Chelsea v Leeds United. F.A. Cup Final and F.A. Cup final replay. April 1970.
The 1970 F.A. Cup final and the subsequent replay was a classic encounter in every sense of the word. It brought together two of England’s top sides, Chelsea and Leeds United, whose intense dislike of each other was well known and played out in full view of the media. Despite the passage of over forty-seven years, this match is still referred to as one of the most ill- tempered and savage encounters ever witnessed, despite the fact that most of the X-rated tackles only took place from the second half of the replay onwards. David Elleray, the ex -Premier League referee, claimed that if the game had taken place today, he would have issued six red cards and twenty yellow cards. Yet, this is to judge the match by the standards of “Generation Snowflake”. For those of us who grew up watching the horrific running battles in the Intercontinental Cup games between Manchester United v Estudiantes and Celtic v Racing Club, this was no worse than what had happened before. Most accounts of the 1970 Cup Final and the subsequent replay, focus on what happened in the games but provide scant insight into the background of the two teams and how their animosity towards each other had been developing throughout the decade. Both sides were victims of lazy media stereotyping which erroneously labelled the contest as a culture clash between dour Northern cloggers against Flash Harry Southerners, an image which still lingers today. The truth is never that simple.
For those of us from the Baby Boom generation, live football on the television was a rare treat. The F.A. Cup final was the only domestic game shown on the box and therefore the London-based press had a more influential role in informing public opinion about teams. They never understood Leeds United. They were a nasty, dour, grim, Northern team sucking the soul out of football. Chelsea were the footballing sophisticates. As London thrived under the “swinging sixties” umbrella, Chelsea became the club to be associated with. Frequent visitors to Stamford Bridge included icons such as David Bailey, Michael Caine, Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy often in the company of the renowned photographer, Terry O’Neill. Chelsea’s players were featured in the tabloid press almost as often as George Best. Even the lesser known Chelsea players were living the lifestyle. Tommy Baldwin and John Boyle, who had not been blessed with film-star looks, were in relationships respectively with Dee Dee Wilde from Pan’s People and Fiona Richmond, a regular centerfold spread in Men’s Only magazine.Even actors who were born and bred in Yorkshire such as Rodney Bewes and Tom Courtney were regular visitors to the Bridge rather than Elland Road.
On the other hand, Leeds were the club of Jimmy Saville, crooner Ronnie Hilton and the Good Old Days Music hall variety programme which was broadcast from Leeds. Whereas Stamford Bridge was in the heart of the Kings Road area, with its trendy eateries and nightspots, Elland Road, suffered in comparison with being in one of the more salubrious districts of Leeds. The stadium was alongside the decaying terraced streets of Beeston where washing was still hung out on the streets to dry, almost like a film set from a Sixties kitchen sink drama. A bag of chips with scraps and a pint of mild in Tap Room of the New Peacock Inn was the only nearby post -match option, which certainly would not have appealed to the likes of Twiggy. Leeds in the 1960’s was the type of city you couldn’t wait to leave if you were young and successful. The lack of glamour was emphasised by the City feeling really pleased when it was christened the “Motorway City of the Seventies”! If Sky Sports had
covered the final, they may well have marketed the game as Barnstoneworth (Ripping Yarns) v Earls Park (Footballers Wives).
As with all stereotypes, there were many jarring inaccuracies. Chelsea had a number of players for whom the phrase “clean living” could have been written. Peter Bonetti and John Hollins were renowned for heading home to their families rather than the Kings Road, top scorer Bobby Tambling was a Jehovah’s witness and Peter Houseman was so derided by the majority of Chelsea fans for his starch, traditional style and image that he was mockingly christened “ Dolly” or “ Mary” . Leeds too had a number of players who liked to spend time with the bottle and the opposite sex. Jack Charlton was a regular frequenter of nightclubs in Leeds until Revie sorted him out and Gary Sprake was a notorious womanizer and hard drinker who finished off a bottle of vodka with George Best on a plane home from a Northern Ireland v Wales game.
For many, the 1970 cup final was the ultimate clash of footballing philosophies, Dave Sexton’s Chelsea with their stylish flowing rock star locks and Don Revie’s carpet bowl playing automatons with National Service haircuts. The neutral fan was left in no doubt by the press as to who they should want to win. The future of football was at stake. It was noteworthy that the media had failed to grasp what a brilliant team Revie had put together. Although constantly labelled with the moniker “Dirty Leeds”, they were a skilled team. But, if you wanted to take them on physically, they would more than match you. When Bobby Collins was captain, he constantly reminded his young charges that “Fear works” when dealing with opposition players. Billy Bremner was the living embodiment of” Side before Self” every time. Yet Chelsea were no angels themselves. Any side with a captain called Chopper Harris knew how to intimidate. Eddie McCreadie had put Johnny Giles out of the game for six weeks with a crunching tackle in an earlier meeting in September 1964 and Peter Osgood, after having had his leg broken by Emlyn Hughes in 1965, made sure that he was now the one to intimidate others.
As regards football history, both Chelsea and Leeds had shared the same lack of success prior to the 1960’s. Chelsea had won the League in 1955, whereas Leeds United had not won anything. In fact, Chelsea’s lack of success was such that in the 1930’s a music hall entertainer, called Norman Long, brought out a comedy record called “On the day that Chelsea went and won the Cup” in mocking reference to the club’s lack of success. At the start of the 1960’s, Chelsea and Leeds United found themselves in Division Two. Both clubs had decided to invest in developing young players as the way forward. Chelsea had appointed Tommy Docherty as player-coach in February 1961 and then manager in September of that year. He had swiftly developed a reputation as an innovative coach who was skilled at developing young players. His assistant coach was Dave Sexton, who was highly respected for his coaching ability.
The same season, in March 1961, Leeds United appointed Don Revie as player-manager. He was one year older than Docherty. Revie was also acknowledged as an excellent coach and he was determined that developing the club’s own youngsters would shape the future of Leeds. Just like Docherty at Chelsea, Revie inherited a talented group of young players who were close to being ready for the first team. Revie developed the playing style and coaches Syd Owen and Les Cocker honed the tactics and organisation.
Docherty led Chelsea to promotion to the top division in 1962/63 and Revie did the same with Leeds the following season. In the seasons from 1964/65 to 1969/70, Leeds and Chelsea were consistently
amongst the teams battling for top places in Division One. Chelsea were the first to achieve a major honour when they won the League Cup in 1965. However, Leeds started to build up an impressive collection of trophies, winning the League Cup and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cups in 1968 and the League in 1968/69 when they lost only two games over the season. By this time Tommy Docherty had been involved in one fall out too many with both players and directors and resigned as manager in October 1967. The following day Chelsea lost 7-0 away at Leeds. Dave Sexton, who was now assistant manager at Arsenal was appointed as his replacement.
The F.A. Cup had proved problematic for both teams. Neither had won the trophy. Chelsea had lost to Sheffield United in 1915, ironically at Old Trafford and to Tottenham Hotspur in 1967. Leeds had lost to Liverpool in 1965.The teams had met in a semi- final at Aston Villa in 1966. During the game, Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake had given John Boyle’s face the full treatment with his studs, resulting in blood gushing from his mouth and nose. Afterwards, when confronted by an incensed Peter Osgood, Sprake claimed he had meant to kick Boyle in the chest, not the face! Chelsea won the tie 1-0, but in the dying moments of the game, Leeds thought they had equalised when Peter Lorimer scored from a free kick. Both teams were astonished when the referee disallowed the goal as the Chelsea wall had not retreated the full ten yards. Even the commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme queried the decision.
The F.A. had decided that the 1970 season would be curtailed to finish early, allowing Sir Alf Ramsey to prepare the England team for the World Cup in Mexico. For the first time since 1897, the Cup Final was to be played in April, on the 11th. No Wembley final so far had needed a replay but one was provisionally arranged for Wednesday 29th April at Old Trafford.
As the fixtures piled up for both teams, Chelsea were the first to suffer. Alan Hudson had arguably been Chelsea’s player of the season. The 18-year-old, who was the object of many teenage girls fantasies with his long hair, had established himself as a regular in the Chelsea midfield, impressing fans with his sure touch, deft skills, and range of passing. On the 30th of March, less than two weeks before the final and two days after playing on the Saturday, suffered an ankle ligament injury, playing away at West Bromwich Albion which would rule him out of the final. He was the one player Chelsea would not want to lose.
The fixture list was incredibly demanding on Leeds. It took them three attempts to beat Manchester United in the semi – final, whereas Chelsea strolled through their game with a routine 5-1 victory against Second Division Watford. To protect his weary players, Revie fielded a weakened team for a league fixture which incurred the wrath of league secretary Alan Hardaker and resulted in a fine of £5000.The fixtures for Leeds still defy belief. On the 30th of March, they played Derby County in the League, two days later Celtic in the Semi Final of the European Cup, the next day West Ham in the League and after a break of two days, another league game against Burnley. Revie had wanted to avoid another fine, so he played a stronger team against West Ham. The result was a broken leg for Paul Reaney!
So to the final. Saturday 10th of April with a three o’clock kick-off at Wembley. Looking back it is amazing to look at the extent of the television coverage. If you didn’t like football there weren’t many alternatives as BBC 1 and ITV showed the final live, whilst BBC 2 offered the test card. For those viewers who had the stamina, you could sit through a variety of cup related programmes such as Cup Final Question of Sport and a special edition of It’s a Knockout, with celebrity Yorkshire personality Eddie Waring.
The teams lined up as follows:
Chelsea- Bonetti, Webb, McCreadie, Hollins, Dempsey, Harris (captain), Cooke, Baldwin, Osgood, Hutchinson, Houseman, sub-Hinton.
Leeds- Sprake, Madeley, Cooper, Bremner (captain), Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles, Gray, sub-Bates.
The condition of the pitch shocked both sides as it had been heavily sanded and was caked in mud after recently hosting the Horse of the Year show! The result was a clotted, lumpy, ugly mess which was quite unsuited to flowing football. However, the match surpassed expectations. Leeds took the lead after 21 minutes when a soft header from Jack Charlton crept over the line. Both Ron Harris and Eddie Mc Creadie appeared to be in a position on the line to clear the ball, but with the pitch being so heavily sanded the lack of bounce deceived them and they were left kicking thin air. Leeds dominated the first half and Eddie Gray was giving David Webb, a centre-half playing as a right back a torrid time. However, just as half time approached, Peter Houseman hit a speculative shot from 25 yards that somehow squirmed underneath Gary Sprake’s body. Not for the first time in his Leeds career, Jack Charlton screamed at his keeper in despair.
Leeds continued to play the better football and with 7 minutes to go, appeared to have won the cup. Mick Jones thumped the rebound from Allan Clarke’s header into the bottom right corner of the net. Billy Bremner celebrated by doing a handstand that Olga Korbut would have been proud of and the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme announced with certainty that the cup was bound for Leeds. Normally they were the masters of shutting up shop but slack marking allowed Ian Hutchinson to score an equalising header from a free kick. Revie later claimed that he had been desperate to get a message across to Bremner to close the game down but had been prevented from doing so by some burly policemen.
In extra time, tiredness and the state of the pitch meant that caution took over on both sides and the game ended as a draw, the first final ever at Wembley not to produce a winner. There would be a wait of two and a half weeks for the replay at Old Trafford. Most Chelsea fans felt the choice of venue favoured Leeds and wondered why the more geographically equidistant Villa Park had not been chosen.
Five days after the final, Leeds suffered defeat in the second leg of the European Cup semi- final to Celtic. Leeds keeper Gary Sprake was carried off after a collision with a Celtic player and was out of the final. His replacement would be the inexperienced David Harvey, Bonetti, who was known by most fans as the man who kept a pet monkey!
So on Wednesday 29th April, the replay was held at Old Trafford. The game was live on television, which must have been extremely frustrating for Manchester City fans as their European Cup Winners Cup Final against Gornik Zabrze, which was being played on the same evening, was not shown anywhere on British television.
The teams lined up as per the original game, with the exception of Sprake being replaced by David Harvey in goal. Chelsea had been hopeful that Hudson would be fit enough to play and his name featured in the Chelsea line up in the programme but it was not to be. However, Dave Sexton made one crucial change, he moved Ron Harris to mark Eddie Gray and put David Webb back in central defence. Chopper made an immediate impact with a scything tackle on Eddie Gray which limited his effectiveness for the rest of the game.
During the first half, Mick Jones crashed into Bonetti, which resulted in him being treated for his injury for five minutes. As there were no substitute goalkeepers, Chelsea fans were relieved to see him back on his feet. A few minutes later, Clarke skilfully went through three tackles and played the ball to his fellow striker Jones who scored. As the second half progressed, Leeds sat back deeper and deeper to protect their lead and Chelsea started to increase the pressure. It was only now that the tackles started to fly and the referee Eric Jennings, in the last game he would officiate before retiring, failed to intervene.
In defence of Mr Jenning, who worked as a sales rep for a water company, perhaps he was too mindful of the occasion and did not want to be the first person to send a player off in a cup final, especially one that was being televised live. Perhaps he was anxious to avoid a similar situation to the infamous England v Argentina World Cup game where Antonio Rattin refused to leave the field after being dismissed. Whatever the reason, he failed to impose any discipline as he allowed a staggering number of crunching tackles to go unpunished and failed to stop the increasing number of off the ball incidents which indirectly lead to Chelsea’s equaliser from a Peter Osgood header , twelve minutes from time. Osgood was unmarked because Jackie Charlton had gone off chasing Ian Hutchinson who had just whacked him in the knee. With five minutes to go, Eddie McCreadie flattened Billy Bremner with a chest high lunge in the area and waited for the penalty to be awarded. Eric Jennings waved away the Leeds appeals.
Once again, extra time was required. But now Chelsea were in the ascendancy and in a finale that Hollywood could not have written, David Webb who had been the victim at Wembley, managed to score the winning goal. It came from a long throw launched by Ian Hutchinson , which flicked off Charlton’s head across the six yard area which resulted in a mad scramble which ended in Webb glancing the ball off his cheek and into the net. It was an untidy scruffy goal but it was enough to finally settle the game. Leeds threw everyone forward to try to take the tie to another replay at Highfield Road, but it wasn’t to be. Leeds had lost to their most bitter rivals and Chelsea had won the cup for the first time in their history.
The 1970 final still holds the record for the longest final ever played. It is the only final in which a team held the lead on three separate occasions and failed to win. It is still the only replay to require extra time to produce a winner. It is still the second most viewed sporting event in the UK and the sixth highest TV audience ever and it was the last time the Cup was won in April. No player since Peter Osgood has managed to score in every round of the F.A. Cup.
It was a true classic and I feel privileged to have been able to watch every second of the drama.