THE fortieth anniversary of one of the greatest injustices English football has ever seen arrives on Thursday – and for former Leeds United defender Frank Gray, it will open up a painful wound.
The date was May 28, 1975 and the venue was the Parc de Princes stadium in Paris. The scoreline dictated that Bayern Munich won the European Cup after a 2-0 win over the Whites, courtesy of goals from Franz Roth and Der Bomber himself in Gerd Muller, but it did not tell half of the story.
Gray was just 20 when he lined up alongside his team-mates for the biggest game of his life and while he went on to lift the European Cup later on in his career with Nottingham Forest, his colleagues weren’t so fortunate.
Wretched refereeing from Frenchman Michel Kitabdjian denied Leeds becoming just the second English side to lift the continent’s big prize, with that dark Parisian evening becoming an infamous one in the history of Leeds United.
Just two years after the shambolic officiating by Greek referee Christos Michas in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final against AC Milan, Leeds found themselves on the wrong end of more awful decisions.
Two penalty appeals went against Leeds in a first half which they dominated, most notably when Allan Clarke was blatantly fouled by ‘Der Kaiser’ Frank Beckenbauer.
Worse, if that was possible, was to come in the second half, when in the 66th minute, a perfectly legitimate volley from Peter Lorimer was chalked off for a perceived off-side offence, with Billy Bremner supposedly the culprit.
Kitabdjian awarded a goal, but upon conferring with the officials, he incredibly changed his mind.
It was the prelude to all hell breaking loose in the Leeds end, with a barrel load of salt applied by virtue of two Bayern goals.
The immediate legacy may have been riotous scenes, but for Gray, the defeat had longer-term ramifications and denoted the gradual demise of Leeds United as one of the super-powers in the English game.
It was certainly a sad and unjustified end to the Leeds careers of several greats, including Bremner and Johnny Giles and one that will rankle with the United family forever and a day.
And for Gray, memories of that regrettable night arrived on the television recently.
Gray, 60, whose elder brother Eddie was on the bench and came on during the game for Terry Yorath, said: “I think if we’d won that, things would have been totally different for Leeds United.
“A lot of the older players, such as Johnny and Billy, were coming towards the end of their careers after the European Cup final.
“It would have been easier to attract the top players if we were European champions and we could well have continued after that.
“Not winning the European Cup final was a big defining point in Leeds history.
“It was sad. I watched a documentary on Bayern Munich on Sky and all their players were talking about that game saying that they should not have won it.
“And that all the referee’s decisions went their way and that Peter’s goal was a goal and that it should have been a penalty.
“We knew we should have won that game and we were the better team that night, no doubt about that.
“Bayern knew that as well and it was one of those games.
“It was a defining moment in the decline of the club after that, definitely.
“If we’d won that, it would have been totally different.”