Twelve at the Top 1971 to 1972

The Elland Road playing surface had become one of the country's best the year before, when the old pitch was dug up and a new drainage system and turf installed, as part of the long term scheme to make the home of Leeds United second to none. Before the start of the 1971-72 season an additional improvement was made when under-soil heating cables were laid, yet ironically United were unable to make use of the excellent facilities at Elland Road during the first three weeks of the new campaign, as a result of what had happened during the controversial match with West Bromwich Albion a few months earlier.

Not only had the defeat suffered in that match, in the end cost Leeds the First Division title, but the outcome of the pitch invasion and can throwing incidents was a fine, a reprimand and, worst of all, a ban on home League matches being played at Elland Road for a 21 day period, during which time four scheduled home fixtures had to be staged on neutral grounds. Two of those games were played at Huddersfield and a point was dropped in one of them, whilst at Hull another point was lost in a drawn encounter with Tottenham Hotspur, but at Hillsborough the match with Newcastle United produced a 5-1 victory, so all in all Leeds had done well to overcome such a handicap at the beginning of the title race.

Strange things were happening in the newly named U.E.FA Cup (formerly the Fairs' Cup) for United beat the Belgian club S.K. Lierse by two goals away from home, and the second leg was considered a formality, or so it seemed, particularly when manager Don Revie selected a team with only a light sprinkling of regulars in it, but the move backfired loudly and Lierse cantered to a 4-0 win just as easily as the scoreline suggests. So Leeds United, the Cup holders, were knocked out in the first round by a side who were not highly rated, and when, less than a month later, West Ham United won a third round League Cup re-play by the only goal after extra time at Elland Road, it meant that only two competitions still held any interest for Leeds with three quarters of the 1971-72 season still to go.

However, Christmas provided a turning point that led to a string of good results, with some performances that were among the finest ever given by any English club side, and Derby County's visit to Elland Road in late December rather set the trend. Brian Clough's highly placed outfit were outplayed and defeated by three goals, and that was followed up by another tremendous display at Anfield that produced a two goal win and so completed a League double over Liverpool - all of which put United in just the right frame of mind for the FA Cup third round clash with Bristol Rovers at Elland Road.

February 1972:
This fine action shot shows Mick Jones heading a goal in one of Leeds United's greatest ever displays when demolishing Manchester United 5-1 at Elland Road. Jones scored two more, with Allan Clarke and Peter Lorimer completing the rout.

The city of Leeds had always had a 'thing' about the FA Cup, for it is probably the world's most famous knockout tournament and yet United had never won it, and in fact their record in it, prior to the Revie era, was downright pathetic! Men had always been able to forestall buying their wives a fur coat by promising them one - 'When United win the Cup', and know that it was a sure thing that they would never have to keep their promise. But times change, and there was now a strong feeling among supporters and players alike that this was going to be their year and convictions were strengthened when Bristol Rovers were crushed 4-1, which meant a tough test at Liverpool in the next round - but that too could be tackled with confidence. At Anfield there were no goals, despite the vociferous efforts of the swaying Kop, and in the Elland Road re-play before nearly 46,000 on a Wednesday afternoon, two superb Allan Clarke goals decided a stirring tie and, even though industrial action necessitated a ban on the use of floodlights, the prospects for United were very bright indeed.

In the fifth round Cardiff City could not stop Leeds winning comfortably by a couple of goals at Ninian Park, in a match that was sandwiched in between two of United's greatest ever displays - beating Manchester United 5-1 and Southampton 7-0 - with all three games shown nationally on television and consequently setting the whole country agog at the dazzling skills paraded by Leeds United. Some indication of the power of the team can be gauged from the visit of Nottingham Forest to Elland Road, for Leeds didn't play as well as they had been doing in that match and yet they were still good enough to knock the ball into Forest's net half a dozen times.

Pat Jennings performed wonders in goal for Tottenham Hotspur when they came to Elland Road in the FA Cup sixth round, but although Spurs scored first completely against the run of play, United could not be denied and they came back with two goals to win a match that might well have seen their score trebled, but for some bad luck and the numerous fine saves from Jennings. Second Division Birmingham City couldn't be expected to stop Leeds in the semi-final at Hillsborough and they duly sank 3-nil, which meant a meeting with Arsenal in the final at Wembley where, despite not striking top form, United were still too good for their opponents and could have won by a wider margin than a single goal - headed gloriously by Allan Clarke following a run and centre from Mick Jones.

May 1972:
Seconds before history was made - Mick Jones rides this tackle from Bob McNab of Arsenal before crossing the ball for Allan Clarke to head the goal that won the FA Cup for Leeds United in the Centenary final.

So the 6th May, 1972, was the historic day on which Billy Bremner proudly lifted the FA Cup above his head, for the first part of what Leeds United hoped would be an FA Cup and League Championship double achievement, as they needed a draw at Wolverhampton in their last Division One fixture of the season, just two days later. It was unfair that such a vital match should have to take place so soon after the final, and although the players sacrificed the traditional FA Cup final banquet in order to prepare, they still took the field at Molineux somewhat jaded, without Mick Jones - who had been injured in the last minute at Wembley - and with Allan Clarke and Johnny Giles having to play with the aid of pain-killing injections.

Wolves were two goals in front midway through the second half but, although handicapped, United showed their character and stormed back with a Billy Bremner score, which lit the fuse for a final 20 minutes of attacking pressure from United amid an intense atmosphere that was climaxed with a desperate clearance off the Wolves goal-line in the last seconds. The Midlanders hung on to win the match, but United had gone down fighting to the last and with a feeling of injustice at not being awarded at least one penalty during a fiercely contested battle, that left everyone connected with Leeds United disappointed and exhausted, but with one large consolation. The FA Cup had finally come to Leeds and that was well worth the biggest of celebrations, even if it did mean for some, a deep dig into their pockets in order to fulfill long standing promises.

May 1972:
At last! For the first time in the club's 68-year history Leeds United have won the FA Cup and here with the Cup at Wembley are - M. Bates (Substitute). P. Madeley, E. Gray, P. Reaney, J. Giles, A. Clarke, J. Charlton, B. Bremner, P. Lorimer, N. Hunter, D. Harvey. One man missing from the group was Mick Jones who had been carried off injured.

1972-1973 >>