Today marks the 70th birthday of Leeds United legend Eddie Gray. In the late 60's and early 70's, he punished the best defenders in Europe, scoring 68 goals in his 19 years as a Leeds player... None of them better than his brace against Burnley at Elland Road on Saturday 4th April 1970.
With the League title gone, weary United were dealt another blow twenty-four hours after their European Cup Semi-Final home failure against Celtic. You wouldn't get much chance in the football odds today of Leeds being in a European Cup Semi-Final. Right Back Paul Reaney had sustained a fractured leg in a meaningless 2-2 draw at West Ham United. The injury cost him a place in United’s FA Cup Final line-up against Chelsea and a trip to Mexico as part of England’s World Cup squad. Manager Don Revie sent out a patched up side on the Saturday before the FA Cup Final, lacking Reaney, Gary Sprake, Mick Jones, Terry Cooper and Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter.
The game against the Clarets was United’s ninth in eighteen days, so with the Cup Final coming up, a shadow side on view, the extra cost of watching a game with nothing at stake and the Grand National on television, only 24,691 fans turned up at Elland Road, about 12,000 less than average. The stay-away fans not only missed a chance to see some of the blossoming young reserve talent, but two of the finest goals ever seen at Elland Road. Both were scored by young Scottish international, Eddie Gray, but both were entirely different in their execution.
After only ten minutes, Gray, wearing the unfamiliar number six shirt, moved through the centre circle towards the Kop and spotted Burnley goalkeeper Peter Mellor off his line and produced a stunning chip from forty yards that floated over Mellor’s head and into the net. Burnley drew level after twenty-five minutes when John Faulkner, the former Sutton United centre-half, making his debut, deflected a shot past David Harvey.
However. the United youngsters were not fazed and Gray produced a truly stunning winner on seventy-one minutes. The free betting tips couldn't have predicted such a sublime goal. He was hemmed in on the bye-line to the left of the Burnley goal, but twisted and turned into the box, where a posse of defenders were left trailing in his wake by his mesmerising ball skills, before he thundered an angled shot past Mellor. It was an amazing solo effort and was the main topic of conversation the following day as fans queued for FA Cup Final tickets, but they were worth just a fraction of the quality of Gray’s magnificent goals against Burnley.
For match reports on more of Leeds United's Greatest Games check out OzWhites Leeds United F.C. History.
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Happy Birthday Eddie Gray