Twelve at the Top 1964 to 1965
It was certainly no comfort to Leeds to know that they would start life in Division One without Alan Peacock - who was badly injured in a pre-season friendly match - for it was Peacock who had scored eight vital goals in 14 appearances following his arrival and had played a significant role in the promotion effort. However, despite this blow, United made a tremendous start to the 1964-65 campaign with a win at Villa Park after being a goal down in only four minutes and followed this up by demolishing the reigning League Champions Liverpool 4-2 at Elland Road. An own goal by Ron Yeats, a header from Don Weston and superb long range drives by Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles registered for Leeds and when Wolves were beaten by the odd goal in five, it meant that the first League tables of the season showed Leeds United had six points and a 100% record - in sharp contrast to promotion rivals Sunderland who had managed only one point from their three fixtures.
July 1964: This is the Leeds United squad that won the Division Two title and began the assault on the First Division. Back row, left to right : W. Bell, N. Hunter, P. Reaney, J. Charlton, J. Greenhoff, T. Cooper, inset: A. Johanneson. Middle row, left to right: S. Owen (Coach), A. Peacock, I. Lawson, G. Sprake, D. Revie (Manager), B. Williamson, P. Madeley, B. Wright, B. English (Physiotherapist). Front row, left to right: B. Bremner, J. Giles, J. Storrie, B. Collins, T. Henderson, D. Weston, R. Johnson.
United had developed into a fit, enthusiastic, well organised and fiercely competitive team during the preceding year, and when they met Everton at Goodison Park in November 1964 it was the latter aspect of their make-up which was to receive most publicity, and not for the first or last time either! The two sides went at each other hammer and tongs from the second minute, when Everton's Sandy Brown was sent off for striking Johnny Giles, and at one stage the referee had to take the players from the field for ten minutes to calm not only them down, but more so the crowd who were in a real froth and threatening a riot. Willie Bell headed the only goal of the match, not surprisingly from a free-kick, and the game probably attracted more publicity than any other that Leeds had been involved in throughout their previously somewhat dull history. For several weeks after that infamous clash, many newspapers carried a total of the free-kicks that were awarded in matches involving Leeds United, and this practice was only discontinued when it was discovered that in most cases it was the opposition who were committing the greater number of fouls.
Happily, when United next visited Lancashire they also won 1-0 but in far more pleasant circumstances, although this match with Manchester United also saw the referee having to take the players off the field for a while, before allowing play to resume. At that time the Old Trafford club were top of the First Division, boasting an all international forward-line of Connelly, Charlton, Herd, Law, Best, and unbeaten on their own ground, so Leeds knew they were in for their most severe test since promotion. Bobby Collins had scored to show how dangerous Leeds were when counter attacking and with the defence playing magnificently, with Gary Sprake outstanding, things were looking good when thick fog descended to force a halt to the proceedings. Fortunately the fog thinned sufficiently to allow play to resume and the final minutes were played out, with the home forwards frantically dashing around in the murk, vainly trying to force an equaliser.
April 1965: Jim Storrie scoring against Sheffield Wednesday in a two-goal win that avenged a defeat inflicted by the same opponents the previous day at Hillsborough.
The New Year began with a 2-1 victory over Sunderland at Elland Road, and because of it, for the first time, United were top of the First Division - a fact which emphasized the belief that this was the best team that the club had ever had and the future looked exciting. Gary Sprake had already achieved full international honours with Wales and Paul Reaney and Norman Hunter were playing for England Under-23's, whilst Jack Charlton was soon to make his debut for England against Scotland, for whom Billy Bremner and a re-called Bobby Collins were also 'capped' during the season. All this illustrated the way in which Leeds United were fast growing in reputation and another talented young player - left-winger Terry Cooper - showed the strength in depth that manager Don Revie had acquired, when he performed most capably before a 60,000 plus crowd in a fourth round FA Cup re-play away to Everton.
Although United had fallen at the second hurdle of the League Cup, they were determined to make an impact in the FA Cup, and after cruising past Southport in the third round they found Everton far more difficult and could only manage a one-all draw at Elland Road, but a 2-1 victory at Goodison Park, with goals from Jack Charlton and Don Weston, was one of the season's finest displays. Shrewsbury Town were despatched next and when Leeds won by three goals against Crystal Palace in London, they had reached the semi-final stage of the competition for the first time, with Manchester United the side barring the way to Wembley. A muddy, windswept and untidy encounter at Hillsborough ended scoreless, before, in the replay at Nottingham, the scoresheet was still blank with only two minutes of normal time remaining when Billy Bremner contrived to flick a header into the net and so put Leeds United into the FA Cup final.
Things looked unbelievably rosy at this time with Alan Peacock back from injury to help achieve, what would have been, an incredible League and Cup double. Alas, it was not to be, for in a hectic April during which Leeds played eight matches they lost the battle for the league title on goal average to rivals Manchester United, despite a tremendous fight-back from 3-nil down to draw the last fixture at Birmingham just five days before the FA Cup final. The club's first visit to Wembley was equally disastrous in outcome when, on a dismal, wet day, the still basically young United team seemed overawed by the occasion - failing to reproduce the sparkling form that had got them there - and it was opponents Liverpool who deservedly collected the Cup, although they did need extra time before winning 2-1.
Despite the tragic end to the 1964-65 season it had still been easily Leeds United's best ever, and it did not take long for everyone connected with the club to get over the setbacks and look forward to the next campaign, which was to be unique in that it was the first venture for them into European competition.
As had been the case when winning the Second Division a year earlier, there had been a distinct reluctance by the various reporting media to sing the praises of Leeds United, outside the club's own locality. This was a source of irritation rather than actual concern to everyone at Elland Road, but it did seem unfair that a team that had played more than it's fair share of exciting football in it's first season in Division One did not receive full recognition, despite missing out on a League and Cup 'double' by a whisker. United scored a total of 83 goals from their League matches, which was a dozen more than the previous season, and they had amassed 61 points which was a record for a team failing to win the title - facts that inspired confidence in their ability to do well again and to relish the challenge that the European Fairs' Cup would offer.
May 1965: The only bright moment in a dismal day for United on their first visit to Wembley - Billy Bremner scoring against Liverpool in the FA Cup final defeat. From left to right : Jack Charlton, Bobby Collins and Alan Peacock look on.