Twelve at the Top 1969 to 1970
With the confidence boost of three trophies won in just over a year behind him, Don Revie decided to go a stage further tactically, for he wanted to nail for good the dull and defensive image which Leeds United still had to endure. To this end, he went to Leicester in the summer of 1969 to pay in excess of £160,000 for Allan Clarke, a skilful striker with a fine scoring record, and the new man lined up alongside Mick Jones for United's first test, against Manchester City, the FA Cup holders, who visited Elland Road for the FA Charity Shield curtain raiser to the new season. Although Clarke failed to get on the scoresheet, Eddie Gray and Jack Charlton did and won the match 2-1, so adding the attractive shield to the other silverware already proudly on display in the boardroom and to get the 1969-70 campaign off to a cracking start. Since Leeds had lost at Burnley the previous October they were unbeaten in League matches, and this situation continued for the opening six fixtures, until Everton ended the sequence with a narrow victory by the odd goal in five at Goodison Park at the end of August, but not before a new Football League record of 34 games without defeat had been established by United in a staggering run that had stretched over ten and a half months.
July 1969: United's squad with the League Championship trophy. Back row, left to right: P. Reaney, N. Hunter, A. Clarke (signed that month), M. O'Grady, D. Harvey, G. Sprake, P. Madeley, E. Gray, R. Belfitt, J. Charlton. Front row, left to right: M. Jones, T. Cooper, T. Hibbitt, B. Bremner, J. Giles, M. Bates, P. Lorimer.
Attacking soccer both at home and away was the order of the day now, as Leeds went out with the intention of destroying any side that stood in their way, and when one looked at the awesome power of the Elland Road outfit, it was clear that such an attitude was due, not to conceit, but to a total belief in their own ability. The defence was seemingly impregnable, with Gary Sprake always capable of pulling off a crucial save if the all England international back four of Paul Reaney, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter and Terry Cooper - successfully converted from a winger - was ever breached. In mid-field was the versatile Paul Madeley, who could operate with equal efficiency in any of the defensive roles and give a creditable display among the forwards too, and he linked with the ebullient Billy Bremner and the astute Johnny Giles, both of whom were creative players of world class, whilst up front the goal output from Peter Lorimer, Mick Jones and Allan Clarke was prolific. (In 1969-70 Clarke, Jones, Lorimer between them scored 71.) Just for good measure there was also Eddie Gray, the Scottish international of the dazzling skills, to add to the League's most talented squad of players who had now acquired the experience that was lacking earlier - all of which made Don Revie the most envied of managers.
Leeds United piled up a total of 127 goals from their 62 competitive matches in the 1969-70 season, and really shook the many people who had so often criticised their football in the past, particularly when they smacked ten goals past Lyn of Oslo in the first round, first leg of the European Champions Cup and created a club record score in the process. One match especially illustrated the approach that Leeds now had away from home, for when they tackled talented Chelsea in front of 57,221 at Stamford Bridge, they were 2-1 behind at the interval with Chelsea playing well and taking the lead just before half-time, to convince their followers that they were going to 'put one across' their old rivals. The fact that a League fixture in January had attracted such a huge attendance was indicative of the interest that United aroused on their travels, and the team went out for the second-half to show them all just how well they could play and won the game 5-2, to leave all London aghast!
January 1970: At this time United tended to make goal scoring look easy and Allan Clarke has no difficulty in converting this chance during the 3-1 success over Coventry City.
It was the second time that Leeds had been to Chelsea in three months for they went there in a League Cup third round re-play and went down to a two goal defeat, but in the other two Cup competitions - European Cup and FA Cup - United had reached the semi-final stages by the end of March and with retaining the League Championship a possibility as well, there was talk of a unique treble achievement. It must be the biggest irony in football history alas, but it is true that Leeds United's own greatness, to a large extent, prevented them from winning a single major honour that season, as they found themselves forced to play 12 matches in 32 days at one period and a whole season's effort went down the drain because of that ridiculous state of affairs.
In the FA Cup semi-final Leeds went through a classic marathon of a tie with Manchester United, which saw draws at Hillsborough, and at Villa Park after extra time, until a Billy Bremner snap shot settled the issue at Bolton less than 48 hours before a vital League match with Southampton at Elland Road. A tired United scored first in that game, but an own goal by Jack Charlton, a disputed penalty and another own goal from Terry Yorath gave the Saints both points in freakish fashion, to help in their relegation fight. After that, the League title was no longer within Leeds United's reach and in an effort to rest and prepare for the European Cup semi-final with Glasgow Celtic two days later, a virtual reserve team was fielded in a First Division match at Derby, an act which brought United a heavy fine, and to make matters worse Celtic won at Elland Road by a single goal.
Everything, it seemed, was now going wrong and despite playing some fine football against Chelsea in the FA Cup final, Leeds struck the woodwork three times and finished up drawing 2-all after extra time on the most heavy, energy sapping surface ever seen for a Wembley final. On that same day, Celtic were losing the Scottish Cup final, but over 90 minutes on a firm pitch and they were fresher and sharper than United when beating them more convincingly than the 2-1 scoreline suggested four days later, in the European Cup semi-final second leg before 134,000 fanatical Scots at Hampden Park.
Gary Sprake was injured in the match with Celtic in Glasgow and he joined Paul Reaney - who had broken a leg before the Wembley clash with Chelsea - in missing the FA Cup final re-play at Old Trafford, in what was United's last chance to salvage something from the wreckage of what had been a season of such high promise. Mick Jones scored, after a fine run and pass from Allan Clarke, to put Leeds in front, and it looked as if they were playing well enough to finish on a high note after all the trauma they had experienced over the previous few weeks, but in the second half Chelsea equalised and extra time was again necessary in order to decide which club would take the famous trophy for the first time in their respective histories. However, Chelsea had had the easier finish to the season, with fewer commitments, and it showed in the extra half hour as, for the first time in either of the two final matches, they looked the quicker, surer side and United's cup of woe was filled to overflowing when the Londoners scored again and went on to win the game 2-1.
April 1970: The moment Leeds thought they had won the FA Cup as Mick Jones (socks rolled down) drives the ball in after 83 minutes at Wembley, but alas Chelsea fought back to equalise and win the re-play.