Leeds United legends arrange FA Cup anniversary reunion as Wembley triumph remembered

Leeds United were crowned FA Cup winners on this day 50 years ago thanks to a 1-0 win over a double-winning Arsenal side

By Joe Donnohue
Friday, 6th May 2022, 6:00 am

Leeds United's Class of '72 are meeting up this weekend to cast their minds back to the club's one and only FA Cup final win.

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There will be talk of Wembley's Twin Towers, the sights, the sounds and without question fond tales about members of the cup-winning squad no longer with us: Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Billy Bremner, Mick Bates and Paul Madeley.

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CHAMPIONS: Leeds United manager Don Revie holds the FA Cup aloft on May 6, 1972 (Photo by Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"Especially in those days, there was nothing to beat the excitement," Whites legend Eddie Gray tells the YEP. "Driving up to Wembley, to the Twin Towers, that's the way you used to go to the game, getting to the game and walking out onto the pitch and seeing the colours, the crowds, it's something you don't forget."

That day is among the most memorable of Gray's distinguished career - and there were plenty - but it was not quite the loudest atmosphere he can recall, instead drawing on the memory of a European Cup semi-final tie against Celtic at Hampden Park, played out in front of a staggering 135,000 spectators.

Such was the pull of Leeds United and the quality British football at that time, substantial gates were routinely achieved at the business end of the season, at arenas with the capacity to host.

"It was a time when we were pretty confident in our ability to play most sides and come out on top," Gray says, cataloguing the various near-misses and Don Revie-led triumphs of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

WINNER: Leeds United winger Eddie Gray was part of the starting XI that lifted the trophy in 1972 (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

"Arsenal as you know were a good side, a double-winning side, so it was a difficult game. But when Allan Clarke scored the winner with the header, that was more or less it, we held on."

The two sides walked out at Wembley to an almighty din, a day which birthed Leeds' now iconic 'Leeds, Leeds, Leeds!' club anthem. Gray and international teammate George Graham shared a brief exchange in the tunnel before stepping out into the cauldron of noise.

"In those particular days, the FA Cup final was the biggest one-off game in the country. Everybody wanted to play in the cup final," Gray said.

"You don't get to play finals every year for your club. I mean, our players were very fortunate, a lot of players played in '65, '68, FA Cup in '70, '72 and even when we got beat by Sunderland in '73, that was disappointing. But to win the FA Cup, especially at Wembley against Arsenal, it was a great occasion for everybody."

HONOURS: Eddie Gray [back row; second from left] was a member of the 1968 League Cup-winning squad that also defeated Arsenal

Leeds went in level at the break having already seen Clarke kiss the crossbar with a first-half effort. Eight minutes after the restart, stirred by Revie's half-time team-talk, the Whites were in front as the centre-forward powered home a header from the edge of the penalty area.

Lorimer spread the ball to Mick Jones on the right-hand side, who rode the challenge of Huddersfield-born Gunners' defender Bob McNab, before crossing into a box strewn with red shirts.

"It was a great goal from Allan, a great header. He was right up there with the best," Gray said.

"He met it well, he could have actually had a step back and tried to volley but quick thinking, he thought 'I'm gonna go and dive and head this, it'd probably be better' and he met it perfectly. He knew where he wanted to knock it, he didn't just let it hit his head."

"To win the FA Cup after getting beaten in '65 and the disappointment of the Chelsea cup final, it was just nice to eventually win."

Jones had dislocated his elbow in the closing stages of the match and had to be helped up the steps towards the Royal Box by Hunter in order to collect his winners medal as thousands of Leeds supporters basked in FA Cup victory.

Leeds had lifted their first league championship three years earlier, were runners-up in the three seasons leading up to their FA Cup win, Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winners in 1971 and 1968 League Cup victors - it was the club's golden era.

"People say to me, 'What's the best moment of your career?' It was every week. Sitting in the dressing room, looking at the players I was playing with thinking there's no way we can get beat today. That's a great feeling."

So, did Gray believe it would be the club's sole FA Cup triumph?

"No. You've got to be honest with that," he says with a chuckle.

"The other cup finals we played, we probably had more of the game than the opposition, so going into the Arsenal game, we never felt inferior in any way, we felt capable of beating most sides, so that was how we approached the game."

Gray insists he is not trying to come across as arrogant, but to accurately reflect the mood and mentality of a dressing room populated by serial winners.

To this day, the 74-year-old asserts Leeds should have beaten Chelsea in the FA Cup final two years earlier. The core of that group remained at Elland Road and used the memory of 1970 to fuel themselves in a bid to lift English football's oldest and grandest honour.

"A few of the boys are meeting up this weekend, a little nostalgic meeting, there's not many of us left now as you know," Gray says.

As they raise a glass or two and set the world to rights the living legends can recall proudly giving Leeds United one of the greatest days in its long and storied history.