For the second time in three seasons, Leeds United had reached
the last four of the FA Cup. To do so they had to endure an
epic fifth round battle against Sunderland, taking three games
to see off the Wearsiders. The quarter finals brought a fortunate
victory by a Jack Charlton
goal at Elland Road against a Manchester City side that couldn't
score the goals their ascendancy deserved.
In the Villa Park semi final, United faced Tommy Docherty's accomplished
and steely Chelsea side. This offered the chance of retribution
for fourth round defeat in 1966, when Leeds had undeservedly lost.
Docherty was single minded in his development of a fine young
team, as reported in the Times: "It has been a triumph of mind
over matter, of willpower over the perpetual inertia that once
reigned at Stamford Bridge. Docherty does not court popularity.
He is often a taciturn, impetuous manager, with a consuming desire
for victory. His relentless determination and rigid discipline
proved too much for some of Chelsea's most valuable players, hastening
the departure of Bridges, Graham, McCalliog, Murray and Venables.
Yet, since his appointment in September 1964, Chelsea have always
been within sight of success. They have been promoted from the
Second Division, third in the First, League Cup winners and semi
finalists in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup."
Leeds manager Don Revie
took a playing squad of 13 to prepare at a Midlands hotel in the
week leading up to the game, recuperating after a spell of 13
matches in 43 days, as they chased an unlikely treble of championship,
Cup and Fairs Cup. Pursuit of Manchester United in the title race
was on its last legs, but Leeds had come back strongly from a
string of poor results in the autumn.
Albert Johanneson was
left behind in Leeds after suffering an injury in training and
Jack Charlton was unavailable with a broken toe suffered on England
duty, though he travelled with the squad; Paul Madeley filled
the centre-half vacancy.
Chelsea could select from strength with £100,000 buy Tony Hateley,
a target for Revie earlier in the campaign, leading the attack.
Ranged round him, Charlie Cooke, Tommy Baldwin, Bobby Tambling
and John Boyle promised goals, while keeper Peter Bonetti had
established a reputation for being a thorn in the flesh of Leeds
United. In 1966, the custodian had denied the Peacocks in the
Cup game at Stamford Bridge with a breathtaking display, as reported
in the Times: "Why then did Leeds lose in a score line which suggests
a battle of attrition? The answer was threefold - no luck; no
deadly finisher inside the penalty area; and when they were near
the mark there was Bonetti to produce three or four saves of world-class
vintage. How, indeed, Bonetti, moving for all the world like a
grasshopper in his green attire, dived to save from Madeley some
five minutes from the end, then miraculously pounced to block
from Charlton at point blank rage on the rebound, only he will
know. And perhaps not even he."
Despite all their post-Christmas exertions, and the inevitable
toll it was taking on mind and body, United were made clear favourites
to make it through to Wembley for a second time.
On a warm afternoon, 62,378 fans packed into Villa Park, providing
receipts of £32,490, a record for the stadium outside of World
Cup games. The two sets of fans cheerfully
goaded each other across the packed terraces - the clubs did not
get on and a bitter enmity had developed.
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The Londoners got into their stride quickly and had the better
of the first 30 minutes, with Charlie Cooke's movement and trickery
giving United some uneasy moments. He was the most penetrative
forward on a day of defensive dominance and midfield impasse.
Chelsea were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after seven
minutes when Gary Sprake's extended boot ended in Boyle's face
as the two jumped for a ball. It was a nasty moment and symptomatic
of the antipathy between the players.
The Pensioners continued to force the play but Sprake, Bell,
Reaney, Madeley and Hunter withstood the pressure with some assurance.
The game was played for the most part in the Leeds half and United's
thrusts were few and far between. Gray, Cooper and Bremner had
some decent efforts but could develop no momentum.
It was a brutal first half and looked set to end in deadlock,
but with moments to go the Londoners took a merited lead.
Eric Stanger in the Yorkshire Post: "It was a magnificent effort
in the last minute of the first half made out of a trifle by Cooke,
Chelsea's best forward, whose No 7 shirt was seldom indication
of where he was to be found on the field. This time he slipped
past Bremner and Belfitt
on the left touchline, took a return pass from McCreadie and belted
over a centre to Hateley as hard as he could. A more orthodox,
floated centre and Hateley could never have got the power behind
his header as he did to beat Sprake. Hateley paid a lot off his
£100,000 fee with that effort."
It was a decent goal, cleverly fashioned, with Hateley for once
managing to evade the grim clutches of his marker. Paul Madeley
had played well but was not as aerially dominating as Jack Charlton
and Hateley was a real handful in the air. Having got the run
on the centre-half, he converted the chance smartly.
After the break, United threw Bremner up front, as was their
custom in time of need, with Gray dropping deeper. Though Cooke
and Chelsea continued to carve out openings, Bremner's presence
made Leeds more threatening and there were a number of chances,
with Bonetti earning his corn.
The heat of the contest rose as crunching tackles flew in, and
Greenhoff had to come
off for attention on the hour. Ten minutes later, Belfitt was
withdrawn after another clash left him injured; Peter Lorimer
came on to offer fresh legs to United's cause. He had an immediate
impact and Leeds started posing some difficult questions of the
Londoners' back four with Chelsea giving the impression of being
ready to settle for what they had, content to frustrate. Stanger:
"Chelsea ruled the midfield and were so busy and so mobile that
they had two men around at the tackle. They cheerfully incurred
free kicks if it was to their temporary advantage. In all they
gave away twice as many as Leeds and McCreadie was booked early
in the second half for one violent foul on Hunter."
A head of steam was being built up as United camped in the Chelsea
half, though they struggled to manufacture a clear opening. With
seven minutes to go, the pressure grew and it looked like Leeds
would fashion an equaliser at last.
From a long Greenhoff punt to the edge of the area, Bremner nodded
through Chelsea's square back line. Terry Cooper stride onto the
ball down the inside-left channel and thrashed it past Bonetti.
Just as Leeds began to celebrate, referee Ken Burns ruled Cooper
offside and the goal void. Bremner was unconvinced, maintaining,
"Terry was definitely lying onside when I flicked the ball on
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Cooper was equally adamant: "I was onside when Billy played the
ball on. I ran past one man wide of me for certain to get to it,
and I thought it was two. Bonetti certainly tried to save, for
I had come from an onside position."
According to the Times, Cooper "was undeniably offside."
Eric Stanger noted with detachment for the Yorkshire Post, "I
thought it one of those difficult hairline decisions. From the
angle of my seat I was in no position to judge but the linesman
was almost dead level to the incident and he had his flag up as
United rallied, undeterred by the decision, and pressed Chelsea
into some untidy defensive work. With seconds to go Paul Reaney
broke forward to shoot, and a scramble
in the Londoners area ended with a Leeds throw in on the left.
After receiving the ball some 25 yards from goal, Norman Hunter
was pulled back by Bobby Tambling and the referee awarded Leeds
a free kick. He marched the Chelsea wall back the required ten
yards. Johnny Giles took what he considered the signal from the
official to proceed and rolled the ball sideways to the waiting
Lorimer, who slammed the ball unerringly past Bonetti and into
the Chelsea net.
The Leeds players leapt in the air with joy while the Londoners
hung their heads in despair; but pandemonium broke out as Ken
Burns signalled for the kick to be retaken. He ruled that the
wall had encroached within the necessary ten yards, his fastidiousness
denying the offended team an advantage and offering an unlooked
for stay of execution to the wrongdoers. The decision sparked
mass protests and violent argument, but Burns would brook no debate.
What was even more exasperating for United was that he seemed
to wait until the ball had entered the net before signalling that
there was a problem.
As the commentator declared, "They'll have to look through the
rule book backwards to find a reason."
Johnny Giles: "The referee came back to me from shifting the
Chelsea players to the 10-yard mark and we looked at each other.
Now I have taken dozens of free kicks just on an exchange of looks
with the referee. It's accepted. I'll admit he made no signal
or sound, but he could see I was wanting to take the kick, and
he looked at me. So I took it. Chelsea were still encroaching,
but the advantage was with us in taking the kick.
"It was so long that Peter had twice shouted to me to roll the
ball to him. Each time I said: 'Quiet, if Chelsea hear they'll
pull a man out to block the shot,' for they were obviously expecting
me to chip the ball to the far post. Then the referee turned from
the Chelsea players to face me. I thought it was in order to take
the free kick and slipped the ball across to Peter. I was dumbfounded
when he ordered the kick to be retaken."
Tommy Docherty, with the magnanimity of a man who knew the decision
couldn't be changed: "It was a great shot and I thought a good
goal. I would have had no complaints if it had counted. If it
had happened to me I would have been very sick."
Inevitably, the retaken kick came to nothing and Chelsea survived
the onslaught. Seconds later, Burns whistled for full time and
the distraught Leeds party collapsed in anguish. They had been
cruelly denied by refereeing decisions, something that was to
become a recurring theme of their years under Don Revie.
Still, who were United to argue? In
the fifth round against Sunderland it was the same Ken Burns who
had awarded them a dubious late penalty. But the Leeds United
perspective, like that of most teams, has always been one eyed.
Jack Charlton: "I wasn't playing due to injury, but naturally
I saw the match and was bitterly disappointed with the way the
game was handled. I couldn't understand the ref's attitude towards
Leeds; he gave us nothing around the penalty area all afternoon."
Gary Sprake: "After all the controversies that surrounded our
earlier ties I think maybe the referees had it in for us. I don't
think they held meetings, but it could have been human nature;
we gave them so much stick I sometimes wonder if they were looking
Don Revie: "I could have understood him not allowing the goal
had Johnny taken the free kick immediately. But after studying
films of the incident, it is noticeable that several seconds elapsed
between Burns awarding the kick and Johnny taking it. He left
plenty of time for the Chelsea lads to get back, and they must
have felt the goal was fair because from where I was sitting,
no one appealed. In fact, one or two of them clasped their heads
in their hands in disappointment.
"We were sick - all football professionals should take these
things in their stride I suppose, but let's face it, Wembley is
their Mecca. It's terrible to lose your chance of playing there
in such an unsatisfactory manner.
"For about half an hour after the final whistle, I felt completely
numb. But the remorse really began to hit me when I met my son,
Duncan, outside the ground. He was sobbing - and I felt like sitting
down and crying with him."
United's FA Cup campaign was over for another year.
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