Part 1 - Going for the one - Results
and table - printer
As 1969 dawned, Leeds United were making their strongest challenge
yet for the League title. Their first match of the year was an
FA Cup third round tie at Sheffield Wednesday and an impressive
run of results in November and December made them hot favourites
for the trophy.
United were without Johnny Giles and Terry Cooper, but otherwise
they were at full strength: Sprake; Reaney, Charlton, Hunter,
Madeley; O'Grady, Bremner, Bates, Gray; Lorimer, Jones.
They opened aggressively in front of a 52,000 crowd and won a
penalty after 19 minutes. Referee Jim Finney waved play on when
Eddie Gray rode a foul tackle and the winger shimmied his way
on through a packed defence. He found Mike
O'Grady on the penalty spot, but full-back Don Megson brought
the forward down before he could shoot. Finney awarded the penalty,
which Peter Lorimer coolly converted.
United were in the ascendancy and Paul Madeley headed home from
a corner. The referee initially awarded the goal, but after consulting
a linesman gave a foul for pushing. O'Grady, Lorimer and Mick
Jones all came close to increasing the lead, but Wednesday were
level by the break.
Centre-forward John Ritchie picked up a long clearance, swerved
past Jack Charlton and
hit the ball on the run from outside the box. Gary Sprake had
come out to narrow the angle and watched with horror as the shot
found the corner of the net, saying later "I simply misjudged
Ritchie's shot, thinking it was running wide."
There were no further goals and a replay was required. United
were still without Giles and Cooper, and lost O'Grady on the day
of the game with a strained calf muscle. Albert Johanneson was
called up for only his second start of the season.
Wednesday began confidently, but it was United who opened the
scoring in the eighth minute. Lorimer's free kick was cleared
by goalkeeper Peter Springett, only for Johanneson to make up
for his months out with an instant shot that pierced the crowded
area to find the net.
Leeds had no chance to capitalise as Wednesday forced them back
with Peter Eustace and Jim McCalliog controlling midfield. Sprake
saved at the feet of Ritchie and Eustace's tremendous drive struck
the bar, bouncing down on the line and clear. Eustace then lifted
an up and under into United's goal area which troubled Sprake,
though he cleared at the second attempt.
back to top
Sheffield would not be denied and equalised in the 36th minute.
Sprake and Ritchie both missed a cross from the right, and Brian
Woodall caught the ball on the byline. His clever chip looped
over Sprake's head and in off the post. The young reserve winger,
only playing because of injury, added a second goal after three
minutes of the second half.
United rallied and Charlton was left in the clear with Wednesday
appealing for offside but Springett made a point blank save. Then
Jones was high and wide from a Johanneson
cross before crashing a second effort against the bar.
Wednesday exploited the space left by all out Leeds attack and
Ritchie struck a third, decisive goal with five minutes left to
end United's interest in the trophy.
They had the chance to make amends almost immediately, facing
Manchester United in a stern test of their championship credentials.
All four injured Leeds players had recovered, with Giles, O'Grady
and Bremner in the side and Cooper on the bench.
Phil Brown in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The needle in this
cracking match showed
right from the start ... Crerand, Manchester United's wing-half,
was booked for consecutive trips on O'Grady. The sides shared
33 fouls in the match, nine above the average.
"Manchester claim they were robbed of a point by the denial of
Best's free kick goal. The referee, Mr W J Gow of Swindon, after
the match told the press the goal was invalid because the kick
was an indirect one ... Players on both sides say that they thought
the kick was direct, including Sprake ... Best's cunningly planted
slow chip, when a Bobby Charlton blast was expected, found him
and others flat footed. All very contentious, but Leeds deserved
both points, if only just."
O'Grady scored a cracking winner after 75 minutes. Giles chipped
the full-back to find the winger, who made it 2-1 with a first
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Leeds played much better than they
had done in their Cup game against Sheffield Wednesday, although
there still was too much dithering at the back under pressure.
Jones again was indefatigable in attack, and Hunter's strength
and intelligence saved Leeds more than once."
The match was marred by crowd trouble and more than 50 spectators
needed treatment after missiles were thrown. 2,000 fans had been
locked out and many had climbed the advertising hoardings at the
Scratching Shed end to get in. Some claimed that problems with
the new stand made matters worse.
At the annual general meeting a couple of days later, chairman
Percy Woodward, who had been in the stand, claimed, "There was
no bottle throwing and no fighting. The police were not fighting
with the crowd, they were stopping the crowd getting on to the
playing area ... I saw an element of Manchester supporters wanting
to get out of Spion Kop when their side had been defeated. They
surged forward, but there was no question of fighting."
On a happier note director Sidney Simon reported that the £135,000
liability shown in the balance sheet against the new stand had
been paid off.
United directors later announced that they had agreed with the
local authorities to reduce Elland Road's capacity from 52,000
to 48,000. Two years before there had been ugly scenes in an FA
Cup replay against Sunderland when a record crowd of 57,892 had
been in attendance. Chairman Percy Woodward said: "We are
re-estimating all our various sections and when necessary will
take steps to close them as our crowd indicator shows them to
be filling up. It is a big relief to settle this worrying question.
No club wants its crowd to be uncomfortable. Our long term plan
of improvements to be done in stages should make things a lot
better for everybody."
Woodward also revealed that United would be going ahead "some
time in the next 12 months or so" with the building of an extension
of the West Stand to fill the gap between it and Spion Kop. "It
should give us over 2,000 more seats, which will financially compensate
for the loss incurred by the reduction of the
ground limit. It will also take care of the reduction in numbers
we are finding ourselves experiencing on Spion Kop. The old Kop
used to take about 19,000 when full and we had estimated for the
new Kop to take nearly 17,000 - but we find that in practice it
is full with 14,000 plus."
back to top
On January 18 United won a point in a hard fought goalless draw
at White Hart Lane, the result overshadowed by the leg break suffered
by Spurs full-back Joe Kinnear.
Leeds had another vital game in London the following Friday,
facing bottom club Queens Park Rangers in a fixture brought forward
from Good Friday. Don Revie
later identified the match as the turning point of the season.
"I am baffled that Rangers are not near the top, instead of at
the bottom. We could have lost 4 or 5-1. That little bit of luck
had swayed in our favour that night."
The Londoners needed a point to get off the foot of the table,
but nearly got both, hammering United from the start. They almost
took a shock lead in the first minute. Roger Morgan's free kick
beat Gary Sprake, but Jack Charlton had it covered. Apparently
thinking it was going wide, he allowed it to drop over his head.
The ball struck the post, sparing United embarrassment.
It was United, though, who took the lead a minute later. Madeley
brought the ball through from half way and got in a shot. It came
back off the keeper and Jones fired home from around 12 yards.
Rangers were quickly back at the visitors, and Leeds survived
a penalty appeal in the first half. Just after the interval QPR
were successful with another appeal for a spot kick but Sprake
dived to his right to save Keetch's effort.
United brought Belfitt on
for the injured Giles as Rangers pushed yet harder. Rodney Marsh
was having an inspired game and he and Mick Leach both came close
to an equaliser before Frank Clarke missed a sitter. Sprake was
then lucky to grab a fine glancing header by Clarke on the line.
Shots continued to rain in on the United goal but somehow they
survived to take home both points.
Giles had torn a thigh muscle and would be out of action for
a fortnight. He was not missed when United thrashed struggling
Coventry 3-0 at Elland Road on February 1. The scoreline flattered
them, but they
deserved the points.
The schemer was still missing, along with Madeley, when United
flew out to Germany for the formality of their Fairs Cup-tie against
Hanover. Leeds had won the first leg 5-1 and were soon in an even
In the fifth minute O'Grady made a lot of ground down the right
before shooting from the edge of the area. The keeper spilled
the ball and Belfitt followed up to score. After 16 minutes it
was 2-0 when Jones capitalised on another goalkeeping error.
That goal finished the game as a contest, but things grew surprisingly
heated over the final 21 minutes. Bremner and Breuer clashed and
referee Dorpmans of Holland spoke to both men. Things got even
rougher and five minutes later Cooper was sent off when substitute
Wottka made the most of a tackle by the left-back.
Cooper: "I went for the ball and got it and this fellow threw
himself over my legs. I was absolutely flabbergasted."
Three minutes from the end, Heynckes got a consolation goal for
Revie said after the game: "These are things you have got to
live with in Europe. Obviously any team plays that bit harder
when they meet the holders in any competition. It is getting to
be a regular thing in important games. I thought we played exceptionally
well and Hanover were brutal. It was a pity they had to play the
way they did."
United had the weekend off, with the FA Cup fifth round taking
precedence, but the snow and ice that saw all but four of the
38 games in England postponed brought them an unexpected bonus.
They were able to bring forward their Easter Monday fixture against
Ipswich to February 12, giving them the chance to overtake Liverpool.
Don Revie: "We must get these matches in when we can, for you
never know what the situation will be near the end of the season.
We cannot afford to be faced with a backlog of fixtures, for we
want a smooth run in."
back to top
The weather had a major influence on events that frostbitten
winter and United pulled out all the stops to keep their pitch
playable. With temperatures rarely getting above freezing, the
club adopted effective, if primitive, methods, covering the surface
with tons of straw and then using braziers to thaw out the ground.
The tactics worked admirably, keeping Leeds active while others
were left kicking their heels. The Ipswich game was one of those
that benefited from the approach.
It was played in a snowstorm with the sleet making the conditions
steadily worse. United took the lead after 24 minutes. An Ipswich
defender fouled O'Grady as he raced down the right flank and Bremner
fired the free kick into the heart of the penalty box. Charlton
got above three defenders to nod the ball goalwards and Belfitt
was on hand to head it home.
The goal gave Leeds the impetus they needed. Giles was in dominant
form and sent Cooper clear on the left to send a shot crashing
against a post. Jones laid on three chances for team mates and
O'Grady had two efforts saved. In the final quarter they had what
seemed a good penalty appeal rejected, but finally got the second
goal they deserved. From their 17th corner of the evening, keeper
Best spilled the ball near the penalty spot. Jones reacted instantly
to fire past the defenders stationed on the line.
The 2-0 victory was enough to take United a point clear of Liverpool,
both clubs having played 29 games.
In the weekend fixtures, Liverpool looked to have the easier
option, at home to a Nottingham Forest side languishing in 20th,
while United hosted seventh-placed Chelsea.
Leeds had to ask for special dispensation for a 3.15 kick off
to allow their pitch
clearing efforts time to succeed, and so they were aware before
the off that Forest had taken a fifth-minute lead at Anfield.
They also got the news that Barry Lyons had made it 2-0 in the
62nd minute and were thus content to defend a single goal lead
against Chelsea (in the 58th minute from Lorimer).
According to the Guardian's Eric Todd. "Forest proved themselves
to be the more intelligent, imaginative and adaptable side, and
long before the end the only relevant issue was the margin of
Forest's inevitable victory."
Don Revie reflected in his column for the Evening Post: "Liverpool
must be the team I fear most because of their remarkable consistency
and ability to play well under extreme pressure. This latter attribute
can only be attained through experience and I have had sufficient
evidence this season to feel confident that Leeds United now possess
this quality. It was particularly evident when we beat Chelsea
... They pulled back nine men into their penalty area, and covered
each other so well that we were unable to break through in the
first half. One could sense the tension building up in the United
players as they battled to overcome the problem. The most encouraging
feature was that they did not allow this tension to interfere
with the normal tempo of their game. They continued to attack
patiently and skilfully, and reaped the reward when Peter Lorimer
scored the winning goal. In previous years, we would probably
have panicked if we had failed to score earlier on, and fallen
into the trap of hammering high balls into the Chelsea goalmouth."
Leeds' trip to Hillsborough to meet Sheffield Wednesday on February
22 was postponed due to a frozen pitch and Liverpool had the chance
to close the gap with a match at West Ham. The Hammers took a
33rd-minute lead through Johnny Sissons, but Roger Hunt headed
a second half equaliser to rescue a point.
The following Tuesday, United played their game in hand, away
to Forest, and gained an emphatic victory. David Lacey in the
Guardian: "Last night there seldom seemed any other likely outcome
than a victory for Leeds. So often they were two situations ahead
of Nottingham, who slogged away willingly enough ... but lacked
Leeds' pace and power, not to mention their organisation. While
Nottingham - inspired by a sense of occasion and roared on by
their largest crowd of the season - opened with dash and verve,
Leeds, as tight at the back as ever, quietly exploited their opponents'
United opened the scoring five minutes before the break. Cooper
lofted over a long, high centre from the left which Jones met
at the far post. His header beat the keeper but Baxter managed
it off the line. The linesman insisted that it had been over the
line and a goal was awarded.
back to top
Leeds controlled the second half and continued to attack. It
looked like they would have to be content with their single goal
but Lorimer made it 2-0 a minute from time. He looked offside
when he collected the ball 35 yards out, but there was no whistle
and he raced on unchallenged to score.
A four-point lead over Liverpool with eleven games remaining
was a heartening advantage. March 1 saw the Reds engaged in the
FA Cup at Leicester, giving United the chance to enhance their
advantage with a match against Southampton at Elland Road. Perhaps
it was nerves, but Leeds gave a scratchy, woeful performance.
In contrast Southampton played with verve and confidence and twice
took the lead.
Just as disappointing was the attendance. Don Revie was apoplectic
as he spoke to Phil Brown of the Yorkshire Evening Post afterwards.
"What on earth do they want? Surely we could have had 40,000 -
there are over 2,000,000 people within 15 miles of the ground.
If we lost three matches in a row I don't think we would get 25,000,
and if ever we got a real slump I can see us having to sell players
to live. Here we are, top of the Football League, having lost
only two matches out of 32, and only 33,000 turn up to watch us
play a side sixth in the table."
Brown reported, "On the financial aspect it has to be remembered
that United require a 36,000 average from their 21 home League
matches to pay their way. Their big profits of recent seasons
have been and are wanted for colossal ground development costs
... United have played to fewer than that economic 36,000 ten
times in 18 games so far.
"The result at Elland Road carried more comfort for Leeds United
than anything else ... United were thoroughly shaken by Southampton,
who led twice and who scored two, well, proper goals, compared
with United's somewhat scrambled assortment of a penalty by Giles,
an own goal by Kirkup and one by Jones off a rebound from a Giles
shot. Much of the incisive direct attack and smoothly working
defence which had marked United's play at Nottingham midweek was
missing. It was as well that United's famous will to win was not.
Bremner, with a sterling game and often inadequate support, saw
to that by word and deed."
Revie had calmed down by the time of the press conference prior
to the Fairs Cup clash against Ujpest Dozsa. He recalled how well
the Hungarians had played when the sides met in Budapest three
years before: "Ujpest were unlucky not to be six goals up at half
time, and that sort of football sticks in the memory ... We will
attack right from the off on Wednesday night. I think we need
three or four goals against this side to go to Hungary for the
Sadly, on what should have been another great European night
at Elland Road, there was only grim disappointment. United were
beaten by an outstanding team playing a classic European game
of counter attack.
Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "There was very little between
the two fine sides. Leeds ... relied on open football while Ujpest
depended on chances from breakaways. Leeds' one period when they
were clearly on top in the first half lasted not more than five
minutes. In the second half their non stop aggression faded after
the goal. Leeds were awarded a penalty after Nosko appeared to
handle Gray's cross in the
penalty area. Giles hit a good shot to the right of the goalkeeper,
but a fine save meant the Leeds schemer had missed - only his
fourth penalty in many attempts for the club.
"Charlton and Bremner did their share to try and force a goal
but 19 minutes from the end Bene hit a short ball to Antal Dunai
and with hardly a glance at the goal, 25 yards away, Hungary's
leading scorer hooked a powerful shot into the top right hand
corner of the net."
All this time, Liverpool's championship challenge had been on
hold. Their last League game had been on 22 February at West Ham
and they saw their home game with Arsenal on 8 March postponed
because the visitors had eight men sick. United thus travelled
to relegation-threatened Stoke City with the chance of increasing
their advantage to eight points.
back to top
In 1968 Stoke had beaten Leeds 3-2 in an end of season tussle
with United chasing the championship, but there was to be no repeat
performance. City were only allowed to get as far as the United
penalty area three times in the first half as the visitors raced
into a three-goal lead. Mick Jones headed the first after 11 minutes.
Five minutes later Bremner lashed home a 25-yard shot. The skipper
added a third in the 34th minute, sidefooting home from Jones'
Stoke rallied a little in the second half and Burrows pulled
one goal back from the penalty spot on the hour after Reaney had
blocked Mahoney's shot with his hands.
There was never a danger of a fightback and O'Grady quickly restored
United's three-goal lead, netting from 14 yards after keeper Farmer
had blocked Gray's shot. O'Grady added a fifth in the 76th minute
from outside the box to wrap up an emphatic victory.
Leeds had been rampant and could easily have scored eight, so
dominant were they. England manager Sir Alf Ramsey recognised
the performance by selecting Charlton, Cooper and O'Grady for
England's international against France a few days later. Reaney
and Hunter were non playing subs as England won 5-0, their best
victory for more than two years. Cooper and O'Grady had outstanding
matches, with the winger opening the scoring from 14 yards and
playing superbly on his return to international football after
seven years. He looked like he had secured a permanent berth in
the side, but perversely Ramsey dropped him and he never got near
the squad again.
United's game on Saturday, March 15, at home to Forest, was off
due to snow, giving Liverpool the chance to close the eight-point
gap, which they duly did with a 2-0 victory at Sunderland. There
was a week to go to the big showdown, with Leeds due at Anfield
on 22 March and a huge expectancy in the air.
Before that, though, United faced Ujpest in the Fairs Cup and
flew out to Budapest without
Reaney, Charlton and O'Grady, all in bed with flu. Hunter also
had a high temperature, although he travelled and was expected
to play. The manager called up reserves Terry Yorath and Jimmy
Lumsden as cover.
Don Revie: "Whether these illnesses have anything to do with
Astle being ill last week when the lads were with the England
party or whether it is connected with an injection they received
I just do not know. If we had six, seven or eight down, we would
ask the Fairs Cup Committee for a postponement, but if we do not
lose any more players we will play. With four outstanding League
fixtures still to fit in, we can do without another postponement."
There were further scares when Bremner, Madeley, Cooper, Jones
and Hunter were rushed off to bed with high temperatures on arrival
in Budapest. In the end all five played (Bremner at full-back)
but Ujpest won 2-0 to end United's Fairs Cup hopes.
Leeds held out until the 63rd minute when Solymosi scored from
a penalty after Madeley had fouled Bene, who had a wonderful game.
The Hungarian international added a second himself in the 75th
minute after a solo run through the United defence.
Don Revie: "We held Ujpest well the first half hour. Then they
became a little panicky. It would have been a different story
if that Giles shot earlier in the second half had gone in. With
a full team out I reckon we would have won."
Back in England, Liverpool's game at Newcastle had been postponed
because of snow and water on the pitch and manager Bill Shankly
was beside himself with frustration at the lack of action. His
mood was soon even darker. As the United party flew back from
Hungary, assistant manager Maurice Lindley contacted the Football
League to ask for the Anfield showdown between the two clubs to
be postponed. Leeds had ten first teamers unavailable through
illness or injury. The League had little option other than to
accede to the request but the postponement was kind to United.
The next game for both clubs came on 29 March, with Liverpool
away to QPR and Leeds travelling to Wolverhampton. Looking match
rusty after their lay off, United were slow off the mark and had
to be content with a goalless draw while Liverpool shaved a point
off the lead with a 2-1 win in London.
On Monday 31 March Liverpool faced Arsenal in a rearranged game.
While the Gunners were eight points back on Leeds, they had not
quite given up hope on the title and offered Liverpool a stern
test. The surface was treacherous under falling snow and the players
were never certain of their footing. Just as Liverpool seemed
to be getting control of the game, Jimmy Robertson gave Arsenal
the lead two minutes before the break. Liverpool equalised from
a penalty at the start of the second half and there were no more
The result narrowed United's advantage to four points, but 13
points from their eight remaining matches would be enough for
Leeds. They earned the first of those the following night in a
goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday.
back to top
Saturday 5 April brought the next action for the two clubs, both
at home. Leeds entertained reigning champions Manchester City,
while Liverpool hosted Wolves.
By now, points were all that mattered, as Paul Fitzpatrick reported
for the Guardian: "Looking at Liverpool on Saturday was about
as inspiring as watching a concrete mixer at work. But at this
late stage of the scramble for the First Division championship,
the acquisition of points, not the manner in which they are secured,
is all important, and Liverpool,
by virtue of their untidy and unconvincing win 1-0 over Wolverhampton
Wanderers at Anfield, will give Leeds reason to remember that
there are still two runners in the race."
United were little better and achieved an identical result. Eric
Todd in the Guardian: "Leeds refused several chances which they
might not have scorned in more normal circumstances. Their two
appeals for a penalty suggested doubt in their ability to score
by conventional methods. Gray and Lorimer were profligacy gone
mad, and poor Jones had as much support as the average working
man's application for a pay rise. Giles and Bremner wove beautiful
patterns all over the field, but the end product … Oh dear! Not
that Leeds were in danger of conceding a goal ... let alone of
being defeated, but the time has arrived for them to cast away
their defensive image and to attack with the enthusiasm and freedom
they have shown us far too rarely."
Leeds got the only goal of the game after 63 minutes. Cooper
beat Book to the ball, made ground and got in a shot. Corrigan
could only push the ball away to Giles who controlled it and forced
home at the second time of asking.
The gap remained stubbornly yawning at 5 points, but Liverpool
sought to narrow it with their game in hand, at Stoke the following
They made their intentions perfectly plain and, according to
Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post, "within five minutes they
had pushed everyone forward except Yeats, Strong, Tommy Smith
and the goalkeeper Lawrence."
For all their effort and enthusiasm, Liverpool only drew Gordon
Banks into serious action on one occasion, forcing him to tip
over a long range drive from Callaghan. At the other end, Stoke
had strident penalty appeals turned aside when Thompson seemed
to have handled the ball.
Liverpool lost Roger Hunt with a dislocated shoulder in the 50th
minute, hurt in a mid air collision with Dennis Smith. Hunt had
scored his 300th goal for the Reds at Wolves two days earlier
and would be missing for several weeks, news that was as unwelcome
for Bill Shankly as the loss of another point in a goalless draw.
Two days later, Leeds kept ground with a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich.
They fought back from going a goal down in four minutes after
a mistake by Charlton and Gray equalised shortly after half time.
During the week the Football League responded to criticism of
their earlier decision to allow United
to bring forward their Easter fixtures against QPR and Ipswich
Town. Daily Mirror football writer Derek Wallis had accused the
League of favouritism and giving Leeds an unfair advantage, claiming
that United had been guilty of 'expert juggling with the fixtures'.
The League used its official magazine, the Football League Review,
to fire back, saying that it hoped this would be the first and
last time anyone would even hint that the League might be helping
a club to the championship: "Mr Wallis suggested Leeds had an
advantage over the leading clubs. The fact that other clubs did
not have blank dates because of commitments in other competitions
is quite irrelevant and was similarly irrelevant in other years
when other clubs switched dates and Leeds could not. Wallis referred
to Leeds moving forward their Good Friday game as 'evidence' for
his gamesmanship allegations. Had he taken the trouble to check
he would have discovered that many other clubs switched fixtures
from Good Friday, too. All holiday fixtures are classified as
midweek fixtures and the rule is that if the two clubs agree to
a switch of a midweek date the League generally make no objection.
Saturday fixtures cannot be switched. It is strange, not to say
unjust, that one of our leading clubs should be smeared because
a club manager goes legitimately about the job of keeping his
back to top
Saturday, April 12, brought the next episode in the race for
the title. Liverpool seemed to have the easier option, away to
struggling Leicester, while Leeds travelled to meet third-placed
Arsenal in what promised to be a stormy clash.
Liverpool managed a routine 2-0 victory, but United had much
more trouble against opponents still smarting from losing a second
successive League Cup final, going down to Third Division Swindon
The match burst into ugly life after just four minutes with a
fierce confrontation in United's area. A high ball was missed
by both Gary Sprake and Gunners centre-forward Bobby Gould as
it hung on the wind. There had long been bad blood between the
two players and Gould kicked out at the keeper. Sprake reacted
furiously, flooring the striker with a vicious left hook. Both
players were booked by referee Ken Burns, though most witnesses
felt that Sprake should have been dismissed.
The keeper explained: "As I fell, Gould kicked me in the privates
very hard. He then turned around and called me a f***ing Welsh
so-and-so and I lost it and I felled him with a sharp left ...
I had started to walk towards the touchline and take off my jersey
... but, as the melee of players subsided, referee Burns (who
was also Welsh) came up to me and said 'Everything will be okay,
Gareth. I heard what he called you'."
There was some suspicion that Burns felt he owed United one after
disallowing a goal from Peter Lorimer in the Cup
semi final against Chelsea in 1967. He had not refereed them
since then. Burns said later: "In this case of offence and retaliation
both offenders got the same justice. From what I saw I did not
consider the offences serious enough to warrant a dismissal."
Thus reprieved, United pushed to capitalise and opened the scoring
after 14 minutes. Mick Jones
picked up a long ball out of defence by Bates and left Arsenal
defender Ian Ure standing, going on to slide the ball past goalkeeper
Johnny Giles sent a drive screaming over the bar as United got
on top but the Gunners equalised in the 34th minute. The Highbury
crowd was incensed when Norman Hunter crashed into David Court,
but were cheering minutes later. George Graham volleyed home from
near the penalty spot after a long free kick by Frank McLintock.
Leeds rapidly restored their lead. Ure passed back wildly to
Wilson, but Giles raced in to pick the ball up near the touchline.
He slipped it past the keeper to leave United 2-1 ahead at the
break. There were no further goals and another valuable two points
had been nabbed to keep the advantage over Liverpool to five.
With Leeds beating Leicester 2-0 and Liverpool hammering Ipswich
4-0 on Saturday 19 April, the two clubs remained as far apart
as ever. United required just four points from three games, though
they involved trips to Anfield and fourth-placed Everton.
The following Tuesday evening saw Leeds at Goodison and Liverpool
away to Coventry.
Confident noises emanated from Elland Road, despite the absence
of Mick Jones, laid low again by flu. Billy Bremner: "We have
come to expect teams to have a go at us this season when we've
gone so long without a defeat, so tonight will be no different.
We're not bothered what Liverpool are doing. If we keep on winning
nobody can catch us."
On a night crackling with tension, radios were evident amongst
both crowds, eager to keep up with the news from the other ground.
Both games reached the break without a goal to show for some frantic
Leeds came close but Giles was too far away to get a touch when
goalkeeper West turned aside Lorimer's shot. Then Everton defenders
got in a tangle and allowed Lorimer to get in and volley across
the face of the goal.
back to top
Over at Highfield Road, Liverpool were pressing hard. Within
five minutes Ron Yeats had a header saved after a corner and Chris
Lawler's shot from the rebound was blocked by a Coventry defender.
Callaghan hit the City bar and Alun Evans was denied by the keeper.
Coventry's Hannigan had the ball in the net after 29 minutes,
but the goal was disallowed for a foul. Liverpool fought back
to hit the bar.
In the second half, Liverpool's Evans and Coventry centre-half
Setters were dismissed for fighting and the clash took the heat
out of the game, which petered away to a disappointing goalless
Leeds were in more collected mood at Goodison.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Impartial observers ... were generous
in their recognition of this latest example of remorseless all
round efficiency. However, much jealousy - or even hate - which
Leeds have generated this season, nobody with any sense of justice
at all could fail to be impressed by their record … Bremner surely
had never been in better fettle. It needed a great captain to
organise his men in the face of redoubtable opposition and in
the presence of
a baying crowd which came to harass and to destroy but which stayed
to bestow ungrudging approval.
"For the first 10 minutes of the second half nothing seemed more
certain than that the Leeds defences would give beneath the weight
of persistent pressure by Everton ... Notably, after a long centre
from the left by Harvey, Hunter, standing almost on Sprake's doorstep,
allowed the ball to bounce past him and a surprised Sprake did
well to save at the last second. In the last 10 minutes Jackson,
given an unexpected pass by Gray, turned the ball over the Leeds
crossbar while Husband and Royle also went close before the end.
The manner, the almost insolent manner, in which Leeds ignored
these misses had to be seen to be believed."
The results left United in a great position. They had two matches
left, on the Monday after the Cup final at Anfield and then two
days later at home to Nottingham Forest. A win or a draw at Liverpool
would guarantee them the title. Even a defeat would mean that
United could still secure the title by beating Forest at home.
That said, Liverpool in their own back yard were fearsome opponents.
Only Forest had come away from Anfield with a win and the Reds
had conceded a meagre ten goals at home all season. It was clear
that Bill Shankly would whip his men up to play like dervishes.
The contest was typical of
many between the sides over the years: fiercely competitive
and played at breathtaking pace. United set their stall out for
the clean sheet that they needed. At times they lived on the edge
of their nerves, but they mounted a formidable white barricade
and dared Liverpool to do their worst.
Their worst was never quite enough. Evans had two
golden opportunities to secure the goal that meant so much to
Liverpool but missed both. United emerged unscathed from a terrific
struggle and at the end, in an episode that became the stuff of
legend, the players walked up to the Kop, who acknowledged them
as deserving champions.
The championship secured, Revie and United turned their attention
to the final match of the season, two days later at Elland Road
against Nottingham Forest, knowing that a victory would move them
on to 67 points, a new record for the First Division.
For large parts of the game, it was very much a case of "After
the Lord Mayor's show," as United struggled to impose any authority.
Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "From start to finish Leeds
attacked as though their very lives depended upon winning, but
Forest broke out of defence well and might have been two goals
in front by the interval. Leeds were understandably anxious to
score goals on this night of nights but often the back door was
sparsely manned and twice before the interval Baker might have
scored. Forest, though hard pressed at times, had the better of
the goalless first half. With only ten minutes gone, Hilley's
through pass found Baker unmarked in the penalty area and it took
a daring save at the centre-forward's feet by Sprake to save the
situation. Ten minutes later the Leeds goalkeeper looked surprised
when Baker's shot bent around him and hit a post.
back to top
"The Leeds attack found a more controlled style in the second
half and shots from O'Grady and Jones were well saved. As the
minutes ticked by, however, Leeds became more and more anxious
to find the back of the net but the vital goal just would not
With six minutes left and the match drifting towards a draw,
Terry Cooper moved forward. His shot was mishit but Johnny Giles
was in the right place to bring the ball down over his shoulder
and fire it home from 10 yards to send the crowd wild with excitement.
It was only right that the master schemer should be the one to
get the vital goal - he had enjoyed a tremendous campaign after
putting early season injury problems behind him.
Victory brought a fitting end to a glorious season that United's
fans would never ever forget and one that set the record books
- Most points (67), beat the previous championship best by
Arsenal (1930/31) and Spurs (1960/61) of 66
- Most home points (39)
- Most wins (27)
- Most home wins (18)
- Fewest defeats (2), beating Arsenal's previous best of four
- Unbeaten at home, equalling their own best, set in their 1963/64
Second Division championship season
- Only 26 goals conceded
- Only 9 of those goals conceded at home
Leeds were the worthiest of champions, a fact underlined by Don
Revie's election as Manager of the Year. The football press were
finally united in their acknowledgement of a great side. Even
Derek Wallis, the Mirror writer who had earlier criticised them,
offered praise: "There has been no doubt in my mind for two seasons
that Leeds are the best equipped of all the English
teams for the traps, tensions and special demands of the competition
they will now enter - the European Cup. Leeds United are the champions,
the masters, the new kings of English football - at last."
A team that had started the decade in such dire straits, stumbling
on the verge of the Third Division, could justifiably claim the
accolade of being the team of the Sixties.
Part 1 - Going for the one - Results
and table - printer
Other Football Highlights from 1968/69
- Manchester City's revival under the managerial partnership
of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison continued when they won the
FA Cup to add to 1968's League title and the Second Division
championship in 1966
- Sir Matt Busby announced his retirement as Manchester United
manager on January 14
- There was another giantkilling at Wembley in the League Cup
final when Third Division Swindon Town overturned Arsenal 3-1
after extra time on a muddy swamp of a pitch. Winger Don Rogers
scored the two decisive goals
- Geoff Hurst scored six times when West Ham beat Sunderland
8-0 in October and then admitted his first goal should have
been disallowed for handball
- Jimmy Greaves scored his 200th goal for Tottenham in November
- Despite the assaults Celtic had suffered in the world club
championship in 1968, Matt Busby was determined that Manchester
United should try to win the trophy. Argentina's Estudiantes
gave them a roughing up in the first leg in South America and
gained a 1-0 advantage. The second leg at Old Trafford was a
1-1 draw and thus Estudiantes took the title
- England had a summer tour of South America as preparation
for the World Cup finals there in 1970. They drew with Mexico,
before beating a Mexican XI 4-0 and Uruguay 2-1. They were unlucky
to lose 2-1 to a late winner by Brazil's Jairzinho after taking
the lead in their final match
- In November Jim Gregory, the QPR chairman, sacked Alec Stock,
the manager who had just guided them from Third Division to
First. It set off an astonishing managerial merry go round.
Two days later Tommy Docherty moved from Rotherham to QPR. A
fortnight later Ronnie Allen quit Wolves and Bill McGarry left
Ipswich to replace him. The next day Bobby Robson was sacked
at Fulham and Johnny Haynes was appointed player manager. In
December, Nottingham Forest got rid of John Carey and installed
Matt Gillies, who resigned from Leicester. Then Docherty walked
out of QPR after a bust up with Gregory. Haynes packed up the
job after four games and Bill Dodgin took over. The vacant spot
at Leicester was taken by Torquay's Frank O'Farrell. Docherty
quickly bounced back to take over at Aston Villa and Stock re-emerged
as boss at Luton
- Celtic won the treble for the second time in three years,
winning the League by five points, beating Hibs 6-2 in the League
Cup final and Rangers 4-0 in the Scottish Cup final
- Newcastle United won the Fairs Cup. They beat Hungarians Ujpest
Dozsa 3-0 at home and then triumphed 3-2 in Hungary
- The World Cup qualifying match between Honduras and El Salvador
provoked a full scale war between the two countries. There were
two legs followed by a deciding replay and there was rioting
at all three games, which led to skirmishes along the border
between the two countries
back to top