Allan Clarke is best remembered for his decisive goal in the 1972 FA Cup final between Leeds United and Arsenal.
The moment was so special to Clarke that his winners’ medal was omitted from a lot of honours auctioned by him late last year but even he would admit that United’s performance at Wembley was second-best in the 1971-72 season.
The striker felt as privileged to be part of the team who dismantled Southampton at Elland Road two months earlier, a game selected by Yorkshire Evening Post readers as United’s greatest match of the 1970s.
He scored twice in a 7-0 win which showed Leeds in the most admirable light, highlighting the brilliance of Don Revie’s squad.
Clarke, who managed United and three other clubs after retiring as a player, told the YEP: “I had 12 years in management and I look back on that game with a manager’s point of view.
“For as long as you’re in the game you’re always looking for that perfect performance and that perfect 90 minutes. To me those 90 minutes were perfection.
“The game had everything we love about football – passion, skill, goals, the lot. Kids should watch it to see what great teams are made of.
“Call me biased but that Leeds team is one of the finest teams this country will ever see. That performance might be the best it ever sees too.”
The man who commentated on the fixture, television’s Barry Davies, depicted a Southampton team tormented as Revie’s players spread the ball around the pitch. On top of Clarke’s brace, Peter Lorimer claimed a hat-trick and Mick Jones and Jack Charlton both scored once.
Davies remarked: “Every man jack of this Leeds side is now turning it on. Oh, look at that! It’s almost cruel. The Elland Road crowd are lapping it up. One has to feel sympathy for Southampton but the gap between their position and Leeds is an almighty chasm.”
But Clarke claimed the suggestion that Leeds toyed with Southampton with the game already won is wrong.
“We had important games coming up,” he said. “Don saw that we were 7-0 up and decided we should keep the ball and stay out of trouble. Avoid any injuries, that sort of thing. We were taken 25 touches before Southampton could get hold of the ball.
“I saw one of Southampton’s players many years later and I put the record straight. I said ‘a lot of people think we were trying to make fools of you but that wasn’t the intention.’ We were playing safe and sensible, 7-0 up.
“I think we knew when we came off the field that we’d been on top form but it’s only when you think back now that you realise how good the performance was. You’re always aspiring to that.”
United’s class did not carry them to the Division One title in 1972, with Derby County taking the championship on the last day of the season, but Clarke’s diving header settled the centenary FA Cup final at Wembley on May 6.
More than 35 per cent of YEP readers named the 1-0 victory over Arsenal as their most memorable fixture of the 1970s but Clarke agreed with those who championed Leeds’ flowing defeat of Southampton.
Clarke said: “They’re not wrong. It was a better performance than the FA Cup final, absolutely.
“We had so many memorable matches under the gaffer (Revie) but that game stands out a mile. We murdered Southampton and that’s being kind to them.”
Result of 1970s Match of the Decade poll:
Leeds 7 Southampton 0 (1972) – 54 per cent
Leeds 1 Arsenal 0 (1972) – 36 per cent
Bayern Munich 2 Leeds 0 (1975) – 5 per cent
Leeds 3 Ipswich 2 (1974) – 4 per cent
AC Milan 1 Leeds 0 (1973) – 1 per cent