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.
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.
Peter 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 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 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|
|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 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