While acknowledging the achievement of Everton’s players in overturning Manchester United’s 39 year unbeaten spell in FA Cup Semi-Finals, I remembered the last team to beat Man U at that stage in the competition. It was Leeds United.
Leeds were a team that provoked very different feelings, depending on where you lived. For those of us growing up less than fifteen miles from Elland Road, they were the local side that had made it to the top, and that was seen as A Good Thing. Many others disliked the team for its gamesmanship and occasional crude play. The semi-final against Man U, which went to two replays (those who dislike penalty shoot-outs please note) was typical: Billy Bremner was on his way to berate the referee before realising he’d scored the winning goal.
At one awards dinner, with the Yorkshire TV cameras present, guest of honour Brian Clough said in typically direct style exactly what he thought of the Leeds approach, but YTV were not courageous enough to include Cloughie’s speech in what was finally transmitted. It might just have upset their audience.
The Leeds revival of the 1960s came under the guidance of Don Revie, who had the team play in all white to ape Real Madrid. But they were no band of galacticos. In addition to the accusations of dirty play came suggestions of attempted match fixing, though nothing was proved.
The opponents that awaited Leeds United after those three semi-final matches in the 1970 FA Cup were Chelsea. And they, too, had players well versed in the physical aspects of the game, not least Ron “Chopper” Harris, their captain, who Mark Lawrenson recently said would have got himself booked getting off the team bus.
That final went to a replay, at Old Trafford. Late tackles, head butting, lunging, kneeing and fisticuffs were all in evidence in a supremely ill-tempered match. Leeds’ Mick Jones temporary disabling of Chelsea keeper Peter Bonetti helped him to open the scoring; Peter Osgood later equalised, partly because Jack Charlton, who should have been marking him, was elsewhere on the pitch looking for some afters.
And, after more extra time, Leeds ended up losing a match that modern day referee David Elleray later reviewed, concluding that the teams had merited a total of six sendings off and twenty bookings.
Leeds’ diehard supporters thought they had been robbed; most neutrals shrugged and concluded they got what they deserved.
They don’t make them like that any more.