Twelve at the Top 1972 to 1973

Terry Cooper had been the victim of the same bad luck that Paul Reaney had suffered in 1970, when he broke a leg and missed the last few very important matches of the 1971-72 season, including the FA Cup final, and Cooper's injury was such a bad one that Don Revie decided he needed a replacement and during the close-season he brought Trevor Cherry from Huddersfield Town in exchange for a six figure transfer fee. Cherry went into the Leeds United side at left-back, although it was not his normal position, and he became the second new regular in United's defence as goalkeeper David Harvey had been rewarded for several patient years as understudy, when he retained his place after deputising for the injured Gary Sprake - just after Cooper had sustained his injury.

The word injury was, it seemed, synonymous with Leeds and a perfect example was the opening fixture of the 1972-73 season at Chelsea, where the game was goalless with 25 minutes gone when both Mick Jones and David Harvey were hurt in different incidents and had to leave the field, so that United had to play for over an hour with only ten men and Peter Lorimer in goal. Chelsea took full advantage of such a good opportunity to beat their old adversaries, and they rattled in four goals without reply to get themselves off to an unexpectedly fine start to their League programme.

Jack Charlton was by now approaching the end of a distinguished career, and with this in mind manager Don Revie had been scouring the country in an attempt to find a suitable long term replacement, so Revie felt pleased with himself when he secured teenager Gordon McQueen from St. Mirren, and he joined up with another young fellow Scot Joe Jordan, who had also made the journey south, from Morton, on the recommendation of the former Leeds star Bobby Collins. Both these newcomers had been purchased for very modest fees and they went into the reserve side to learn their trade thoroughly, under the guidance of the excellent backroom staff at Elland Road, whilst Jack Charlton soldiered on impressively - seemingly getting better with age like a good wine should.

April 1973:
These Wolves players look dejected - and no wonder. Billy Bremner runs with arms raised towards the United fans after scoring the goal that was to win the FA Cup semi-final at Maine Road.

United were having their first taste of the European Cup Winners' Cup tournament and finding it to their liking too, as they dismissed Turkey's Ankaragucu, Carl Zeiss Jena of East Germany, and the Rumanians of Rapid Bucharest, with aggregate scores of 2-1, 2-0 and 8-1 respectively, to reach the semi-final. In the FA Cup as well, Leeds had won through to the semi-final stage once more, with the hardest hurdle having been in round three against lowly Norwich City who gained two one-all draws, first at Carrow Road and then, after extra-time at Elland Road, where they survived a continuous attacking onslaught from United.

Before a second re-play could take place the teams faced each other once more in a League fixture at Norwich, which Leeds won closely 2-1, so that when they met again at neutral Villa Park it was the fourth game between them in 17 days and they were heartily sick of the sight of each other, with vitriolic comments made off the field adding fuel to the flames of a real 'needle' clash. At this point Allan Clarke decided to take the matter in hand, for he felt, like everyone else at Elland Road, that United should not be having such difficulty with mediocre opponents, and he promptly slammed a hat-trick in the first 20 minutes - a most remarkable achievement when one considers that he spent several minutes off the field receiving treatment for an injury - before Mick Jones and Peter Lorimer completed a five goal triumph.

Leeds United had been very successful again in season 1972-73 and they were punished for it in the usual way, when April produced a welter of commitments in three competitions with ten matches in 29 days, seven of them away from home, yet United came through it all with great credit and a place in the finals of both the Cup Winners' Cup and the FA Cup. Allan Clarke won the European semi-final, first leg at Elland Road against Hajduk Split with a superb goal, and then got himself sent off for retaliating, but his score was sufficient to take Leeds through as the return match in Yugoslavia was scoreless, whilst in the FA Cup semi-final at Maine Road, Billy Bremner snatched the decisive goal that gave an injury hit United a fine victory over Wolves.

May 1973:
Action from a memorable night at Elland Road for Jack Charlton's testimonial match when Glasgow Celtic met Leeds United.

It was Liverpool who had knocked United out of the League Cup competition in a fourth round re-play, and it was they who eventually won the First Division title when they defeated Leeds 2-0 at Anfield - in what was their first success over United in the last eight meetings at that ground - and in the end the Elland Road side finished in third place in the table.

Leeds United had been successful for too long as far as many people were concerned, and the fact that they were always involved in the latter stages of just about everything that they were entered for was a source of irritation to some, nowhere more so than in London, where Leeds had never been popular and the Fleet Street press often acid in its comments about them. When Crystal Palace had shared four goals with United in the capital during the 1972-73 campaign, Palace had complained about United's goals and the press had made a meal of it, strongly implying that Leeds were lucky to get a draw, and in so doing they overlooked the fact that Mick Jones had an apparently good goal disallowed, and Palace were also fortunate not to concede a penalty for hand-ball.

It was not the first occasion that United had been on the wrong end of biased newspaper reporting, and they were also having to put up with the latest accusation aimed at them - that of gamesmanship - when the FA Cup final with Second Division underdogs Sunderland took place. The match had been built up into a real Goodies versus Baddies situation, and when the Wearsiders raised their game to new heights, knocked United out of their stride, and deservedly won the match 1-0, it appeared that everyone in Britain, outside of Leeds, was absolutely delighted at the first FA Cup success by a side not from the First Division, for 42 years. That defeat was a real body blow to the pride of Leeds United, but they lifted themselves two days later to give Jack Charlton a great send-off - into management with Middlesbrough - in his testimonial game, when, along with Glasgow Celtic, they provided a feast of thrilling soccer with the Scots just winning by the odd goal in seven.

Johnny Giles was absent injured and Billy Bremner and Allan Clarke suspended when United travelled to Salonika in Greece for the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup with A.C. Milan, but as if that wasn't enough they had to play the match under an additional cloud - as it was strongly rumoured that Don Revie was on the verge of a move to Everton to seek a new challenge. With only four minutes of the final played, the Greek referee dubiously awarded a free-kick against Paul Madeley, and from it the Italians scored, and when the official later twice denied United obvious penalties it was clear that the fates were completely against them, and at the end A.C. Milan were jeered from the field whilst attempting an uncompleted lap of honour with the Cup. In contrast, United, who had played some fine football in such impossible circumstances, were given a standing ovation by the Greek fans who knew that the better team had lost, and it was little consolation to Leeds to learn, a few weeks later, that the referee had been suspended by his own Football Association for his incompetent handling of the final.

Saturday afternoon crowd outside the West Stand!
This picture was taken, after the match had finished, on a day when 44,000 attended Elland Road.

1973-1974 >>