Leeds United: Clarke on fire the last time the Whites met Sutton in the FA Cup
Green Gander Lane is not exactly within Leeds United's comfort zone. The club's destination in round four of the FA Cup, the home of Sutton United, holds 5,000 spectators and was fitted with a synthetic pitch in 2015. Thorp Arch's indoor Astroturf surface will come into its own as Leeds count down to the game next week.
Garry Monk’s step into atypical territory is not unlike Don Revie’s in 1970. In that year Leeds were sent to Sutton at the same stage of the same competition, playing on grass at a ground which Sutton refused to switch the tie from. An Isthmian League club at the time, two rungs below the level they compete at now, Surrey-based Sutton played on Revie’s obsession with controlling everything by resisting an offer to play at Elland Road instead. Their secretary, Dave Hermitage, said Sutton’s players wanted a home tie “badly” and the capacity of Green Gander Lane was increased to 14,000 with the help of benches borrowed from The Oval cricket ground a few miles north.
Leeds’ previous fixture had been a 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford four days earlier. The rough-and-ready nature of Sutton’s stadium worried Revie. To prepare for the conditions, his squad spent time training on pitches in East End Park but Revie was as concerned about the security of a venue which had almost doubled in capacity with the help of additional seating.Sutton hoped to earn £3,000 from vastly increased gate receipts.
“The team here is insured for millions of pounds,” a concerned Revie told the YEP. “Sutton have been working to improve their capacity but I don’t like the arrangements. I told the police I don’t. It wants only one mug with a bottle or a brick and a player is out injured, at worst for life.”
Sutton tried to reassure Revie that their control of the crowd would be adequate.
Allan Clarke, who started in that fixture and scored four of Leeds’ goals in what became an easy 6-0 rout, felt none of Revie’s apprehension. Leeds were not in the habit of cup upsets and were not bitten properly until the following year when they lost to Colchester United in the FA Cup’s fifth round.
“Billy Bremner used to boast that he never played in the Colchester game,” Clarke says. “That match knocked us all for six. We were one of the best teams the country’s seen so none of us wanted to lose Colchester or lose to Sutton. None of us wanted to lose an FA Cup tie full stop. We were on the way to the final in 1970 and some players in Don’s squad played in four finals in all. We only won the cup once. It was a big deal to us.
“Sutton didn’t worry me. It might have worried the gaffer but he liked to have everything prepared and in-hand. He was miles ahead of every other coach in that way. I’d lived near Sutton when I played for Fulham so I knew the area but I didn’t know much about the team. Don made sure we had it all covered.”
In all, Revie had Sutton watched three times, admitting that some of Leeds’ European ties had been given less attention.
He took in one of their games, a third-round replay against Hillingdon Borough, personally. Eddie Gray was missing from the side which travelled to Green Gander Lane and goalkeeper Gary Sprake had travelled to Wales after the death of his mother.
David Harvey deputised for him. Revie said Leeds were taking the tie as seriously as if “we were playing at Anfield.” Sutton, he said, would not be “easy meat”.
“People talk about David and Goliath and they look for upsets in games like that, especially the television companies, but we were a team of internationals,” Clarke says. “In saying that, even though we were playing a non-league side you still had to stick the ball in the back of the net.”
Leeds took 14 minutes to do so but Sutton’s strongest point of resistance, centre-back John Faulkner, caught Revie’s eye immediately. Sutton, managed by former Manchester City player Sid Cann, dug in gamely and kept Clarke, Peter Lorimer and Mick Jones in check for much of the first half.
“Faulkner did well enough that day for Don to want to sign him,” Clarke said, “but what happened in the end wasn’t really unexpected.”
Clarke drew first blood with a stooping header but the game was in the balance until Leeds’ pressure told properly before half-time. Lorimer struck on 41 minutes, helped by Sutton goalkeeper Dave Roffey allowing a bobbling shot to fly through his hands and legs, and Clarke struck again with a casual finish when Lorimer whipped in a 44th-minute cross.
Sutton struck Harvey’s crossbar early in the second half but Clarke rounded off his hat-trick after reacting first to an effort which hit a post and Lorimer established a 5-0 lead soon after. With 13 minutes left, Clarke ran beyond a tiring Sutton defence and beat Roffey from 12 yards. The YEP recorded how Revie’s players lined up to applaud Sutton off the pitch at full-time.
Revie had avoided embarrassment and avoided any of the crowd trouble which bothered him beforehand. Shortly after the tie, he went back to Sutton with a £10,000 offer for Faulkner, a local boy who was about to turn 22.
“Despite the result I played reasonably well,” Faulkner said in 2009. “Within a week, Revie phoned me up.”
Luck was not on Faulkner’s side at Elland Road and, having scored an own goal on his debut against Burnley on the day of Eddie Gray’s famous brace, a week before the start of Leeds’ FA Cup final against Chelsea, he fractured a knee cap in a home win over Manchester City.
Those appearances were two of only four made by him before Revie sold him to Luton Town.
Faulkner later moved into business and became a university lecturer.
“He was a smashing lad and a decent player,” Clarke said. “Don obviously liked what he saw but John was injured before he’d really had a chance.”
Forty seven years later, and almost to the day, Sutton – now a mid-table National League side – stand to make £300,000 from next week’s tie, a game which BT Sport has chosen to televise live. Former Leeds striker Ian Baird works in the background at Sutton, behind manager Paul Doswell.
Speaking after the club’s third-round replay win over AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday, Doswell said: “I dared not to even dream about it. If I’d done that and we’d have lost (to AFC Wimbledon) it would have made me ‘suicidal’ for too long – and the chairman. The two of us tried not to talk about it. But it’s a reality now.”