1 Rebuilding from the back - Part
3 The Revie-Clough wrangle - Part
4 The Revie for Everton affair - Results
and table - printer
Fighting back from a two-goal deficit at Crystal
Palace on 18 November to earn a well-merited draw left a sense
more of a point gained than one lost. The fightback lightened
the mood at Elland Road as the Leeds United players prepared for
their League Cup replay against Liverpool four days later.
The game was originally set for two days after the
Palace game, with the winners set to face Tottenham in the fifth
round later the same week. The timescale brought criticism from
both United and Liverpool, but their irritability was assuaged
a little when heavy rain on the day of the game left Elland Road
waterlogged. Referee John Homewood had no option but to call off
It was just two hours before kick off when the official
took his final decision after inspecting a pitch on which nearly
£40,000 had been spent on a new drainage system and underground
heating over the previous three seasons.
"He found two inches of water lying on it," United
manager Don Revie said. "He tried kicking a ball but it was
just no good. No ground could have taken the rain we have had
"We wanted to get this match over and out of the
way. We trained on the practice pitch this morning and it was
perfect. Then the rain started at lunch time and it hammered down.
The underground heating was used during the weekend but that has
made no difference for no ground could have taken this downpour."
Liverpool manager Bill Shankly: "It would have been
farcical if we had played. There was nothing anyone could do about
The game was rescheduled for the Wednesday evening,
when the two sides played out a thrilling contest.
Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Nothing seemed
more certain than extra time and a second replay last night. Then,
with everyone on the ground, except possibly the players, looking
forward to an additional half hour's hard slog, Charlton,
passing back, failed narrowly to put the ball into his own net.
Leeds were still shaken visibly when Heighway took the corner,
a wicked one at that as the ball curled in, and Keegan, leaping
higher than anyone else, headed a superb goal. The whistle was
blown for the last time seconds later.
"Any side which misses a penalty in a first class
match or on a public park scarcely deserves to win. When the kick
is taken by Giles, of all people, a miss becomes something of
a phenomenon. On the other hand, it should never have been a penalty
in the first place and Liverpool rightly protested against the
award in the fifty-fourth minute.
"Smith did no more than obstruct Bremner, for which
an indirect free kick should have been awarded. The referee consulted
a linesman but stuck to his decision. Giles hit the crossbar with
his kick and soon afterwards he was carried off with a knee injury.
Troubles indeed never come as single spies but in battalions.
"Leeds nevertheless were rather unfortunate to lose.
They did nearly all the attacking and combined more quickly and
to better purpose than did Liverpool. Bremner and Hunter were
generous providers and frequently took part in United's attacks.
"But Liverpool defended magnificently, none doing
better than Lindsay and Hughes, the latter of whom was booked
for a foul on Bremner. Smith also had his name taken for questioning
one of the referee's decisions.
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"In the second half, Leeds pressed harder than they
had done in the first, and it seemed to be inevitable that they
would score. It appeared to be no less obvious that they could
even afford to miss a penalty. Jones drove the ball over the crossbar
after a perfect pass by Giles; Lorimer missed by inches, Jones
headed over the bar from Lorimer's centre; and Clarke wove clever
patterns in the Liverpool penalty area and reduced his opponents
to something near embarrassment which was an achievement in
"But the ball would not go in the net at either
end - until those last seconds. It was not to be estimated to
what extent the Leeds rhythm was affected by Giles' retirement
15 minutes from the end (Jordan took his place), but the feeling
persisted that Giles might have inspired Leeds to score a goal.
Certainly he would not have slackened his attempts to compensate
for his lapse."
It was a bitter disappointment for Leeds, especially
as Giles' calf strain kept him out of action for a month.
He joined Eddie Gray on the sidelines, for a medical
specialist had decided the skilful Scottish winger should have
an operation on the chronic thigh problems that had dogged him
Don Revie: "Eddie has been troubled by this injury
for a long time and we have been advised that an operation is
necessary… It is a major operation and he will be in hospital
for about a week. I couldn't say how long he will be out of action.
"It is most unfortunate for Eddie. Had it not been
for his injuries, I am convinced he would already have been a
much bigger name in football. I am still sure that if this operation
does the trick he can still become a bigger name than George Best.
"Eddie's injury, along with that of Terry Cooper,
deprives us of two world class players and two players who are
naturally left footed."
The unavailability of Giles and Gray offered Mick
Bates a way back into the side, and United rose to the occasion
with a 3-0 demolition of Manchester City on 25 November. It was
never as one-sided a game as the scoreline hinted, however, with
all three goals coming in the final twenty minutes.
The Guardian's Eric Todd: "In the absence
of Charlton, Gray and Giles, Leeds seldom gave the impression
that they will dislodge Liverpool from the top of the championship
table… they exasperated their supporters by making three or four
moves when one would have done perfectly well. Repeatedly, they
arrived in the vicinity of the City penalty area, and then stopped
rather like a man who, having lost his way, decides to return
to the point of departure and start all over again… While Leeds
took their goals well, they were flattered.
"A cheeky free kick by Bremner nearly gave Leeds
the lead in the sixty-third minute and City were still dithering
when seven minutes later Lorimer took a free kick and Cherry,
unmarked, headed a good goal. With five minutes to go, Bremner
gave Jones the best pass of the match, and although Barrett and
Donachie forced Jones to lose possession, the ball ran to Lorimer
beat Corrigan from an acute angle. In the last minute after another
free kick by Bremner, Clarke completed City's discomfiture with
a back header."
United's steady advance in the First Division was
stayed on 2 December when they lost 2-1 in a bad tempered clash
at Arsenal; in the process the Gunners swapped positions in the
table with their opponents.
United took the lead through a penalty from Lorimer
after 19 minutes but a spot kick by Alan Ball brought the Gunners
level with fifteen minutes remaining and in the 81st minute a
Radford centre was palmed into goal by David Harvey to settle
the affair. Referee Clive Thomas booked five Leeds players plus
Arsenal's Ball which, according to Don Warters of the Evening
Post, "left the game with the false appearance of having been
a rough and unsavoury contest. Nothing could be further from the
truth. This was an absorbing contest, fought determinedly by both
sides but without niggle. I cannot recall one real incident in
the whole of the 90 minutes."
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The Leeds players were annoyed by the cautions,
arguing that referee Thomas had been book happy, but their disciplinary
problems were becoming a major concern. Warters: "Norman Hunter,
who has 16 penalty points from five bookings, appears before a
Disciplinary Commission on Thursday to appeal against one decision,
but even if he is successful he will still have 12 points against
him. That means an automatic suspension for two matches and in
Hunter's case this will put him out of action for the home game
against Birmingham City on December 16 and the away match against
Manchester United on December 23.
"Revie and most of the United players were upset
about the bookings received at Highbury - and not without some
justification. Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Mick Jones, Trevor
Cherry and Allan Clarke were the names to go into Mr Thomas' black
book, but in at least two of the cases the referee's decision
seemed a trifle hasty.
"The cautions picked up by Bremner and Cherry -
after Arsenal had been awarded their penalty in the 75th minute
- were the ones I believe were unkind.
"Bremner, who is captain of the side, did not jostle
the referee and said afterwards that all he did was to ask the
official to have a word with a linesman who had flagged momentarily
for an earlier infringement.
"I did not see Cherry get himself involved, and
the player was at a loss afterwards to see just why or for what
he had been booked.
"Cherry's booking, coming so soon after he had won
appeals against two bookings to reduce his points total to nine,
must now be over the mark again, while another player facing the
possibility of suspension is skipper Billy Bremner, who now has
three four-pointers for dissent and one caution in a European
Don Revie in his weekly column in the Yorkshire
Evening Post: "The number of Leeds United players booked for
dissent has become critical… Five of our players had their names
taken at Arsenal recently - three for disputing the referee's
decisions. The offence carries a four-point penalty under the
new disciplinary code and our inability to avoid it has resulted
in Billy Bremner, Trevor Cherry and Allan Clarke facing two-match
"I have mixed feelings about this business of punishing
players for appealing against decisions which they believe are
wrong. For one thing, dissent is a relatively minor offence and
I feel it is wrong that the penalty is the same as that meted
out to a player who commits a deliberate foul. In addition, I
believe all referees should be prepared to listen to a protest
by a team's skipper, providing it is made in a constructive manner.
In fact, we are going to write to the FA, the League and the Referees'
Association suggesting a rule to this effect… I have now invoked
a rule whereby only Bremner is allowed to approach the referee.
Anyone who disobeys will be disciplined by the club."
The move cut little ice with the authorities - the
FA's Vernon Stokes later proclaimed that the captain had "no more
right to dispute a decision than any other player".
On a more positive note, Revie was delighted when
he heard the news that Welsh international keeper Gary Sprake
had asked to be taken off the transfer list.
Sprake had lost his place to long time understudy
David Harvey at the end of the previous season and was transfer
listed at his own request in August when he couldn't regain his
"It is a little early to be receiving Christmas
presents, but this is a very pleasant one," Revie said. "I do
not like to see anyone leaving Elland Road, especially when it
happens to be a player who has been with us since he left school.
It was a sad day for me when Gary asked to go, but the lad wanted
first team football and I agreed reluctantly to his request. His
decision to stay is great news."
Harvey had kept Sprake out of the team with some
impressive form and had broken into the full Scotland side during
the season. Forced to dangle his heels in the reserves prompted
Sprake to request a move in search of first team football.
The Welshman now told the Evening Post that
the main reason he had decided to stay at Elland Road was the
of times he had been asked to have second thoughts.
"I have been surprised how many fans have told me
they hoped I would not leave," Sprake said. "After talking the
matter over with my wife at the weekend I decided that the best
thing to do was to ask to be taken off the list. United are a
great club and I have had nothing but the best treatment from
them. I never really wanted to leave and I think now that I may
have been a little hasty in going on the list.
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"Obviously I still want first team football and
I shall make an even more determined effort now to win back my
"My wife is from Leeds, our daughter Julia has just
started going to school and we are nicely settled in the district.
Moving would have been a big wrench for us all," added Sprake,
who still had five years to run of a six-year contract.
The next fortnight brought comfortable home victories
for United, 1-0 against West Ham and then by four clear goals
against Birmingham, as they remained hot on the heels of Liverpool
and Arsenal in the table. Their progress was derailed on 23 December,
though, when they were given a stern test by Manchester United
at Old Trafford.
The Reds had recently sacked manager Frank O'Farrell
after a dismal season and Scotland boss Tommy Docherty had taken
his place. The game with Leeds was Docherty's first in charge
and clearly represented a major challenge for a team that lost
5-0 at Crystal Palace a week earlier.
Docherty was a United admirer, saying later, "They
were all great players… They were so good that I was able to pick
four of them straight away when I became manager of Scotland:
Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and David Harvey in goal.
It was thanks to Don Revie and Leeds that I had the foundation
of the team almost picking itself."
Docherty had clearly been exploiting his motivational
gifts: the Reds played like men possessed.
Manchester took the lead in the first half through
Ted MacDougall and were fully worth their advantage. But Leeds
refused to surrender and secured a point when Allan Clarke hammered
home in injury time following a free kick from Johnny Giles, skippering
the side in the absence of flu-stricken Billy Bremner and the
suspended Norman Hunter.
Clarke's late goal preserved an unbeaten League
run that now stretched back 12 games to 30 September, when they
had lost at home to Liverpool. The sequence continued on Boxing
Day when they beat Newcastle at Elland Road.
The only goal came after 46 minutes, when Leeds
were awarded a penalty for a foul on Cherry. Newcastle keeper
Iam McFaul saved Giles' spot kick, but the linesman indicated
that the keeper had moved too early and Giles was given a second
opportunity. On this occasion, his effort struck the crossbar,
but as it bounced down, Jordan, who had come on at the break as
replacement for Bates, followed up to head home the rebound.
Joe Harvey, Newcastle's manager, was furious with
the referee, saying afterwards: "All right, the referee gave a
penalty although all Craig did was slide in for the ball. But
the other decision was nonsense. How can a referee allow himself
to be overruled
this way when he was nearer the situation than the linesman? McFaul
said it was a perfectly legitimate save. He moved for the ball
after Giles had shot. Every time we come here we seem to be robbed
by a penalty decision. I don't know how referees can sleep at
night when they give decisions like this."
Don Revie was convinced that the keeper had moved,
but Giles was more equivocal, saying: "I couldn't see whether
he had moved or not. I never look at the keeper when I am running
forward to take a penalty. I don't think the ball was over the
line when Joe moved in to head it into the net."
Leeds should have ended 1972 with a trip to West
Bromwich on 30 December, but the club was hit by an epidemic of
flu: ten first teamers, three reserves and a junior came down
with high temperatures, as did Revie.
The Football League gave permission for a postponement,
which offered Liverpool and Arsenal the opportunity to edge further
clear of Leeds. The Anfield outfit beat Crystal Palace at home
to move onto 38 points, while Arsenal's goalless draw at Stoke
took them to 35. United ended the year third on 33 points, enjoying
games in hand on both of their rivals and looking likely to press
their claims strongly in the New Year. But Bill Shankly's Reds
looked in ominously good form, with a single defeat from eighteen
The Whites' first game of 1973 saw them entertaining
Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road on 6 January hoping to build
on an impressive run that had seen them secure 20 League points
from the previous 26 available.
Peter Lorimer and Johnny Giles had already enjoyed
an early start to the New Year, featuring in a match to celebrate
the entry of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and Denmark
into an extended European Economic Community. The United forwards
were selected by Sir Alf Ramsey to line up for The Three against
The Six at Wembley and contributed well in a 2-0 victory against
an all-star team that included Franz Beckenbauer, Berti Vogts,
Gunter Netzer, Johan Neeskens and Gerd Muller.
Both men were on duty against Tottenham, but the
flu epidemic brought some selection worries for Don Revie. Nevertheless,
Billy Bremner, Trevor Cherry, Mick Jones and Mick Bates all recovered
well enough to take the field.
United belied any residual effects of the virus,
easing to a comfortable 2-1 victory, as reported by Tom German
in the Times. "Leeds United, despite the aftermath of flu,
privations through injury and, in one or two instances, the almost
imperceptible erosions of passing years, still store within handy
reach the elegant style which will deny even a momentary breather
to Liverpool and Arsenal, just above them in the championship.
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"It was also a setting in which Leeds could harness
all their skills. Here there was no need for systematic, crossfield
movement, probing a wall to test where it might crumble, and Clarke,
for one, revelled in the invitation to dart forward and match
talent against talent, rather than against sheer weight of numbers.
"Giles and Bremner do not always seek each other
out these days to apply the mortar to the bricks but they have
a crucial part in Leeds' building process, nevertheless. Giles
had a magnificent first half, flitting around effortlessly, perceptively
lifting passes from one flank to the other, plopping them immaculately
on a length as accurate as any of those slow left handers Yorkshire
has produced in that other, more leisurely, game so dear to them.
Bremner, for his part, excelled at the pass struck swiftly through
the heart of Spurs' defence.
"Leeds' two first half goals were to prove enough.
The first came after a quarter of an hour as Lorimer, winning
a corner, placed his kick just short of the near post where Clarke's
delicate headed glance left the way open for Jones. The second
came from a penalty thumped home by Lorimer after Giles had been
in collision with Gilzean, although it looked less offensive than
the nudge Jones had received from England shortly before.
"All looked secure, but there was an uncomfortable
last 20 minutes in store for Leeds as Perryman's continued hard
work began to bear fruit and Peters and Gilzean duly freed themselves
more. Knowles flighted a centre perfectly for Gilzean to head
past Harvey only to clip the outside of a post. Two minutes later,
with Hunter stretched out and shortly to hobble off, the formula
was repeated and this time Gilzean found his target. There the
intrusion ended, though; Leeds had earned the full reward."
A couple of days later, at the club's 52nd annual
general meeting, chairman Manny Cussins revealed plans to introduce
"the biggest and best floodlights in the country". Ground director
Bob Roberts told the Yorkshire Post, "We have approved
a scheme for spending just over £100,000 to provide entirely new
floodlighting for our ground. We shall be erecting four new pylons
250 feet high, complete with 55 lights per tower. The pylons will
be erected outside the ground in a line with the goal areas and
not at the corners of the ground. Three will be erected immediately,
and there will be 10 additional lights along the West Stand. The
fourth pylon will not be erected until demolition has taken place
at the corner of the Lowfield Road and Elland Road part of the
ground." During the close season, he added, they "would be taking
down the existing pylons which should please spectators who have
grumbled about sitting behind pylons."
The meeting was also told that the successful FA
Cup campaign had helped increase match receipts by £70,000 to
£225,478 and produced a profit of £20,972 for the year to 31 July,
up from £9,499 in 1971.
The benefits of winning the Cup were evident and
United launched their bid to retain the trophy on 13 January,
with a trip to face promoted Norwich City, who had battled their
way through to the League Cup final where they would face Tottenham
on 3 March.
Despite an ultra-competitive display from the Canaries,
United had the edge throughout the contest. The
game was marred by 34 fouls with Norwich, recognising the visitors'
superior skills, endeavouring to unsettle them with strong arm
United took the lead around the half hour, Lorimer
scoring after Jones had robbed Norwich defender Stringer. City
equalised three minutes before the break; centre-forward David
Cross nodded the ball goalwards, only for Reaney to head the ball
out from under the bar. However, referee Gordon Hill ruled that
it had already crossed the line and awarded the score.
Popular opinion had it that United would hammer
Norwich in the Elland Road replay and, indeed, they were all over
them, but they struggled to beat Calcutta-born goalkeeper Kevin
Keelan, who enjoyed the game of a lifetime.
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As is often the case with such one-sided affairs,
the team that was under the cosh broke away against the run of
play to open the scoring. Just before half time Norwich responded
to all the pressure by coming out to snatch the unlikeliest of
goals with Cross again the scorer.
There was the whiff of a shock, but Giles managed
to equalise with twenty minutes remaining. It was a relief to
everyone at Elland Road, but Leeds should have won the game at
a canter for they dominated affairs from the first minute.
The two teams faced each other yet again the following
Saturday, in a League encounter at Carrow Road. This time, United
were in fine form, 2-0 ahead before the break through Jordan and
Clarke and in complete control. Cross scored once more for Norwich,
after 84 minutes, but there was to be no comeback and Leeds emerged
with two points safely in the bag.
On 27 January, United faced Stoke City at Elland
Road. It was a closely-fought encounter, with the only goal coming
after 56 minutes courtesy of Allan Clarke, meeting Yorath's cross
to place an accurate header past keeper John Farmer.
In the closing seconds of the game, David Harvey
made a remarkable reflex save from Potters full-back Mike Pejic.
The defender was so irritated that he inexplicably sought to headbutt
Harvey, though thankfully he was unsuccessful. Referee Harold
Davey had little option but to dismiss Pejic. He had already been
booked, but the incident probably merited a sending off in its
With Liverpool going down 2-1 at Wolves and Arsenal
held at home by Newcastle, the two points enabled United to narrow
the gap at the top of the table.
||Top of Division One - January 27, 1973
Two days later, the Cup marathon with Norwich was
settled at the third time of asking. This time the result was
never in any doubt: Clarke netted a hat trick in the first twenty
minutes and Leeds went on to
complete a 5-0 victory with some of their best football of
That saw United through to face lowly Plymouth Argyle
in the fourth round five days later. They struggled to an untidy
win, as reported in the Guardian.
"If Leeds United are to continue to justify their
ranking as FA Cup favourites, they will need to improve on their
below form display in defeating Plymouth Argyle 2-1 in the fourth
round at Elland Road on Saturday. The match showed how unpredictable
Cup football can be; Leeds had to struggle to overcome Third Division
opponents only five days after crushing Norwich City 5-0 in a
third round replay.
"The refusal of Plymouth to be overawed by the occasion
and their willingness to contest everything accounted partly for
the way the game went. The absence of such players as Bremner
and Gray from the Leeds side was another factor. Without the lead
of these talented midfield players, Leeds were struggling for
much of the time, even though they always looked likely winners.
"Plymouth had done their homework well. They had
noticed, for example, that
Hunter, the iron man of the Leeds defence, prefers to have the
ball on his left side, and so they kept it to the right of him.
As a result Hunter was strangely ineffective, and contributed
little to the game. With some of his colleagues also below par
it was perhaps not surprising that Leeds had a harder struggle
than the crowd of 38,374 had anticipated.
"It took them 61 minutes to pierce the Plymouth
defence, in which Furnell, a former Arsenal goalkeeper, Provan
and Saxton were commanding figures. Then Clarke, Leeds' most progressive
and menacing forward, scored with a hard shot which Furnell touched
but could not keep out. If Leeds thought that this would open
the floodgates, they were speedily disillusioned. Only five minutes
later Plymouth were level through Rickard, who headed home a centre
from Provan on the right as the defence faltered in both tackling
and close marking.
"Another two minutes and the issue was settled.
A shot by Lorimer was charged down and the ball went to Bates,
who beat Furnell with a fierce, low drive."
The malaise continued a week later at Leicester
with a dismal 2-0 defeat. United clearly missed the direction
and drive of suspended skipper Billy Bremner and had no answer
to a spirited display from Leicester.
That same afternoon the League's top two met at
Anfield and Arsenal emerged with a stunning 2-0 victory over Liverpool,
thus slipping past them at the head of the table.
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An outstanding performance at Elland Road on 17
February by Chelsea's reserve keeper, John Phillips, was mainly
responsible for United being held to a 1-1 draw. It was an opportunity
lost as United's pursuit of the title continued to stutter.
The only positive note on a dismal day was a 15-minute
cameo appearance from Eddie Gray after 14 weeks in the treatment
room. United had badly missed his presence on the left flank,
so it was good news when he reported fit for the FA Cup fifth
round clash with West Bromwich Albion on 24 February.
Revie counselled his men not to be complacent against
struggling Albion, saying, "They have some first class players
and just because they are bottom of the League, I certainly do
not underrate them. Neither must you."
In the event, Revie need not have worried for United
never gave Albion a look in.
The Midlanders made a fight of matters in the first
twenty minutes, but did little of note thereafter and were never
at the races once United took a 28th minute lead.
Terry Brindle in the Yorkshire Post: "Spare
a thought for Peter Latchford, West Brom's goalkeeper. He contributed
directly to his team's downfall with two costly errors. But he
will make bigger ones that matter less. Against a team less aggressive
and a striker less nimble-witted, Latchford would probably have
got away with it.
"Clarke, in one of those rapier moods when he looks
as though he could wriggle through a millionaire's wallet, did
his damage in a two-minute spell and spent the rest of the match
picking his way nimbly through the wreckage in deference to calf
and ankle strains. 'It is a talent that genuine goal scorers are
born with. While others are watching, they go in and score,' said
Don Revie afterwards.
"Latchford blocked Clarke's header after 28 minutes
but let the ball
escape his grasp and Clarke hooked it in; he fumbled Lorimer's
blistering shot two minutes later and Clarke bundled in the second.
It was all over bar the exhibition.
"That was provided by one Eddie Gray, back in the
Leeds side after injury, recuperating it seems by watching opponents
decline into screaming fits of indecision and impotence.
"It was no small tribute to Gray that the Elland
Road crowd, so often impatient with any but an obvious attacking
move, were happy to savour his bold skills in awed silence. Perhaps
it was a mark of respect for the bewildered Nisbet, who must have
been the most relieved man in Leeds when he was replaced towards
"Nisbet had the red-faced embarrassment of a child
confronted by an exam paper he knows full well he cannot hope
to answer. Trapped with his problem, unable to escape it, powerless
to solve it.
"The match stood still as the ethereal Gray taunted
and teased West Brom down the left flank. Possession was all that
was required and Gray never gave the ball away, unless with the
slightly bored air of one condescending to let a team mate have
a kick. Sudden burst of speed to the byline and searching crosses
almost brought goals for Reaney and the ever-industrious Jones.
"Gray and Clarke, quite a combination. Light the
blue touch paper, and stand clear…"
Part 1 Rebuilding from the back
- Part 3 The Revie-Clough wrangle
- Part 4 The Revie for Everton affair
- Results and table
- printer friendly version
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