The traditional Wembley forerunner to the domestic football season was hardly Corinthian when it was staged almost forty years ago. Try infamous.
Next Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the most controversial Charity Shield of all time and it involved Leeds United – led out by a certain Brian Clough for the first time – and Liverpool. How can we forget 1974.
The reigning champions pitted their wits against the FA Cup winners, led out by the incomparable Bill Shankly, who enjoyed a strong, personable relationship with Clough’s predecessor Don Revie.
It was Shankly’s final game leading out his beloved Reds following the shock announcement of his retirement earlier that summer.
But it was a not a valediction to his considerable achievements at Anfield that dominated the ‘colour’ pieces written by national hacks or indeed the Clough factor in his first game in charge of a side he had so brazenly criticised over the years.
It was something entirely different.
Little charity was on show in the seasonal curtain-raiser, this being between two sides who forged a strong mutual respect during the late sixties and early seventies. It will forever be the game remembered for the dismissals of Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan, who famously marched off bare-chested after a contretemps with the goings-on in front of 67,000 stunned followers leaving football sadly in the dock for all the wrong reasons.
The pair were given a lengthy suspension for bringing the game into disrepute, copping 11-game bans and a £500 fine respectively following their unsavoury flashpoint, when they traded punches in the second period.
It was the first time that any British players had been sent off at the home of football in what constituted a day of shame for the national game.
It was all witnessed by a watching television audience of millions, in the first Charity Shield ever shown on TV with Vernon Stokes, chairman of the disciplinary committee hastily assembled to serve out punishment on Bremner and Keegan admitting that the severity of the ban would probably not have been as harsh if the game had not been shown live.
For the record, the match finished 1-1, with Liverpool going onto win a sudden death penalty shoot-out 6-5, but the talking point had arrived long before that.
Liverpool, who had comprehensively swatted aside Joe Harvey’s Newcastle United in a one-sided FA Cup final in May, took the lead courtesy of Phil Boersma 20 minutes in.
But United restored parity on 70 minutes when an unlikely source in Trevor Cherry headed home.
The main action ahead of the shoot-out was is a series of niggling incidents when players dished out retribution upon each other, although the shoot-out was dramatic. The scores were balanced at 5-5, with Peter Lorimer, Johnny Giles, Eddie Gray, Norman Hunter and Cherry netting for Leeds before goalkeeper David Harvey stepped up and hit the crossbar.
It was left to Ian Callaghan to score the winner for Liverpool.
But that wasn’t really the story. Far from it.