Fergie's shove, a blow to Scottish pride and Sprake's heroics - how Leeds United made British history in Europe
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Don Revie’s side scored 26 goals in 12 games over an 11-month period between October 3 1967 and September 11 1968 to win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
The competition held the possibility of some real glamour matches and could have sent the Whites to Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, France, Portugal or Belgium, but instead took them north of the border three times to face Scottish sides.
The season before, Don Revie’s side had gone all the way to the final and lost to Dinamo Zagreb, unable to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit in the return game at Elland Road.
They started the 1967/68 tournament in ferocious form, battering CA Spora Luxembourg 16-0 on aggregate, Peter Lorimer helping himself to five of the eight goals that made him the competition’s top scorer.
Serbians FK Partizan were Leeds’ next victims, beaten 3-2 on aggregate with Lorimer netting in both legs.
While Dundee, Rangers, Athletic Bilbao and Bologna received byes to the quarter-finals, Leeds had to overcome Hibernian and did so thanks to Eddie Gray’s goal in a 1-0 win in front of 31,522 at Elland Road, and a 1-1 draw at Easter Road, Jack Charlton getting on the scoresheet.
Leeds’ route to the final took on a distinct theme.
The final 16 pitted them against Glasgow Rangers and their 52nd game of the season ended 0-0 at Ibrox, with 80,000 watching.
Billy Bremner caught the eye of The Times with his performance. Their report said the 'indefatigable' Scot's 'strength of purpose, his dogged refusal to be beaten, covered the gaps.'
YEP reporter Phil Brown saw the stalemate as a big psychological win for Revie’s side.
“United struck one of the heaviest blows that Scotland’s football pride has had to take for many a year at Ibrox,” he wrote.
“They [United] had already played a long season, but they sailed through the game as if it was in September.”
They carried the edge into the second leg at an overcrowded Elland Road. A raucous 50,000 saw Alex Ferguson push Billy Bremner in the box and Johnny Giles slot home a penalty for a 1-0 lead, before Lormier made the game safe.
“Rangers played well and played hard, but United’s response was splendid after having to sweat to hold the incisive start the Scots made,” wrote Brown.
“As at Ibrox, United got hold of the game, and then dictated its course largely.”
Dundee were the third and final Scottish obstacle in Leeds’ path and after a 1-1 draw away from home, Eddie Gray scored the decisive goal at Elland Road. With the Kop shut due to building work, just 23,830 attended.
It was nearly three months before the final took place, UEFA allowing it to carry over into the following season due to a fixture backlog.
Ferencvaros, who boasted Hungarian internationals Florian Albert, Gyula Rakosi and Zoltan Varga, came to Elland Road for the first leg on August 7, 1968.
Live TV coverage and the summer holidays contributed to the lowly attendance of 25,268 and a scrappy match was decided by a scrappy goal, Charlton nodding down a corner for Mick Jones to poke home.
Ferencvaros trainer Dr Karoly Lahat complained that the game was ‘more fighting’ than football and declared his side the more technical of the two.
Five weeks later, Lahat’s men got the chance to prove their superiority at Budapest’s Népstadion yet were thwarted by an unyeilding, heroic defensive effort from the Whites, in front of a 76,000-strong crowd.
Gary Sprake, in goal, was the star of the show and produced world class stops, including one from a Dezső Novák free-kick that Brown described in the Yorkshire Post as the ‘save of a lifetime.’
The 0-0 scoreline made Leeds the first ever British winners and they partied into the next day but not much beyond – their title defence began a week later, at Standard Liege in the first round of the 1968/69 competition.