How Leeds United overcame the odds to reach Bayern Munich cup final

LEEDS UNITED’S 1974-75 campaign should have ended with the club being crowned champions of Europe.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 31st May 2020, 5:50 am

Instead, for only the second time in the last eight years, the Whites finished up with nothing.

One of the club’s deepest wounds of all was revisited this week with the 45th anniversary of United’s highly contentious 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the European Cup final in France.

Whites legend Eddie Gray knows only referee Michel Kitabdjian prevented Leeds from being champions of Europe, denying the Whites two clear penalties and wrongly disallowing Peter Lorimer’s scorching volley for offside.

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KEPT BUSY: Leeds United line up for a team photograph before their European Cup semi-final second leg clash against hosts Barcelona in May 1975. The contest was United's 62nd fixture of a 65-game season. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images.

Yet in what was a staggering 65th game of the season, Gray says United performed wonders even making it to the European Cup final – even if events at the Parc des Princes failed to land United the rewards they deserved.

For Leeds, the 1974-75 campaign marked a new beginning with legendary Whites boss Don Revie leaving the Whites after 13 years in charge to take the England job as United looked to Brian Clough as Revie’s successor.

Revie departed United having taken the club out of English football’s second tier by winning the 1964 Second Division title with Leeds going on to land two First Division titles, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Charity Shield.

Having been crowned champions of England in May 1974, the following season, United’s first after Revie, began with the bid to add another Charity Shield against FA Cup winners Liverpool.

Gray remembers it well, how Johnny Giles somehow escaped a red card for a right hook on Kevin Keegan but how Keegan and Billy Bremner were instead later sent off following another clash and then words with Bob Matthewson.

Both threw their shirts to the ground in disgust and both were later banned by the FA until the end of September.

By then, at Leeds, Clough had been sacked after winning just one of his first seven games in charge as his ill-fated reign began with defeat on penalties to Liverpool in the Charity Shield.

Former Bolton Wanderers boss Jimmy Armfield took over and arrested the slide but United were ultimately unable to add another piece of silverware with a Whites side who had finished in the top four for every season in the past ten years but were only set for a ninth-placed finish.

United’s bid for glory in the FA Cup ended in the quarter finals, with Leeds dumped out of the League Cup in round four.

But Gray says there was much more to the 1974-75 campaign than the trophyless season that the record books suggest.

“What you have got to remember when you look at that season is that the team played 65 games,” Gray told the YEP.

“That’s an awful lot of games.

“We had a few replays in the FA Cup against Ipswich, we had a replay against Wimbledon and 65 games is a lot of games. We had nine games in the European Cup and we kicked off in the Charity Shield which was Brian Clough’s first game.

“That was the game in which Billy and Kevin got sent off for having a spat and taking their shirts off but the start of it was nothing really to do with Billy.

“Billy got drawn into it and he ended up getting a long suspension.

“But when you actually look at the start of that season we were used to winning games and we lost a few games early on. I think of the first eight or nine games we lost four which was unusual and when you actually look back, of the first eight games or so I think we only won one and that was at home against Birmingham.

“We drew a couple but we lost four and that was the disappointing thing.

“Jimmy came in and Jimmy helped turn it around. It was a bad start in the league for us that season but to get to the European Cup final was a tremendous achievement.”

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