7 November 1964, First Division: Everton 0 Leeds 1
Don Revie’s Leeds were new to the first division in 1964 and, though it had been noted that promotion had been gained despite a poor disciplinary record, the way they introduced themselves at the self-styled school of science produced shock and revulsion.
Billy Bremner opened proceedings with a blatant foul on Fred Pickering and afterjfour minutes Johnny Giles’s chest-high challenge on Sandy Brown led to the incensed defender dismissed for retaliation. That provoked a crowd reaction, with cushions and missiles raining on to the pitch, and with both sides still kicking lumps out of each other the referee, Roger Stokes, took the unprecedented step of ordering the teams off the pitch to calm down.
No one was quite sure if the game had been abandoned, but when it resumed after a 10-minute hiatus Leeds hung on to win through Willie Bell’s goal.
The recriminations were long and loud, with some claiming the scrapping of the maximum wage had led to a more cynical approach, though when the dust settled it was Brown who was suspended and Everton charged over the behaviour of their fans. The visitors escaped punishment, apart from acquiring the “Dirty Leeds” tag that proved so hard to shake off.
11 and 29 April 1970, FA Cup final and replay: Chelsea 2 Leeds 2 (Wembley); Chelsea 2 Leeds 1 (Old Trafford)
Anyone around at the time will recall these games vividly, but particularly the replay. Both were brutal contests between sides with plenty of skill but no great love for each other and the 28.5m who tuned in to watch the Old Trafford game on television were treated to a breathless ding-dong more akin to a heavyweight title fight.
Treated seems an apposite word, since the final was so memorable and live games on television still a rarity, though this perfectly pitched showdown between southern showoffs and gritty northerners has also come to be retrospectively regarded as the pinnacle of old-school football. Modern viewers would find it hilarious the second game produced only one booking, despite head-butts, punches and Ron Harris illegally hobbling Eddie Gray at an early stage.
Reviewing the footage 20 years ago David Elleray reckoned at least six red cards would have been warranted, while Michael Oliver’s more recent estimate was 11. Opinions still differ on the wholesomeness of the spectacle, though unquestionably both teams were at it:. As Paul Madeley put it: “It was just the way the game was played back then.”
Frank O’Farrell’s Manchester United were in decline when they pitched up at Elland Road mid-way between Leeds’s two titles under Revie, they just did not yet realise how sharp and steep the decline was going to prove. The Leeds manager, who tended to judge the success of his own side against the standards of the previous best team in England, was probably aware opponents still featuring Bobby Charlton, George Best and Brian Kidd had been eclipsed some time ago.
Leeds’s underrated striker Mick Jones almost missed the game with flu, but having been declared fit he proceeded to destroy the visitors with four goals coming in a 15-minute spell in the second half, claiming three for himself and making one – as he so often did – for Allan Clarke.
Peter Lorimer added another before the end, and the sound of home fans chanting “easy, easy” as Leeds passed the ball around their hapless rivals would have been music to Revie’s ears. It also set the tone for what would happen a month later …
This match is remembered simply for the reason the Match of the Day cameras covered it in full and covered it well, with Barry Davies famously commenting “It’s almost cruel” when Leeds stopped trying to reach double figures and concentrated instead on keeping the ball away from their opponents. This time the crowd were chanting “Olé”, each time a successful pass was completed, an homage to their team’s efforts to emulate Real Madrid, and with one sequence of keep-ball reaching 39 passes that was a lot of olés.
It has been claimed Revie told his players to ease off in the second half so as not to inflict a hurtful scoreline on a clearly outclassed Southampton, though the visitors ended up humiliated anyway. Exhibition stuff like this was untypical of Leeds, who normally cared little for entertainment or adornment, but it did make a powerful statement about which stadium was now the most daunting in the country to visit. “We were at our peak at that time,” Peter Lorimer said. “We knew we could slam most teams at home.”
27 January to 16 February 1991, FA Cup fourth round: Arsenal 0 Leeds 0; Leeds 1 Arsenal 1; Arsenal 0 Leeds 0; Leeds 1 Arsenal 2.
They don’t make FA Cup ties like this any more, but the competition was still a favourite as the post-Heysel European ban neared its end and there was little doubt Leeds and Arsenal were among the best sides in England at the time. Arsenal were on their way to the 1991 title and still unbeaten in the league when the tie commenced, while Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds would win it the following year. “Undoubtedly the tie of the round,” George Graham had said, before it he know it would go to four matches.
Goals from Lee Dixon and Paul Merson finally saw Arsenal through in the third replay, though not before some lasting damage had been done to the old practice of staging a rematch three days after a drawn game. Fixture congestion was not the real problem before the advent of the Champions League, it was more a case of the police being unhappy with games suddenly arriving at short notice.
Arsenal went on to win the league but were knocked out of the FA Cup by the eventual winners, Tottenham; Leeds became the last champions of the old first division in 1992, with Wilkinson the last English manager to win a top-flight title.