costing half a million pounds to assemble.
Midfielder Terry Venables and centre-half Mike England had arrived
in the summer to augment a line up that included players like
Dave Mackay, Pat Jennings, Alan Mullery, Jimmy Greaves, Alan Gilzean
and Cliff Jones.
Tottenham were widely regarded as the wealthiest club in the
country and hotly tipped for a championship challenge.
Don Revie would have settled for a point at White Hart Lane.
He drafted youngsters Rod Belfitt
and Jimmy Greenhoff in
up front, with Madeley continuing to deputise for Charlton, as
United took the field in their change kit of blue shirts and gold
It was a sweltering day with little respite from the blazing
sun, and tempers were equally intense. In the opening exchanges,
Mackay fouled Bremner, who retaliated fiercely; Mackay instantly
took the law into his own hands. The moment was captured for posterity
and became an iconic image of football in the 1960s.
Mackay explains, "The 1963/64 campaign got off to a good start
… Manchester United were our opponents in the first round of the
European Cup Winners Cup … We were only eight minutes into the
game when the ball was in their box and I went charging in for
it. Their defender Noel Cantwell was approaching with equal gusto.
I got to the ball and Cantwell got to my shin. I heard the crack,
and so did half the crowd. I did not feel any immediate pain,
but felt panic when I looked down and my foot had twisted 90 degrees.
"I was taken by stretcher into the dressing room and can remember
Denis Law being in there. He sat with me until the ambulance came.
The surgeon told me it was a bad break and it was possible I wouldn't
play football again.
"In September 1964, it was time for me to play in senior games
again. I had been all right in training and practice matches,
so Bill (Nicholson) put me in a reserve team fixture. I cannot
tell you the name of the player who broke my leg this time because
I have erased it from my memory. I was holding up well when he
came down on my left leg and broke it again. Utter bloody despair.
"I was determined to come back because most people didn't think
I could … It took longer than the first break, but I was delighted
when the doctors declared me fit in August 1965. Bill Nicholson
boosted my confidence by making me captain.
"The photograph of myself and Billy Bremner has become one of
the most familiar images of football from that era. I have been
asked to sign it many more times than any other image from my
entire career and I have grown to dislike it. There I am, like
Desperate Dan on steroids manhandling a smaller and terrified-looking
Bremner. It smacks of the bully. They say every picture tells
a story and so does this image, but it is not a real one.
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"Bremner was my pal, but when he pulled on his Leeds shirt on
he seemed to become a different man and for some reason he kicked
me on my newly healed bad leg. He could easily have broken my
leg for a third time. I was enraged. For a couple of seconds I
lost my rag and was temporarily capable of breaking his neck in
return. I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and lifted him
from the ground. Our faces almost touched as his legs dangled
in the air. The moment passed, but not before photographer Monty
Fresco had captured it."
Referee Norman Burtenshaw lectured both players, but booked neither,
merely awarding a free kick to United. Seconds later the two men
clashed a second time as Mackay scythed Bremner down, threatening
further confrontation, but the incident seemed to bring both teams
to their senses and things cooled down a little thereafter.
Leeds took the lead after 13 minutes when Giles headed home a
Collins centre. They just about merited the advantage, but were
forced back onto the defensive by some concerted Tottenham raids.
Giles had suffered a thigh injury in the first minute and was
a limping passenger for most of the first half, restricting United's
options. Spurs equalised after 27 minutes when Leeds failed to
clear properly. Mullery picked the ball up on the edge of the
penalty area and fired home with Gary Sprake rooted to the spot.
The teams were level at the interval with Leeds just about shading
the issue. Giles was replaced by Terry Cooper for the second period
and while they were still sorting out their revised formation,
Spurs took the lead. A minute had gone when Gilzean headed home
a long centre from Mullery that Sprake really should have dealt
United retaliated manfully, with Collins' first time shot coming
back off the bar. The restored skipper was in fine form, as reported
by the Sun's Peter Lorenzo. "By rights Bobby Collins should have
been one of the spectators at Tottenham, but on a day when most
came to applaud the £585,019 skills of Spurs, they were caught
in mid cheer and left to marvel at the stamina, snappy aggression
and superb skills of Collins. What an amazing man! What a courageous
example for any footballer, at any level! In a game that should
have been dominated by England, Venables and their high priced
buddies, the man of the match accolade was won hands down by a
pocket sized dynamo, a player small in everything but heart and
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Phil Brown in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Never in any of the
other games he has played since his injury have I been fully convinced
of the strength of the test for him. There was no quarter for
him this time from what should be a good side. He stood the lot,
covered his ground as the busy deep lying inside-forward in 4-2-4,
and was going as well as anybody (except for dynamo Bremner) and
better than most at the end … I know one match does not make a
season, but all of the old Collins was there again."
Nevertheless, Tottenham assumed control and took a 3-1 lead after
61 minutes when Jimmy Greaves shot past Sprake while on the run.
After that Greaves and Venables both struck the woodwork, but
no further score. It was United's first opening day defeat for
six years, but they could comfort themselves with a respectable
performance in energy sapping conditions.
Giles recovered sufficiently to take his place for the home game
four days later with West Bromwich Albion, and Albert Johanneson
was fit to return on the left wing, with Rod Belfitt making way.
Jimmy Greenhoff switched to the right flank and Peter Lorimer
took the No 9 shirt in a reshuffled forward line.
Giles and Collins dominated affairs in the first half after Leeds
took the lead through Willie Bell
inside two minutes with a speculative effort from the byline.
Giles added a second after 27 minutes. Lack of precision and cool
heads up front saw United waste countless opportunities before
Jeff Astle pulled a goal back for the visitors after John Kaye's
shot had struck the crossbar.
Collins was forced off at half time with an ankle injury. With
him went United's dominance and they paid for their dallying as
they were left hanging on in the second period. Eric Stanger:
"Leeds lost their hold in midfield and were thrown back time and
again by Albion's determined thrusts. There would have been no
need for so much desperate work in their own penalty area had
Leeds possessed one marksman of quality at the time they were
on top, or even if they had had some incisive power on the wings.
The return of Johanneson was scarcely a triumph; Greenhoff had
not the directness or purpose required in a winger and Cooper,
who came on in the second half, had neither the speed nor cleverness
to beat his back on the run. Those problems do not look like being
completely solved even when Leeds are able to field their full
strength. Last night they had again to thank such tried performers
as Giles, Bremner, Hunter, Bell, Reaney and Sprake that West Bromwich
were kept at bay."
Nonetheless, the two points were very welcome as Leeds got their
season up and running. With Bobby Collins ruled out for several
weeks, they added two more from a 3-1 victory against Manchester
United at Elland Road. Willie Bell was at centre-half and Eddie
Gray made his first appearance of the season at inside-right,
while Paul Madeley was switched to centre-forward and headed the
opening goal. Billy Bremner assumed the captaincy with both Collins
and Charlton missing and had a decent game, but it was Giles,
back in the deep lying scheming role, who was the star, as Eric
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"Giles, Mr Revie allowed to run free, and here was the man of
a very fine match. Giles has seldom played better than he did
against his one time club. He was back quickly to cover in defence,
he probed unceasingly in midfield, varying his play with long
and short passes, with the one keeping the uneasy Manchester defence
at full stretch by suddenly changing the direction of the attack
and with the other by subtle footwork and sway of the body making
the play in midfield. Giles also had a major part in the first
and the third goals. Gaskell, though, was terribly slow to get
down to Madeley's header from the inside-left's swinging centre
and again he was late diving to Reaney's header from Johanneson's
cross which produced the second goal after 35 minutes."
The result couldn't mask the fact that the dominance and steamroller
momentum of previous campaigns was missing - Leeds won just once
in the next eight League games and the 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa
on 8 October left them sitting thirteenth. They had yet to field
the same team in consecutive games and had already tried five
different centre-forwards - Belfitt, Lorimer, Madeley, Peacock
and Gray. The versatile Madeley was the only No 9 who had netted
- Johnny Giles was top scorer and two of his four strikes had
come from the penalty spot.
A burgeoning injury list and the lack of a proven goalscorer
were causing great consternation and Don Revie was forced to rely
on young reserves in nearly every game. When United drew 1-1 against
Burnley on 3 September, the forward line included 21-year-old
Paul Madeley, 19-year-old
Peter Lorimer, two 18-year-olds in Mick Bates and Eddie Gray,
with Albert Johanneson a positive veteran at 26. The youngsters
had proven their worth with a string of decent performances, but
Revie was resigned to going into the transfer market with Alan
Peacock struggling to recover from the effects of a summer
knee operation. He had played just two League games since January,
though he did manage a goal in a League Cup victory against Newcastle.
Many had expected Revie to sign a forward in the summer, but
he had wanted to give Peacock every chance to recover. The shortcomings
in front of goal forced his hand, though, and he put out the feelers
for a proven goalscorer. At various times, Leeds were linked with
big money moves for Aston Villa's Tony Hateley, Bolton's Wyn Davies
and Norwich's Ron Davies. United came close to signing Hateley,
but Don Revie baulked at the size of the fee being demanded by
Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson: "Revie's perfect centre-forward
would have to meet some pretty exacting criteria. Perversely,
the manager wasn't looking for a predatory goalscorer, someone
from the Jimmy Greaves mould. He wanted someone who was prepared
to sweat, to keep running, with the physique to shield the ball;
someone who was dominant in the air, courageous, unselfish and,
above all, persistent. He knew that the others in his team, mainly
the midfielders but also Charlton, would continue to score, so
he needed someone as much to help them score more as to grab 20
goals a season himself. In Greenhoff and Belfitt he had two players
who together combined all the attributes but individually fell
short of Revie's ideal.
"Belfitt was the workhorse personified: a strong runner with
a neat first touch but who lacked pace, power and consistency.
Greenhoff was a languid, graceful striker who seemed to glide
through games. The fans loved him, as they always love those whose
skills are unattainable. Some looked at Belfitt and thought, 'I
could do that.' Everyone knew that what Greenhoff had was out
of their reach. Nonetheless, their records were similar and though,
of course, Greenhoff went on to have a good if not great career,
it was Belfitt who came closest to fitting Revie's requirements.
He was the prototype Mick Jones."
Revie spoke at the time of his commitment to developing his home
grown talent, adding, "I am not, as the club stands at present,
going into the transfer market to buy big … I have no regrets
about not getting Hateley, not at £100,000. I should not have
served United well by having them pay a fee like that. If people
get hot under the collar about it, well, they will just have to.
I have my own reasons for not joining in the hunt for various
other players, too, but they must remain private.
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"I am not attacking these new high transfer fees. They have their
own value to football. But there is a right price and a wrong
price for every player … I have to make my mind up on the right
price, and I do. I can be wrong, like anybody else, but stand
by my own opinion I must.
"If we went out buying established players, left, right and centre
every time we showed a weakness, what would be the effect on the
youngsters? … From being unknown boys or young men the staff here
had brought Gary Sprake, Willie Bell, Norman Hunter and Billy
Bremner on to full internationals, and Paul Reaney to near international.
"If we win something this season, well and good. If we don't
it is not the end of the world. The club is in better shape than
ever before. My aim is to keep it that way, and one of my methods
is not to pay unrealistic transfer fees or buy unsuitable players."
It was as much a case of post event rationalisation as a matter
of principles, but in the end Revie settled for the promise of
Greenhoff, the up and coming former wing-half, who had done enough
to convince the manager that he was worth persevering with.
Richard Ulyatt wrote in the Yorkshire Post: "Greenhoff has …
suddenly proved that the talent he has fleetingly shown during
the last five years was not illusory. Let us hope that he is not
now restrained by too much advice or by instructions to play to
a pattern. A good old stop at nothing centre-forward is what this
over coached game needs more than anything else."
Greenhoff wasn't an immediate success, though he topped off the
scoring in an impressive 3-1
victory away to DWS Amsterdam when United kicked off their Fairs
Cup campaign following a first round bye.
In the Elland Road return on 26 October, Albert Johanneson netted
a smart hat trick in a 5-1 win. It was the highlight of an inconsistent
season for the exciting South African, who missed almost half
of the games through injury. His was a typical experience in a
thoroughly frustrating campaign as player after player succumbed
to knocks and bruises.
Jack Charlton's first goal of the season was enough to secure
a good League win at Arsenal on November 5. United were starting
to work their way up the table and had made it through to the
fourth round of the League Cup where they faced a difficult looking
trip to West Ham two days after the Highbury victory.
'Difficult' turned out to be the understatement of the decade
as the Hammers simply blew United to the four corners of Upton
Park with some breathtaking football. Two days earlier the Hammers
had put six goals past Fulham and they carried on where they had
The Times: "West Ham United were irresistible … Leeds United,
though cruelly weakened by injury, played with much of their customary
competence, but found themselves outmatched by West Ham's skills,
their wit and their explosive shooting on this mild, misty night.
It was a performance that had the gloss of greatness on it.
"All this has come a matter of days after the West Ham manager,
Mr Greenwood, had publicly announced that he was looking for more
northern steel to stiffen his inconsistent team. Last night we
saw northern steel - and Leeds never sold the game short on effort
and pluck - put to flight by purist southern artistry. West Ham,
for all the grace they have brought to the game in recent years,
can never have played better; not since February 1929 have Leeds
surrendered seven times. Then they were beaten 8-2 in a League
match - by West Ham at Upton Park.
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"No blame can be put on Leeds' young and comparatively inexperienced
goalkeeper, Harvey. He played bravely and at times brilliantly
on a night when his nerves must have been shattered by the sight
of men like Charlton, Hunter, Bremner and Reaney being taunted
mercilessly by the West Ham forwards."
The Guardian: "Any ideas Leeds may have had of reproducing their
dour defensive policy of Saturday, when they won grimly 1-0 at
Highbury, were soon dispelled. West Ham took just two minutes
to accomplish what Arsenal had failed to achieve in 90. A protracted
cross-field movement involving Hurst and Boyce ended with Charles
in possession on the left. As the centre came across, Byrne, controlling
the ball beautifully in the already muddy penalty area, had the
Leeds defence hesitating, waiting for a shot. Byrne slipped the
ball to Sissons and the outside-left scored with a shot which
evaded Harvey and curled inside the far post.
"Moore immediately emphasised West Ham's mood with a 25-yard
free kick that thudded into the wall just past the left hand post
- and now Leeds found themselves hemmed in their own half through
necessity rather than design. But sheer weight of numbers was
not enough to stop West Ham on this night and just before the
half hour they scored a second; again the scorer was Sissons,
and again Byrne's was the brain behind the goal. With his back
to the Leeds net, and challenged strongly from behind by Hunter,
Byrne somehow switched the ball out to Brabrook, waiting on the
left. Byrne's virtuosity had caught Leeds completely unaware and,
as Brabrook's centre came across hard and low, there was no one
to stop Sissons side footing the ball into the net.
"Four minutes later, Sissons completed his hat trick with the
simplest of goals. Brabrook advanced down the line once more and
squared the ball to Sissons, who scored a similar goal to his
first. Again the Leeds marking was faulty, and again Harvey's
positioning was awry. Now West Ham were opening up the Leeds defence
almost at will and three minutes before half time, after the ball
had bobbed teasingly in and out of the goalmouth, Byrne shot,
the ball hit Hurst, waiting on the line, and he forced in a fourth.
"The second half brought no respite for Leeds. Byrne beat Charlton
out on the right wing and sent Hurst through for a fifth goal
on the hour. Eleven minutes later Peters made it 6-0, and two
minutes after this, again after sterling work by Byrne on the
right, Hurst became the second scorer of three in an eventful
Peter Lorimer: "I was fortunate enough not to have played that
night through injury, as was our goalkeeper Gary Sprake, whose
absence gave David Harvey one of his first senior appearances.
I was at Upton Park, however, and it was one of those games in
which absolutely everything clicked for the home side.
"None of it was David's fault. It was just that West Ham were
simply awesome. They tore us apart, and it was one of those nights
when everybody heard the result and said: 'You're joking. Leeds
must have played all their reserves.' Big Jack got a real chasing
from Byrne and things were so bad that Mick Bates, just a kid,
was sent on from the bench with the instruction from Don: 'Right,
son, get your tracksuit off, go on and enjoy it.' Quite how you
derive pleasure from something like that is beyond me and Mick's
response of 'Oh, thanks, boss,' just about summed it up."
Norman Hunter put the disaster down to flawed tactics: "Two days
before the West Ham tie we had beaten Arsenal 1-0 in a League
game at Highbury with a fluke goal from Jack (Charlton). The Gaffer
had changed our system for that game - Willie Bell, who normally
played left-back, picked up George Graham in midfield and I was
pushed to left-back. The win wasn't convincing by any means. We
stayed in London for the League Cup match. I was rooming with
Johnny Giles and we both hoped the Gaffer would not play the same
system for the Cup game. Unfortunately, he did. He put me to left-back
and told Bell to do a man-marking job on Geoff Hurst.
"I was up against Peter Brabrook - a flying machine - and he
the life out of me. He simply flew past me almost at will. Johnny
Sissons scored in the first minute and completed his hat trick
in thirty-five minutes - it was one of the finest hat tricks I
have ever seen - and Budgie Byrne destroyed Jack. He kept getting
round the back of him. Bobby Moore got possession and laid off
the ball time and again, and we came off at half time four goals
down. The daft thing was that although we had been battered, we
actually felt that we still had a chance of winning the tie. The
Gaffer swapped things around, putting me back in the middle and
Willie Bell at left-back, but we were in disarray."
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Don Revie was not best pleased at the result, though it seemed
a mere blip when two goals by Giles and a third from Greenhoff
earned a 3-1 victory against Leicester five days later. United
went to Anfield on 19 November in good spirits to face third placed
Liverpool, confident they could gain at least a draw.
Unfortunately, disaster struck again and Leeds were blitzed 5-0
by the reigning champions. It was never as clear-cut as the scoreline
suggested and United were unlucky to go in at the interval a goal
behind after Chris Lawler got a fortunate goal in the 43rd minute.
Peter Thompson added a second after 58 minutes and three further
goals in the final 15 minutes brought an unrealistic look to the
final score. As Willie Stevenson remarked to fellow Scot Billy
Bremner at the finish, "Santa Claus came early for us today."
It was a devastating result, prompting genuine fears that United's
rapid rise to prominence had been built on shallow foundations;
there was intense speculation that the Elland Road edifice was
about to crumble.
Eric Stanger: "Was it a seven-goal wonder, or does that thrashing
at Upton Park mean that after three extremely successful seasons
Leeds United are once more about to sink into the mediocrity which
all too often has been their lot in the Football League?
"I imagine many of their followers are asking that question.
It was indeed a seven-goal wonder for I doubt if West Ham will
hit such bewildering, shattering form for many a day, even many
a season. They would have beaten handsomely any side in the Football
"At the same time the very brilliance of their football ruthlessly
exposed Leeds United's current weaknesses. All season there has
been a suspicion that the defence which has carried them so far
is not as tight as it was though, in truth, it had been tight
enough at Highbury two days previously. But against the best it
is more vulnerable than it was, the marking and covering is not
always as close. In midfield there have been several games in
which I have seen them this season when the Leeds passing has
been too slow; the build up altogether too laboured with an over
emphasis on playing the ball back in order eventually to go forward.
It enables opposing defences to mass.
"In modern football you have to do things sharply and decisively
or you are lost against current defensive systems. West Ham showed
how by fast running, quick, accurate passing and hard shooting
they can be shattered. That was the biggest lesson Leeds can learn
from Upton Park. If the defence has been a little below par this
season it has been the inability to get goals that has been the
chief failing. Injuries and loss of form have caused a constant
reshuffling of the attack, so far without any one combination
striking one as better than another.
"Five away goals in seven League games and only nine in all away
matches including three against DWS in Amsterdam tells its own
story. It might have been different had Leeds got Ball at the
season's start. One day perhaps it will be possible to tell why
they failed after being prepared to go to £110,000 for him. Over
confidence that he would in the end sign for Leeds was certainly
"Since then there has been no really concrete move to sign a
goalscoring forward. True, there was an attempt of sorts for Hateley
but the club (rightly, I believe) considered him over valued at
£100,000 and recently Mr Don
Revie went on record as saying he did not now propose to go into
the market. That statement appears to have upset many of the club's
older supporters who remember more than one pie crust promise
by former managers and former boards of directors.
"The point is that at the moment there are so few proved marksmen
that when one is on offer the price is grossly inflated. I can
understand Mr Revie's reluctance but in the end Leeds United may
be compelled to buy, however dearly. In the long run Mr Revie
may be proved right in thinking that one or more of his young
players like Gray, Lorimer, Greenhoff and Madeley will supply
the answer but none is yet experienced enough. The stern competition
of present day football does not allow time to bridge gaps - not
if you are an ambitious club like Leeds, anxious to stay at the
top. The alternative, it seems to me, is to settle for a transitional
period, and be content with a safe but unexciting place in the
table. I doubt if that would satisfy the Elland Road crowd who
after many dull years have found the wine of recent seasons heady
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United gained retribution for their hammering at Upton Park when
they beat West Ham on November 26. It was a heartening victory,
but there were still difficulties, as reported by Phil Brown:
"Welcome as was Leeds United's 2-1 home win over West Ham United,
both as a revenge for the League Cup hiding and as a general steadier
League wise, not over much comfort should be taken from it. United
are not their old selves yet. They were too hard pressed altogether,
and the lateness of Johnny Giles' winning goal - eight minutes
from time - was emphasis on how little there was in hand. Only
a never say die determination to get ahead brought them home against
a first class and equally determined side who, because they were
the cooler, often looked the better outfit. United are on the
way back, I am sure, although only slowly."
Veteran Scot Bobby Collins was recalled to the side for the visit
to Sheffield Wednesday on 3 December to bring a much-needed boost,
though the game finished goalless.
Even the visit of Blackpool, adrift at the foot of the table,
to Elland Road the following weekend brought no solace. The Seasiders
were down to ten men when Ian Moir was sent off, yet still came
away with a 1-1 draw, leaving United in disarray, struggling in
There were questions to be answered at the club's annual general
meeting, held at Elland Road on December 12, with most concerning
the club's inactivity in the transfer market.
Harry Reynolds and Don Revie were both present and admitted their
disappointment at the team's performances.
Reynolds: "I think you will agree we are improving and we intend
to carry on with the progress we have already made by the team
winning a major honour. Don't assume that because we have not
signed anyone we have not been trying, but the position is the
same as if anyone came for our players. They would get the same
answer as we have received - we don't want to sell."
Revie cited injuries to experienced players and pointed out that
the younger players in the first team needed old heads around
them. "When we introduced Paul Reaney, Gary Sprake and Norman
to the team a few years ago, there were such as Grenville Hair,
Bobby Collins and Freddie Goodwin to provide that experience.
But I still feel the youngsters will put United on the map. I
may be wrong about that, but I don't think so. There are other
youngsters to be found, too - and we shall go on looking for them.
"It's no use kidding ourselves - we have just not clicked so
far. I don't make excuses because I don't believe in them. I have
always promised 100 per cent effort and the players have always
At the same time chairman Harry Reynolds announced the financial
results - there was a profit of £59,028, taking the club out of
debt for the first time in its 47-year history. In 1963 Leeds
United had owed a total of £250,000.
Over the previous twelve months gate receipts had risen from
£277,519 to £312,398, though payroll costs had climbed substantially,
up to a record £135,265, and there were net transfer outgoings
of £13,550, mainly down to the £30,000 purchase of Mike O'Grady.
Harry Reynolds beamed as he told Phil Brown of the Yorkshire
Evening Post, "It is very nice to be straight across at the bank.
People think we are rolling in money, and forget we had large
debts from years back to shift. We are doing all right as football
clubs go in these days of increased charges for almost everything,
but by the same token at present we are only breaking even as
we go along. We need a gate every fortnight of about 38,000 just
to pay our way through the League programme alone."
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The rest of December brought better onfield results as United
got their act together. They beat Tottenham 3-2 and then pulled
off a League double against Newcastle, 2-1 at St James' Park on
Eve and then 5-0 on Boxing Day to record their best win of the
Bobby Collins had been in fine form on Tyneside, but was missing
through injury at Elland Road as United hammered opponents who
were sorely threatened by the spectre of relegation. Billy Bremner
led a rout, as reported by Terry Lofthouse in the Evening Post:
"On Boxing Day, when he was made skipper in the absence of Collins,
Bremner commanded his army in a manner befitting his international
ranking in the soccer world. He, Gray, O'Grady and Cooper tore
the Newcastle defence to shreds.
"This was just the sort of performance to encourage United's
oft critical crowd … and the 40,680 present left happy in the
knowledge that United are still far from out of the title race."
The year finished with United earning a point from a goalless
draw at Old Trafford on New Year's Eve.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Leeds would not have been flattered
if they had won. With the wind behind them, they dominated the
first half; facing it they held their own. After Greenhoff retired
hurt 20 minutes from time, they still fought hard for a goal.
Manchester, on the other hand, did not make best use of the wind,
and mostly they were inclined towards congestion and hesitancy.
And they did not relish the forthright tackling and compact covering
of a splendid Leeds defence.
"Over the years, Leeds have carried the tag 'dirty.' Not always
have they observed the canons of good behaviour, but for the life
of me I could see no sense nor fairness in Saturday's booing of
Bremner before he had even touched the ball. Plenty is written
about provocation and retaliation on the field, not enough about
the crowd's deliberate incitement or victimisation.
||Top of Division One - December 31, 1966
"Bremner did more than anyone to contain Manchester's forwards.
And Crerand performed just as effectively on the other side. He
needed to because the Leeds attack - in which I was told O'Grady
was in a more determined mood than he had been in weeks - was
fast and resourceful."
It was a sterling performance, confirming Leeds' return to something
akin to their best form. Recent results had brought them steadily
up the table and, as 1967 dawned, the team were in sixth, just
four points behind the leaders. Not bad going for a side that
had been 13th at the beginning of October, with their title chances
written off by Don Revie.
Part 2 - Bridesmaids once more
- Results and table - printer
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