The moment Don Revie’s great Leeds United side fulfilled their destiny
28 Apr 2020 08:10 am, by YorkshireSquare
In April 1969 Don Revie’s great Leeds United side were on the verge of fulfilling their destiny by winning their first League championship. The main rivals at the top of the League table were Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton, and it was obvious that only they could stop United from taking the Championship. But Leeds still needed to visit all three of their adversaries, a real test of the team's calibre if they were to get through that lot and finish on top. At Highbury, Mick Jones and Johnny Giles scored first-half goals to win the clash with Arsenal 2-1 and a goalless draw resulted when United travelled to meet Everton.
When Leeds next went to Merseyside on Monday 28th April 1969 they needed just one point to make certain of winning the title, but they had to get it against a powerful Liverpool team who knew that a victory for them could still take the honour to Anfield. The atmosphere appeared to crackle with anticipation as two footballing giants clashed on a Monday evening in April. The game quickly fell into the expected pattern with Liverpool throwing men forward frantically as Leeds relied upon the superb defence which had served them so valiantly throughout the season.
In a game of blurring speed, United, with Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter magnificent in the heart of the defence, denied Liverpool time and space. Such was United’s efficiency that Gary Sprake only had one shot to deal with in the first half; an ambitious thirty-five yard drive by Ian Callaghan, to which United responded with a deflected Billy Bremner shot which almost beat the scrambling Tommy Lawrence.
One goal looked as though it might settle the game and the Mersey-siders should have snatched it in the thirty-fifth minute when young striker Alan Evans wasted a good chance, but United closed ranks again. Callaghan forced Gary Sprake into action in the sixty-second minute with a curling shot and United had one more scare when Evans hooked a shot wide late in the game. Leeds fans howled for referee Dimond to blow the final whistle, yet with the last moments melting away seemingly in slow motion United’s players remained calm amid the cauldron of noise.
At the final whistle Leeds United became the worthy Champions of the Football League, an achievement that was given the seal of approval from those incredible 25,000 people at the Kop end of the ground. For they generously applauded the United players when they went down to them and in so doing highlighted the most memorable night in the history of Leeds United.
Just 48 hours later, the new Champions ran onto the Elland Road pitch to a tremendous ovation from 46,508, and then proceeded to try and establish a new First Division points record of 67, by beating a Nottingham Forest side who had sportingly lined up to applaud Leeds onto the field. Forest put up a great fight, were close to scoring once or twice and only six minutes away from forcing a draw, when Johnny Giles controlled a difficult high cross from the left, pivoted, and shot all in one movement, then saw the ball drop into the bottom corner of the net to win the match, set the record, and leave the crowd almost hysterical.
After that came the presentation of the Championship trophy itself to skipper Billy Bremner and a lap of honour from the players, which produced another tumultuous reception from the fans, who afterwards went home to think about it all. Was it true that dear old Leeds United, for so long only good for a laugh were really Football League Champions?