Part 2 - Treble heartbreak - Results
and table - printer
By the time Leeds United
won the League title in 1969, Don
Revie was already laying plans for the following campaign.
Championship success owed everything to defensive fortitude, for
the team lacked cutting edge. Revie was reconciled to the need
for a proven goalscorer.
Rumours resurfaced of an interest in Hibernian's
Peter Cormack, but when the news broke in June that relegated
Leicester City had transfer listed Allan Clarke, it quickly became
clear he was the number one target.
Revie was the first to declare his hand, but faced
competition from other leading clubs, for Clarke was hot property.
The subject of a record £150,000 transfer in 1968 when leaving
Fulham, he was man of the match in Leicester's FA Cup final defeat
and strongly tipped for England's World Cup squad, having scored
twice in the 4-0 defeat of a Mexican XI on the summer tour.
Revie was relentless in his pursuit, and on 24 June
signed Clarke in a record £165,000 deal.
The new man was delighted, telling the Yorkshire
Evening Post: "I had been keeping my fingers crossed since near
the end of last season ... that Leeds would come for me."
There was some speculation that Clarke might be
a disruptive influence, as acknowledged by Billy Bremner: "I had
played against him and knew what his ability was like, but he
also had a reputation for being the sort of person who kept himself
to himself and didn't have much to do with the rest of the squad."
There was newspaper talk that Clarke's arrival would
prompt the departure of Peter Lorimer, already unsettled at being
in and out of the team. United announced that South
African winger Albert Johanneson, long out of the picture,
was available for transfer at "a very modest fee", while there
were even questions about the future of Paul Madeley. When asked,
Revie said: "These players are part of the set up here. They have
a vital part to play."
The board's readiness to fund a record deal was
evidence of their now unconditional support for Revie. A
few years earlier they refused to meet the asking price for Alan
Ball, but this time there was no argument. And why should
there be? Even after the Clarke deal, in a year when United also
cleared a balance of £135,297 owing for work on the stadium and
state of the art floodlights, the club's finances remained healthy
under Revie's stewardship.
A loss of £45,682 was declared, breaking the run
of profits returned solidly since 1964, but only after accounting
for the expenditure on Clarke and the stadium. Employee costs
had soared to £202,425, with the top earner (shown in the accounts
as receiving between £12,500 and £15,000) widely thought to be
Revie himself. Sidney Simon, chair of the club's Finance Committee,
declared the directors "very satisfied with the year's workings."
Improvement of the much maligned playing surface
at Elland Road was a priority for the summer months; it had been
devastated by frost and the constant use of straw and braziers
to keep it playable. Renovation was essential, but a short close
season ruled out reseeding. The club decided instead to ferry
in new turf from Leicestershire.
Chairman Percy Woodward revealed that work on the
West Stand extension would start earlier than anticipated, in
August, with the aim of completion by mid-February. The extension
would provide 2,500 more seats and 300 more standing places.
back to top
Some months later it was revealed that there had
been insufficient time to fit new drains. Director and grounds
committee chairman Bob Roberts admitted that he had no plans of
the existing drainage system and expressed doubts that the pitch
had ever been properly drained. "Even when we dug the foundations
for the new West Stand after the fire (in
1956) I could find no main drain exit, although when we were
excavating for the floodlight pylons often we found traces of
old field drains. The field will have to be drained, of course,
but it will be next season before it can be done. We can only
hope for dry weather this winter." There
was also some discussion about the possibility of under soil heating.
Revie was publicly guarded about the chances of
silverware, but in the privacy of the dressing room, he was upbeat,
setting his sights on the "impossible" treble of League, Cup and
European Cup. He later acknowledged the enormity of his ambition:
"The deliberate aim of a treble was nothing short of fantastic.
We were going in search of a miracle."
United's season commenced with the FA
Charity Shield match against Manchester City at Elland Road on
2 August. Allan Clarke debuted up front alongside Mick Jones,
and won critical acclaim for his contribution to a 2-1 victory
that brought the fillip of early silverware.
Preparations continued with a closely fought friendly
at Celtic the following Tuesday, in front of a 65,000 crowd. Substitute
Mick Bates gave Leeds a 58th-minute lead, cancelled out six minutes
later by Bobby Lennox. The side earned positive headlines for
a decent display.
The opening League game, on 9 August, was at home
to Tottenham. With Jones carrying a hip injury from the City game,
England winger Mike O'Grady
was recalled; Clarke at centre-forward was partnered by Lorimer.
Madeley covered for the suspended Terry Cooper at left-back. Sprake,
Reaney, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, Giles and Gray continued from
the selection that went largely unchanged through the championship
It was planned that Jack
Charlton's 500th League appearance would be commemorated by
a presentation before kick off, but there was a shock waiting
for the big centre-half when he returned from Glasgow.
Terry Lofthouse in the Evening Post: "The piece
of inscribed silver will now be held in custody until the following
Wednesday, when Arsenal visit Elland Road. United's records for
the 1965/66 season are incorrect
in that they credit Charlton with playing at Sunderland on January
29, when, in fact, he was out with a ricked neck ... It's only
now that the error has been discovered."
United were quickly into their stride against Tottenham.
Billy Bremner scored the first after 15 minutes when he got his
head to a Norman Hunter shot to deflect it into the net.
Allan Clarke enjoyed some excellent moments and
opened his United account in the 57th minute. Centre-half Mike
England tried to nod a bouncing through ball back to keeper Pat
Jennings, but misjudged it and his header lobbed up invitingly
for the razor sharp Clarke to race through and nod over the advancing
Jimmy Greaves pulled one back
for Spurs with five minutes remaining and the goal hinted at an
unlikely comeback but Johnny Giles made the points safe from the
penalty spot a couple of minutes later.
Charlton injured his ankle and would have to go
on waiting for his landmark appearance. For the midweek match
against Arsenal, Madeley switched to centre-half with Cooper back
The game was goalless, extending United's unbeaten
League run to 30 matches. That equalled a record set 48 years
previously by Burnley. There was nothing else joyous about what
the Times reported as "a bruising, ill-tempered game which was
extended by 12 minutes of injury time".
Leeds wound up the pressure, but, with Peter Storey
provided a smothering blanket in front of his defence, the Gunners
were stubbornly resistant. Clarke netted at the start of the second
half but the effort was chalked off for offside against Giles.
back to top
Phil Brown was scathing in the Evening Post: "If
Leeds United had played in London like Arsenal did in Leeds, they
would have been scarified by Fleet Street. They have been assailed
for far less than the Gunners did last night. This was to offer
a nine and ten man defence, to make no pretence of attacking,
to give 13 corners to one, to make but one shot, to foul every
man on United's side except Sprake."
Clarke suffered a cut eye in the fourth minute and
Cooper went off later in the half for attention to a facial injury,
returning with two teeth partially dislodged. They had to be extracted
after the game.
Mick Jones was fit to resume his partnership with
Clarke for the weekend visit to Nottingham Forest, with O'Grady
dropping to the bench. Jones' presence brought some improvement
and United won 4-1. The two strikers' combination work and hold
up play brought new dimensions to United's game; close marking
of the duo left space for others, and Lorimer, Gray and Giles
each crowned impressive displays with a goal.
Clarke was booked in the game's opening sixty seconds
for fouling Ian Storey-Moore, but his team were never seriously
troubled after an initial flurry of free kicks. However, Leeds
took an age to get going: Clarke broke the deadlock after 68 minutes
with his 100th League goal, a fine glancing header.
That victory broke the First Division record for
games unbeaten and the run continued with a 1-1 draw at Arsenal,
smashing the Football League record of 31, set by Liverpool in
the Second Division in 1894.
United should have won easily, but fell behind in
the eighth minute. Gary Sprake went to claim a 40 yard free kick
that floated wide of the posts. Under pressure from Charlie George,
he got his fingers to the ball but fumbled,
allowing it to hit the upright and roll into the net. It was the
80th minute before Lorimer's fierce drive brought an equaliser.
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "This was the hard,
modern game between two sides with their eyes on some sort of
prize before the end of the season ... Yet the output of their
two meetings in one week, three hours of hard football, brought
just two goals and five players booked by the referee ... There
was little deep pleasure or wit."
United were then held to another 1-1 draw, at home
to Newcastle, after taking the lead with Mick Jones' first goal
of the campaign. Jones scored again, in a third successive 1-1
draw, on 26 August at Burnley, the game in which Jack Charlton
finally achieved his 500th appearance.
The succession of dropped points left Leeds trailing
in the wake of pace setters Everton, who had dropped just one
from their opening six matches. They looked outstanding, inspired
by the midfield work of the Three Graces, Ball, Kendall and Harvey.
Phil Brown reviewed the opening month in his Saturday
column for the Evening Post on 30 August, as United travelled
to meet the Goodison Park club: "Clarke has settled into the side
very smoothly ... His sharp work in attack has reduced the far
too heavy weight of marking that Jones was carrying in the middle
of last season and Jones has benefited accordingly. But I would
like to see United play more directly up the middle to these two.
There is for me too much crossfield passing and running behind
them. They are two of the best middle men in the game and if they
can be joined up front occasionally by Bremner and Madeley, United's
forwards should get some useful scores, or at least assist their
colleagues to them, for in this United side anybody can take a
The Everton clash was a mouth-watering prospect,
even so early in the season.
United set out to keep Alan Ball quiet, but their
preoccupation with the England man left Jimmy Husband, Johnny
Morrissey and Joe Royle free to wreak havoc.
Everton were quickly off the mark and scored after
five minutes. Husband headed goalwards from the back post as a
free kick came in. It came out again and he shot, but saw it charged
down. Again he reacted first and his second shot was deflected
into the net. Royle
added a second after 20 minutes, nodding in the rebound after
his first header had crashed against the bar. In the 49th minute,
Royle made it 3-0, floating home a speculative lob from the corner
of the area.
It looked an unassailable lead, but United fought
on. Within three minutes they had pulled one back, Billy Bremner
chesting home Giles' corner at the back post.
back to top
That goal revived the Whites and they pushed on
with Clarke adding a second, profiting after Cooper and Lorimer
had laid on a chance. He also tested Gordon West on two more occasions
without quite getting an equaliser as Leeds went down by the odd
goal in five.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "I imagine that the Leeds
manager reserved his more forthright comments for the United defenders.
For Charlton was routed by Royle; Reaney, so to say, did not know
what day it was; and Sprake again betrayed discomfort as well
as displeasure because Leeds were being beaten. The sight of Charlton
gesticulating to Reaney to get upfield, and that of Reaney giving
an illustrated answer were foreign to the strict self discipline
with which Leeds more recently have been associated.
"Leeds, as if conforming to some political manifesto,
insisted on full employment for all, and obviously they had no
intention of trying to score unless all their 11 men had a part
in the act. So they spent too much time and effort, used too many
men and passes in their approach. When they arrived eventually
in the Everton penalty area, they'd forgotten what they'd come
After the game Don Revie held discussions with Mike
O'Grady, who had been agitating for a first team recall. The two
men could not see eye to eye and the winger was transfer listed.
United fans were furious, one complaining to the Evening Post,
"O'Grady's absence from the team is one of the main reasons why
it has not been scoring the vital goals". Within a fortnight Wolves
had tabled an £80,000 bid. O'Grady could not agree personal terms
with the Molineux club but remained on the transfer list.
Leeds won for the first time in five attempts when
an under strength selection beat
Third Division Fulham in the League Cup, but then had to rely
on a late equaliser from Billy Bremner to earn a point in a 2-2
draw at home to Manchester United. The skipper's goal was outstanding:
O'Grady, on as sub for Gray, sent a huge lobbed cross to the far
post for Charlton to nod inside. Bremner, standing with his back
to goal, launched himself into a spectacular bicycle kick that
left Stepney grasping thin air.
Gary Sprake faced criticism for a poor display.
There were rumours that the keeper would be dropped after a number
of errors. Don Revie stoutly defended Sprake but admitted that
the side wasn't playing well.
After six League games without a win, United secured
a 2-1 victory at Sheffield Wednesday on 13 September. They enjoyed
the bulk of possession but struggled to score. The winner came
from a rare incisive move when Bremner's ball through a square
defence allowed Eddie Gray to race into the space behind and fire
The growing doubts were eradicated a few days later
when United made their European Cup debut. A new club record was
set when they slaughtered the
Norwegian amateurs Lyn Oslo 10-0 with O'Grady back in the
side and opening the scoring within a minute. Mick Jones netted
a hat trick on a memorable evening at Elland Road.
O'Grady owed his recall to Gray's injury against
Wednesday; he deputised again as United beat Chelsea 2-0 on 20
September in an ugly, over physical encounter, but within three
days the wing man had departed Elland Road. Wolves manager Bill
McGarry had refused to accept O'Grady's original rejection and
pursued him until he got a positive response.
Speculation began immediately that Leeds were in
the market for a replacement. Don Revie was quick to quash rumours,
declaring, "I am sick and tired of all these reports that I am
rushing to buy another winger to replace Mike. Yesterday it was
Jimmy Conway of Fulham. Today it is Jimmy Johnstone of Celtic.
Tomorrow it will be, as like as not, somebody else. Possibly Pele.
I have no interest at all in any of these players ... I have no
intention of buying anybody this season."
The following day, Paul Madeley's 20-yard drive
deep into injury time snatched a draw in the League Cup against
Chelsea. The game was thankfully less spiteful than the earlier
League clash, but the result left Revie with a headache. The return
match against Lyn Oslo was scheduled for the following Wednesday,
a day after the Stamford Bridge replay. Revie declared that he
would pick completely different sides for the two games. In the
end, an accommodation was made with the Football League, and the
Chelsea replay was delayed by a week.
England manager Sir Alf Ramsey was at Coventry on
27 September to watch United's World Cup hopefuls. Two weeks earlier,
Ramsey had named seven Leeds players - Reaney, Madeley, Cooper,
Charlton, Hunter, Clarke and Jones - in his preliminary squad
of 40 for Mexico. All were on duty at Highfield Road except Charlton,
out with a pulled hamstring.
back to top
Terry Lofthouse wrote in the Evening Post of the
Whites' new approach: "Leeds United may have sacrificed that iron
door barrier designed to keep out the most potent attacks in the
country in favour of a fast flowing all out frontal assault, but
it is a change everyone has welcomed. Their 2-1 triumph at Coventry
was a typical example of the way the Elland Road pattern
has altered this season. Freedom to express is now the key note.
"United have achieved a brand of play similar to
that of West Ham without fully reaping the benefits of a rip roaring
front line. That is rapidly changing, too, for the Clarke-Jones
duo is the most exciting combination to hit the soccer scene.
It will go from strength to strength, from success to success.
The essence of its power is in its simplicity. Jones confuses
and jabs at the opposition, Clarke flits about and takes up positions
which give the impression he is being unmarked. But that's how
the system works. It worked to perfection at Coventry, where the
home side, unbeaten at home since December, went down to the relentless
pressure forced on them by the Leeds super machine."
Clarke, Hunter and Giles all suffered injuries and
were rested for the return match against Lyn Oslo, joining Charlton
on the sidelines. Rod Belfitt,
standing in for Clarke, opened the scoring in the sixth minute,
turning home a Terry Hibbitt
cross. Hibbitt (2), Jones, Lorimer and Belfitt (again) added further
goals as Leeds romped to a 6-0 win, establishing a new aggregate
high score for an English club in the competition. It seemed for
a while that the all time record of 18 by Benfica would be caught.
Don Revie admitted to being "a little disappointed ... When we
were six up with almost 20 minutes to go I thought it was definitely
It took two penalties from Giles, one in each half,
to secure a 2-1 win on 4 October at Elland Road against a Stoke
City side which was doing surprisingly well. Before the game the
two clubs were level on points and City pushed United all the
way, with former White Jimmy Greenhoff pulling one back with a
fine drive from 15 yards.
Greenhoff said afterwards, "You are always afraid
Leeds will turn it on and cut you to pieces, make you look silly,
but they didn't today. They were off song, weren't they?"
Sprake and Clarke picked up injuries and missed
the following game. Terry Lofthouse in the Evening Post: "Leeds
United lost a League Cup third round replay 2-0 at Stamford Bridge,
but exploded a London myth. What surely must be finally erased
is the southern belief that the League champions are still a hard,
uncompromising, unattractive side ... Though Chelsea took the
honours, the memory was United's fluent, stylish play."
Two 1-1 draws followed, at West Bromwich and Crystal
Palace. United badly missed Clarke, who had not figured since
the defeat of Stoke because of an ankle strain. Just as the striker
was pronounced fit, Cooper (knee ligaments) and Giles (hamstring)
That meant an opportunity for Mick Bates and he
did well against Derby at Elland Road on 25 October; so well,
in fact, that the Evening Post's Phil Brown suggested he should
retain his place ahead of Giles, "the little Irishman having hit
a moderate patch."
It was the restored Clarke who took the honours,
scoring both goals in the few
minutes before the break as Leeds beat the Rams 2-0. County manager
Brian Clough protested long and hard after the game that Clarke
had been offside before scoring the second, rounding keeper Les
Green and steadying himself before stroking the ball into an open
United followed up by hammering Nottingham Forest
6-1 at Elland Road in midweek.
back to top
Lorimer opened the scoring in the ninth minute after
a four man move, firing home from the corner of the penalty area.
United failed to build on their lead and in the 27th minute Henry
Newton shot through a packed area to equalise. Leeds regained
the lead four minutes before the break, Clarke allowing the ball
to pass him by in the box for the onrushing Charlton to nudge
In the 65th minute, Clarke was carried off after
hurting his shin in a clash with goalkeeper Hill. If there were
fears that the loss of their main striker would blunt Leeds' cutting
edge, the reality was somewhat different.
Five minutes after Clarke's departure, Bates picked
up the ball on the edge of the area and fired home for 3-1. After
80 minutes Lorimer tapped in the fourth after the ball came back
off the bar. Another two minutes and the Scot completed his hat
trick after rounding the keeper. Substitute Hibbitt completed
the rout when he collected a loose ball after a misunderstanding
between Terry Hennessey and keeper Hill.
The Evening Post's Terry Lofthouse praised two men
in form: "Lorimer thrives on success ... His enthusiasm for the
job abounds, he is constantly calling for the ball and tackling
with extra verve. Two of his goals were comfortable, but the first
went in like a bullet ... Bates again demonstrated maturity as
a midfield operator alongside a cool and composed Bremner."
United had to settle for a goalless draw at Sunderland,
but then hammered struggling Ipswich 4-0 on 8 November, cementing
second place in the table, six points behind Everton, defeated
2-0 at West Bromwich.
In the absence of Clarke and Belfitt (suspended
for an astonishing six weeks for being dismissed in a Central
League game), Don Revie used Johnny Giles in support of Mick Jones,
allowing Bates to continue his impressive run. The combination
paid off against Ipswich and was given another opportunity as
Leeds returned to European Cup action against highly regarded
The first leg of the second round tie was at Elland
Road on 12 November and conditions favoured United. The heavy
rain left the pitch muddy and holding, much to the Hungarians'
distaste. Ferencvaros coach Karoly Lakat was downbeat in his pre-match
comments: "If three key forwards are out of your side (Albert,
Varga and Rakosi) it must give the opposition confidence. Leeds
United have become much stronger since we last met, while Ferencvaros
have gone the opposite way."
Clarke and Cooper were still out injured, but otherwise
United were at full strength with captain Bremner back after a
spell of flu.
Any Leeds nerves were quickly settled when Giles
opened the scoring after 80 seconds. The Irishman fed Bremner
on the edge of the area. The skipper, back to goal, moved the
ball on with a neat flick of the heel for Giles to fire home from
After 22 minutes, Jones added a second, placing
the rebound past keeper Geczi after he had blocked a Lorimer effort.
Two minutes later the contest was over. Lorimer's 40 yard ball
allowed Giles to slip his marker and feed Jones. The striker rounded
Geczi and scored off a post.
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "The score in the end
might well have been close to double figures. At a rough count
there were three shots variously from Giles, Jones and Lorimer
taken off the Hungarian line; there were two strikes in the first
five minutes of the second half, by Giles again and then Hunter,
both disallowed for fractional offside; and a blatant penalty
denied to Bremner after he'd been rudely sent sprawling by Pancsics.
But on top of that came a fistful of misses, the most blatant
by Jones, and then a clear header by the long legged Charlton,
with the whole goal to aim at, after the interval. Had I not seen
it I would not have believed that a Ferencvaros side so full of
talented players could have been so ground down. Although the
great Albert and Rakosi, both of World Cup standard, were missing,
still on the field were five other men of the Hungarian national
side, and three more in their World Cup party, who will go to
Mexico should the Hungarians win their group play-off with Czechoslovakia.
"By half time it was mud, mud, and for Leeds at
least, glorious mud ... They played some devastating football,
cutting the opposition to shreds as they moved their passes brilliantly
at top speed. In all this their positional play, control, and
skill, were vital factors ... The mud also became an enemy of
Yorkshire throughout the second half. By then the surface was
black, churned, tacky and turning towards the morass which choked
the Leeds flow. Certainly they still pounded forward, masters
of every situation. Here the irrepressible, impish Bremner was
everywhere, at the heart of all the action. No one would have
imagined that he had risen from a bed of influenza only 48 hours
"At his side too, equally dominating, another ringmaster,
was little Giles; on the left flank Gray ploughed through the
elements like a cruiser, with the tireless Jones a powerful battleship
in the middle. At the back Hunter, Charlton and the rest kept
the supply going. Yet those three goals of the opening stages
simply could not be multiplied. It was no benevolent attitude
on the part of Leeds. They still remained hungry. But perhaps
they had been interrupted by over-usage of the ball and were themselves
finally strung up by the mud."
back to top
With United set fair for a place in the last eight,
the club rewarded Don Revie by buying him a five-bedroomed house,
Three Chimneys at Aldwoodley. Terry Lofthouse reported in the
Evening Post: "Don Revie today declared his loyalty to League
champions Leeds United, despite the weekend row between himself
and the directors. The storm clouds gathered over a story that
he is to take over the £18,000 house owned by Mr Manny Cussins
in the exclusive Sand Moor area ... Team manager Revie hit out
angrily at 'what has been brought out about the home and my private
life.' He says he is disgusted with the way the matter had been
handled and adds: 'What has been said about my salary is laughable
- it is nowhere near £15,000. I only wish it was ... I have turned
down bigger houses than the £18,000 one mentioned and bigger salaries
than the quoted £15,000.' He was referring to the fantastic offer
he received a while ago from Italian club Torino, which he rejected
because, as he put it at the time, he is settled in Leeds."
Torino had offered United £70,000 in May 1969 to
buy out Revie's contract; they had promised Revie a salary of
£24,000 plus bonuses. Chairman Percy Woodward had adamantly refused
to be courted, declaring the manager's contract to be beyond price.
The manager explained his reasons for rejecting
Torino's offer in one of his Saturday columns in the Evening Post.
"I promised the Turin directors I would never divulge
the financial terms, but you can take it from me that if I had
accepted I would have made sufficient money to retire after four
years! ... So why did I refuse?
"There were two reasons as far as I was concerned.
Firstly, I expect 100 per cent loyalty from Leeds United's players
and consider I have a moral duty to be loyal to them. Over the
years a tremendous family spirit has developed within the club
- a friendship between the players and their families and the
staff. No amount of money can compensate for a situation like
"Secondly, I believed I would not have proved anywhere
near as successful in Italy ... In fact, I still consider any
leading British manager would be crazy to try his luck on the
continent because there are so many problems involved. Problems,
for example, like the language barrier, temperamental players,
and fans. Then there is the strange system whereby presidents
of Italian clubs negotiate all the players' contracts and transfers."
United continued to struggle on their travels. A
at Southampton on 15 November was the fifth game without a win,
and there was more criticism after playing another struggling
side at Elland Road. Terry Lofthouse: "Leeds United's performance
in beating Sunderland 2-0 was as dull as the weather ... It was
not until six minutes from the end that United put some respectability
in the scoreline, Lorimer notching his eighth League goal of the
season, after Jones had opened the account in the 21st minute.
With too many players out of touch, they had to struggle for long
periods despite never being hard pressed to hold their early lead.
A sort of lethargy appeared to spread through the Leeds team."
The next game was at home to third-placed Liverpool.
The Reds started the season among the front runners, but had come
grinding to a halt, securing just 3 wins and 11 points from their
previous 11 games. But they were certainly no easy touch.
The game was tight but United dominated initially,
taking a 20th-minute lead through a Giles penalty. Instead of
pressing home their advantage, Leeds withdrew into a defensive
shell, pulling Madeley deeper and allowing Liverpool back into
Tom German in the Times: "The sharply-contrasting
fortunes of the opposing goalkeepers resolved an always eventful
tussle ... Liverpool, a goal down, were just starting to pick
themselves up after an hour of scurrying defence when Yeats aimed
in a header: it curved to Sprake's feet, with little power behind
it, but as the goalkeeper bent casually to collect it the ball
plopped into the mud, brushed beneath his fingers without hint
of a bounce, trickled between his legs and over the line. His
anguish was apparent, yet it was unquestionably of his own making.
Lawrence's contrasting alertness in the last phase of the match
can only have rubbed salt in Sprake's raw wound. Bremner was hauled
down by the goalkeeper; first it was a penalty, then a free kick
to Liverpool and, finally, the award went to Leeds. But Lawrence
unmoved by the minutes of commotion, flung himself sideways to
push Giles' kick aside at a vital moment in the match. It was
to earn Liverpool a deserved point."
Don Revie was typically supportive of Sprake after
the game, saying, "I have every
faith in him. He has conceded fewer goals in the last six years
than any other goalkeeper in Britain ... When he makes a mistake
he always gets punished."
It was disappointing, but there was no holding United
in the European Cup. In their return against Ferencvaros on 26
November, Leeds gave a remarkable display to repeat the 3-0 win
they achieved at Elland Road.
back to top
Albert Barham in the Guardian: "The sparse crowd
saw a fine exhibition of attacking football from Leeds. Ferencvaros
were no better than they were in the first leg, outplayed, outmanoeuvred,
out thought by the fluent football from every member of Leeds.
"European football certainly suits Jones this season.
He brought his total to eight goals in four matches tonight. His
first came in the 37th minute when he headed in a long tantalising
high pass from Lorimer. Geczi, the goalkeeper, went up with him
but Jones beat him to the ball to head into the net through the
narrowest of angles. Then with 10 minutes to go Jones scored his
second and what a beauty that was. He dispossessed Juhasz, beat
Balint and shot into the corner of the net. Finally just before
time Lorimer, with a searing drive from 25 yards, put the seal
on this night of Leeds' triumph."
That historic victory, the first by a British team
at the Nep Stadium, was followed by another, 2-1 at Manchester
City, United's first Maine Road win since 1938. Jones got the
winner with three minutes remaining, heading home from a Lorimer
United were closing fast on Everton, three points
behind and unbeaten in fifteen League games. The key differential
between the sides was the win to draw ratio. Everton had won 16
and drawn 3 games, against United's 11-10 return.
Leeds improved that record during December, winning
three straight games, all at Elland Road, against Wolves (3-1),
Sheffield Wednesday (2-0) and West Ham (4-1). Allan Clarke made
his return against Wolves after 8 games out and scored, adding
two against Wednesday and another against the Hammers.
The West Ham win left United top for the first time.
In the same period Everton crashed 3-0 at home to Liverpool, and,
despite their two games in hand, the steady pressure was squeezing
a team that had once looked uncatchable.
Everton had started at Tottenham on the same night
as Leeds beat West Ham, but the game was abandoned after half
an hour when the floodlights failed. The Merseysiders regained
the leadership on 20 December after beating Derby 1-0 and went
on to beat Manchester City by the same score three days later.
On each occasion they missed a penalty and had to rely on a late
goal to secure the points.
United's 20 December game at Manchester United was
off due to a snowbound pitch; they had the chance to close the
gap on Boxing Day, with Everton gameless, but would have to get
something out of Newcastle at St James' Park to do so.
Leeds were guilty of over elaborating and Newcastle
took a 2-0 lead. Wyn Davies had the better of Jack Charlton, scoring
once and laying on a second for Bryan Robson. United launched
a tremendous revival over the last half hour and Giles pulled
one back from 25 yards. It was not enough and Newcastle inflicted
United's first League defeat since August.
The Whites had no time to feel sorry for themselves;
the following day they hosted Everton in a top of the table showdown.
Despite the lack of rest, United overpowered Everton,
dominating the first half of an uncompromising contest and scoring
after a quarter of an hour. From Bremner's 30 yard punt, Lorimer
nodded down into the six yard box. Jones tangled with Gordon West
and flicked the ball into the net as the keeper fumbled.
After 30 minutes it was 2-0 when Jones rose high
to nod home Lorimer's cross from the right.
Everton fought hard after the break and pulled one
back when Whittle ran in to slide a Royle header past Sprake.
Leeds United Book of Football No 2: "It was the
cue for Everton, who had been playing some fine football in this
second half spell, to pile on the pressure and drive all out for
an equaliser. But in the event, it was Leeds who returned to the
attack, and more
than once they almost increased their lead. Although they had
a let off, themselves, with but three minutes to go, when a fine
left wing move by Everton ended with Morrissey shooting on the
run ... and seeing his shot hit an upright. Everton might have
bemoaned their cruel luck over this; but had they snatched a point
it would have been unfair on Leeds, who had been on top for so
much of the game - and played a brand of attacking football which
thoroughly earned them their victory."
The win wasn't enough to put them back on top, but
it crowned a tremendous year which ended with them within a whisker
of their main title rivals.
1970 would see Leeds continue in hot pursuit of
three major trophies.
Part 2 - Treble heartbreak - Results
and table - printer
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