We are the Champions: 1973-74 – Leeds United 1

Leeds 1974
From the late 1960s, Leeds United were always in the running for the Football League championship. Between 1964-65 – their first season in the top division after promotion – and 1972-73, Leeds had won five trophies and finished runners-up in 10. While being the epitome of the ultra-professional modern football machine, they had also acquired a reputation for being “nearly men”, often failing at the final hurdle. The 1972-73 season was a case in point: Leeds finished third in the league and runners-up in both the FA Cup and European Cup Winners-Cup, losing the two finals in the space of a few days. The critics suggested that Don Revie’s side may have passed its peak.

There was another dark cloud over Elland Road as the 1972-73 season ended and it concerned Revie himself. He was on the point of leaving the club for a lucrative offer from Everton and there were weeks of speculation about his future. Olympiakos of Greece also courted Revie during the summer, but in the end, he changed his mind and remained at Leeds for what proved to be his final season.

In terms of ability or fitness, Leeds United’s players still had some mileage. The average age of the team that ended the season was just over 27. Only two players, admittedly the very influential Johnny Giles (31) and Billy Bremner (30), had left their 20s. But with so many near-misses, the team’s motivation to try to succeed was being questioned.

Leeds, acknowledging they was never the most popular of clubs, launched something of a new approach to public relations. As well as a new, modern and “jolly” club crest, they introduced stunts such as crowd engagement and kicking [signed] footballs into the stands before each game.

Don Revie introduced some fresh blood to his team to complement the PR effort. Scottish centre half Gordon McQueen was signed from St.Mirren in 1972 as the heir to Jack Charlton, but it was not until 1973-74 that he established himself in the Leeds side. Another Scot, Joe Jordan, who had been waiting for his breakthrough, was also introduced into the Leeds frontline.

Too often Leeds had run out of steam because they fought on so many fronts. In 1973-74, Revie told his squad he wanted to win a second title more than anything else – and he yearned to remain unbeaten in the league. Leeds let all other competitions go cheaply, exiting the FA Cup at the hands of second division Bristol City and going out of the UEFA Cup in the last 16.

Leeds played some outstanding, free-flowing football in the early months of the season and remained steadfastly focused on Revie’s goal of an unbeaten campaign. They won their first seven games and by Christmas they were unbeaten in 21 games and seven points clear at the top of the table, ahead of reigning champions Liverpool.

The first record in sight was Burnley’s 30-game unbeaten run set in the 1920-21 season. Leeds went 29 games without defeat, although stuttering draws were creeping into the sequence. On February 23, 1974, Leeds led 2-0 at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground in their 30th game. But they collapsed and Stoke City came back to win 3-2. Leeds still had a commanding eight point advantage over second-placed Liverpool.

Leeds 1974 1 (328x350)But in the weeks that followed, Leeds’ position was eroded. After a run of one win in seven, including that Stoke game, and further defeats at Liverpool and West Ham, and a shock 1-4 home setback at the hands of Burnley, Leeds were just four points clear of Liverpool, who had three games in hand. Suddenly, the title was looking shaky, but Liverpool’s own form had become patchy.

A 2-0 win at Sheffield United and a home success against Ipswich Town restored a five-point lead for Leeds, who had one game to play at Queens Park Rangers. Liverpool had three games remaining, all against London clubs. Bill Shankly’s side lost the first of those, 0-1 at home to Arsenal, thereby giving the title to Leeds. On April 27, Leeds won 1-0 at Loftus Road, home of QPR, thanks to an Allan Clarke goal, and cemented their status as worthy champions.

The title proved to be Don Revie’s swansong in English club football. In the summer, he was offered the England manager’s job and had an uncomfortable two and half years in the role before defecting to the United Arab Emirates. Sadly, his decision to leave the national team job mid-term has overshadowed what was a fine and successful career in management.

Leeds United’s team of seasoned professionals went into slow decline, although the 1974-75 saw them reach the European Cup final against Bayern Munich.

Leeds United’s regular line-up in 1973-74 was: Harvey, Reaney, Cherry, Bremner, McQueen, Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Jordan, Gray, Madeley, Giles

David Harvey (25): Scottish international goalkeeper (16 caps) who took over from Gary Sprake in the Leeds goal. Enjoyed three spells with the club, making 276 league appearances in the process. A dependable keeper.

Paul Reaney (28): Although London-born, Reaney was essentially an adopted Yorkshireman. A competitive and reliable right back, he won three England caps and would have been part of the 1970 World Cup squad had he not broken his leg in the run-in to the end of the 1969-70 campaign. Made over 500 league appearances for Leeds.

Trevor Cherry (25): Cherry cost Leeds £ 100,000 when they signed him from Huddersfield Town in 1972. A full back or central defender, he made 399 league appearances for Leeds and went on to win 27 England caps.

Gordon McQueen (21): Tall centre half – formerly a goalkeeper – who joined Leeds in 1972 from St. Mirren for a £ 30,000 fee, signed as the long-term replacement for England World Cup winner Jack Charlton. He appeared 30 times for Scotland.

Norman Hunter (29): A hard-tackling half-back who would have won more than his 28 England caps if it were not for the presence of Bobby Moore. Joined Leeds in 1962 and turned out in 540 league games in his long career with the club.

Billy Bremner (30): Bremner’s relationship with Don Revie was one of the key elements of Leeds’ success. Furthermore, his partnership with Johnny Giles in midfield was one of the most effective and tenacious in modern football. Joined Leeds in 1960, making 587 appearances (97 goals) in the Football League. Also appeared 54 times for Scotland, many as captain.

Johnny Giles (32): One of the finest passers of the ball of his generation, Dublin-born Giles was signed by Leeds in 1963 for £ 33,000 from Manchester United, having just won the FA Cup with Matt Busby’s side. He was capped 59 times by the Republic of Ireland and made almost 400 league appearances for Leeds.

ReviePeter Lorimer (26): Lorimer possessed one of the hardest shots in football and scored many net-busting goals – 238 in 703 league games for Leeds. Signed for Leeds in 1962, he had a long career on and off the field at Elland Road. He also won 21 caps for Scotland.

Allan Clarke (27): One of the most sought-after forwards of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Clarke was only 21 when Leicester paid £ 150,000 to Fulham to acquire his services in 1968. A year later, he moved to Leeds for £ 165,000 and went on to play 273 league appearances for his new club, scoring 110 goals. Made his England debut in Mexico 1970, netting against Czechoslavakia. He won 19 caps, scoring 10 goals.

Mick Jones (28): Leeds secured Worksop-born Jones’ services in 1967 from Sheffield United for £ 100,000. A bustling menace of a forward, he scored 77 goals in 220 league games for Leeds. He arrived at Leeds already an England international and won three caps in all.

Joe Jordan (22): A tough, battling striker who joined Leeds in 1969 from Morton. He had to wait for his chance to shine, but his aerial ability and combative style gave Leeds a fresh dimension. He left the club in 1978 to join Manchester United, earning his club £ 350,000.

Terry Yorath (23): Another player who had to battle to win recognition at Leeds. He joined the club in 1967 and in nine years, played fewer than 150 games. A regular for Wales, though, and he was awarded 59 caps in his long career. Left Leeds in 1976 for Coventry City.

Football League Appearances

Bates, M 9+1 Hunter, N 42 McQueen, G 36
Bremner, B 42 Gray, E 8 Reaney, P 36
Cherry, T 37+1 Gray, F 3+3 Stewart, D 3
Clarke, A 34 Hunter, N 42 Yorath, T 23+5
Cooper, T 1+1 Jones, M 28+3
Ellam, R 3+1 Jordan, J 25+8
Giles, J 17 Lorimer, P 37
Harvey, D 39 Madeley, P 39

Goalscorers: Jones 14, Clarke 13, Lorimer 11, Bremner 10, Jordan 7, Bates 2, Giles 2, Madeley 2, Yorath 2, Cherry 1.

Football League Results

Aug 25 Everton Home W 3-1 Giles, Jones, Bremner 39,325
Aug 28 Arsenal Away W 2-1 Lorimer, Madeley 47,429
Sep 01 Tottenham Hotspur Away W 3-0 Clarke, Bremner (2) 42,801
Sep 05 Wolverhampton W. Home W 4-1 Jones, Bremner, Lorimer (2, 1pen) 39,946
Sep 08 Birmingham City Home W 3-0 Lorimer (3, 1pen) 39,736
Sep 11 Wolverhampton W. Away W 2-0 Jones, Clarke 36,980
Sep 15 Southampton Away W 2-1 Clarke (2) 27,770
Sep 22 Manchester United Home D 0-0 47,058
Sep 29 Norwich City Away W 1-0 Giles 31,993
Oct 6 Stoke City Home D 1-1 Jones 36,652
Oct 13 Leicester City Away D 2-2 Jones, Bremner 36,978
Oct 20 Liverpool Home W 1-0 Jones 44,911
Oct 27 Manchester City Away W 1-0 Bates 45,346
Nov 03 West Ham United Home W 4-1 Bates, Jones (2), Clarke 36,869
Nov 10 Burnley Away D 0-0 37,894
Nov 17 Coventry City Home W 3-0 Clarke, Jordan, Bremner 35,552
Nov 24 Derby County Away D 0-0 36,003
Dec 01 Queens Park R Home D 2-2 Jones, Bremner 32,194
Dec 08 Ipswich Town Away W 3-0 Jones, Clarke, Yorath 27,110
Dec 15 Chelsea Away W 2-1 Jones, Jordan 40,768
Dec 22 Norwich City Home W 1-0 Yorath 34,747
Dec 26 Newcastle United Away W 1-0 Madeley 54,474
Dec 29 Birmingham City Away D 1-1 Jordan 50,451
Jan 01 Tottenham Hotspur Home D 1-1 Jones 46,545
Jan 12 Southampton Home W 2-1 Jones, Jordan 35,000
Jan 19 Everton Away D 0-0 55,811
Feb 02 Chelsea Home D 1-1 Cherry 41,510
Feb 05 Arsenal Home W 3-1 OG, Jordan (2) 26,778
Feb 09 Manchester United Away W 2-0 Jones, Jordan 60,025
Feb 23 Stoke City Away L 2-3 Clarke, Bremner 39,598
Feb 26 Leicester City Home D 1-1 Lorimer (pen) 30,489
Mar 02 Newcastle United Home D 1-1 Clarke 46,611
Mar 09 Manchester City Home W 1-0 Lorimer (pen) 36,578
Mar 16 Liverpool Away L 0-1 56,003
Mar 23 Burnley Home L 1-4 Clarke 39,335
Mar 30 West Ham United Away L 1-3 Clarke 37,480
Apr 06 Derby County Home W 2-0 Bremner, Lorimer 37,838
Apr 13 Coventry City Away D 0-0 35,182
Apr 15 Sheffield United Home D 0-0 41,140
Apr 16 Sheffield United Away W 2-0 Lorimer (2, 1pen) 39,972
Apr 20 Ipswich Town Home W 3-2 Clarke, Bremner, Lorimer 44,015
Apr 27 Queens Park R Away W 1-0 Clarke 35,353

 

FA Cup: Round Five
Football League Cup: Round Two
UEFA Cup: Round Three
Average home attendance: 38,666

 

Pos   P W D L F A Pts
1 Leeds United 42 24 14 4 66 31 62
2 Liverpool 42 22 13 7 52 31 57
3 Derby County 42 17 14 11 52 42 48

The cock is crowing three times…Premier title, what Premier title? Reply

Bertie Mee and Don Howe relax over a game of Subbuteo as they try to work out a plan to erode Leeds United's big lead at the top

Bertie Mee and Don Howe relax over a game of Subbuteo as they try to work out a plan to erode Leeds United’s big lead at the top

Who is going to be next to deny interest in the Premier League title race? The way that top managers are speaking at the moment, it sounds like they have already handed the prize to Jose Mourinho.

While it is a little early to throw the towel in, the reality is that all bets are almost off. Chelsea have a five point lead, Manchester City blew their chance of closing the gap and nobody else is consistent or equipped enough to wrestle the race away from the top two. That’s the message we’re getting.

But even City’s Manuel Pellegrini looks like he’s a “dead man walking”. He told the BBC that he’s under no pressure to win the title again this season, his second with the club. Who is he kidding? And of course he’s not worried about his job – all big name coaches revolve in an ever decreasing circle of appointment and reappointment. There’s talk of Pep Guardiola or that great survivor Carlo Ancelotti replacing him when his three-year contract expires in the summer.

Pellegrini seems an honest broker, but if he is under no pressure to win, why are people like Pep and Carlo being named as his successors already?

One man who doesn’t seem to acknowledge he’s under pressure is Arsene Wenger. It’s March 3 and he has already admitted to the club’s fans, players and directors that “we are nowhere near winning the Premier League and nowhere close to being in the race.” That may be true this season, but there’s something very conclusive about his statement..and also somewhat contradictory. He goes on to say that City should not give up because they have been eight points behind and come back to win in the past. Arsenal trail Chelsea by nine points. What a difference a point makes.

Wenger greatly respects his club’s history. He might like to look at the 1970-71 season for inspiration. Arsenal trailed a seemingly invincible Leeds side by seven points with 11 games to go, but won the title. Chelsea look in a strong position, but as Monty Python once said, “Things happen after an acid bath”. That acid bath could come in the form of two sub-optimal results. Two – that’s all.

Louis van Gaal wrote off Manchester United as far back as December, but his side has quietly gone about its business and the smart money might be on a concerted title bid next season. The only manager that’s being bullish at the moment is Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers but he’s really talking about a top four finish.

What is difficult to fathom out is why people are so quick to rule themselves out? Is it kidology, self-preservation, itchy feet or just that the leaders are so good? I repeat, Chelsea have a five point lead on City, nine points on Arsenal. Come on guys, make a fight of it.