Leeds United Nostalgia:Tinderbox clashes were never a flash in the pan for Whites

Allan Clarke and Billy Bremner.
Allan Clarke and Billy Bremner.
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IT is fair to say that trips to Everton throughout the sixties and early seventies had a certain edge as far as Leeds United were concerned.

Heading the list is the famous Battle of Goodison Park, the 50th anniversary of which arrived last month.

The game saw Leeds triumph 1-0 with a tinderbox encounter starting off with the dismissal in the fourth minute of home player Sandy Brown for punching Johnny Giles.

It was the first act in the most ugly of clashes, with the referee marching both teams off the pitch at one point so that players and fans could cool down.

It was an occasion which drew strong comment from legendary Observer sports writer John Arlott, who labelled it as an ‘unhappy day for English football’ on an afternoon when the tackles were sharp and the spittle venomous.

Back in December 1970, United also headed to the blue side of Merseyside and also came away with a 1-0 win, the anniversary of that particular success arriving on Friday and it was another game which had a distinct amount of needle.

Reigning champions Everton, managed by Harry Catterick, had travelled to Elland Road in the first month of the campaign, fully playing their part in an enthralling encounter, which saw Leeds prevail 3-2, thanks to goals from Billy Bremner (2) and Giles in front of almost 47,000 fans.

But the first third of the season had seen the Blues’ title defence crumble, while Leeds, on the other hand, represented the real deal.

While Leeds’ line-up was settled and strong, Everton’s side was starting to break apart with Goodison legends such as Gordon West and Brian Labone replaced by Andy Rankin and Roger Kenyon and other ageing senior players also stepping down.

Leeds headed to Goodison with a powerhouse league record, their previous Division One defeat arrived at Stoke back on September 12.

That was Leeds’ only defeat in 22 league matches thus far in 1970-71, with Revie’s side heading to Everton with a two-point lead over Bertie Mee’s Arsenal, while the Blues languished in 12th place.

In the early stages of the fixture, it was clear tensions were high, with memories harkening back to November 1964.

That was obvious by the fact that Leeds saw Norman Hunter and Mick Jones handed cautions, with home player Alan Whittle also seeing his name entered into the busy referee’s notebook.

A fractious encounter prevailed, with the quality of football negligible with many among the disappointed crowd resorting to booing and slow-handclapping the teams as the game went on.

But any of the football played came from Leeds, with Bremner pulling the strings in midfield and putting Alan Ball and Colin Harvey firmly in the shade and Jack Charlton imperious at the back.

It was Charlton who netted the only goal of the game in the 10th minute when Giles supplied Peter Lorimer, whose right-wing cross found Jones, whose cushioned header invitingly fell into the path of the big defender.

And it was enough to enable Leeds to secure their first double of the campaign.

In ‘they shall not pass’ mode at the back, Leeds’ resilience kept out the hosts, while whenever the Blues got through, they failed to break the resistance of Gary Sprake.

The weekend of December 19, 1970 saw United’s nearest rivals Arsenal triumph 3-1 at Old Trafford to further confirm to everyone that the title was a two-horse race.

It set things up rather nicely for Boxing Day, when Leeds overpowered Newcastle United 3-0 in front the Elland Road faithful, courtesy of an Allan Clarke strike and two penalties from Giles to open up a three-point lead over the Gunners, who had been pegged back in a 0-0 home draw with Southampton.

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Leeds United On This Day

47 years ago: Eddie Gray netted the only goal of the game as Leeds United triumphed 1-0 against Hibernian at Elland Road in the first leg of their Fairs Cup third round tie. The winger struck a rebound after just four minutes after Willie Watson saved his strike.

46 years ago: United enjoyed a red-letter night in Europe, hitting five goals past German outfit Hannover 96 at Elland Road. Peter Lorimer led the way with a brace with further goals arriving from Mike O’Grady, Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton.

18 years ago: In a tough decade, United suffered a real low point with an embarrassing 7-2 drubbing at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground. Billy Bremner refused to dress the result up after the game, admitting he was ‘ashamed’ of his side.

15 years ago: A marvellous performance from David O’Leary’s young Leeds side saw them account for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with a classy 2-0 victory. Goalscoring hero for the Whites, who came up against future manager Dennis Wise and assistant-boss Gus Poyet, was Stephen McPhail, pictured, who hit a rare double.

Chris Wood controls a high ball against Fulham at Elland Road on Tuesday night. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds United: Midfielder Alioski’s backing striker Wood to weigh in with the goals