Leeds United and Liverpool's historic rivalry and a moment at Anfield from a different world

Liverpool at Anfield is a glamour fixture for newly-promoted Leeds United and the renewing of a rivalry that decided the destination of the 1968/69 top flight title.

Monday, 7th September 2020, 4:45 pm
RIVALS - Larry Lloyd, left and Kevin Keegan of Liverpool compete with Jack Charlton, right and Paul Madeley of Leeds United at Anfield. Pic: Getty

Once upon a time the two clubs were fierce rivals and it was Merseyside red and not Manchester red that represented the team the Whites most wanted to beat.

When, at a party, legendary manager Don Revie once playfully chided the wife of a YEP reporter for wearing a red dress, it was Liverpool to whom he was referring when he informed her that it was the colour of his and Leeds’ arch nemesis.

The rivalry was real, it was competitive but it was not bitter.

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“In the early days Liverpool were a huge side for us to play,” said Eddie Gray in a recent interview.

“There was great rivalry between the two teams and the two managers, there was a great respect for each other.”

That respect was never more evident than when Leeds travelled to Anfield on April 28, 1969.

Just two league defeats all season put Revie’s men in position to win the title with a point against Bill Shankly’s Reds.

A crowd of 53,750 packed the Merseyside ground and despite not seeing a goal, they got to witness history.

When referee Arthur Diamond blew the whistle for full-time, the 0-0 scoreline made Leeds champions of England for the very first time.

Prior to the game Revie had informed Billy Bremner that if the title was won, he should lead the team to the Kop end to salute the Liverpool fans.

The Scot needed a gentle reminder as Leeds celebrated on the pitch but duly obliged, taking the Whites players in the direction that Revie nodded.

‘Champions, champions, champions,’ came the cry from the home crowd and Leeds lapped up a 20-minute display of mutual respect that, in 2020, reads like a story from a different world, never mind a different time.

Commentator John Helm positioned himself on the famous Kop to record the reaction of Liverpool fans to Leeds’ clinching of the title on their turf and recalled a ‘moving tribute’ from Scousers who had just been denied celebrations of their own.

The moment stuck with the Leeds players and made Anfield a ground they cherished.

“I have to admit it surprised me that the Liverpool fans reacted the way they did that night; I hadn’t expected them to be so generous,” said the late, great Jack Charlton.

“They called me a ‘dirty big giraffe’ but it was affectionate, and Anfield became my favourite away ground after that.”

John Giles calls it the best moment of his time as a Leeds United player.

“I think my favourite memory would be Anfield in 1969,” said the Irishman.

“We never won anything easily as you know, but we had to get something at Liverpool to clinch it, despite the fact it was the second last match of the season, which we did luckily enough.

We had a record number of points and we still hadn’t clinched it so we never did anything easy.

“To go to Liverpool who were our nearest rivals, if we’d have lost on the night there was still a possibility we could lose it.”

“To go there and get it finished was great.

“Then to go to the Kop end who responded brilliantly to us – I think that was Don’s idea at the end of the match – them obviously being a great football city responded in the right way. That would be my best memory of Leeds.”

When they finally made it back to the changing room to drink champagne laid on by Shankly himself, the Leeds players were visited by Revie’s opposite number.

“We have not lost the title, you have won it. And you’re the best team in the country.”

The dynamic between the teams is different, now. Liverpool are the best team in the country and Leeds are Premier League newboys. But they will always have history.