FORTY-FIVE years ago today proved another momentous day in Leeds United’s history, with a magnificent goal from newly-elected Footballer of the Year Billy Bremner taking them to Wembley at the expense of bitter foes Manchester United.
The venue was Burnden Park, Bolton in an FA Cup semi-final second replay on March 26, 1970 after games at Hillsborough and Villa Park yielded plenty of industry, but no goals.
But it was Leeds who were to emerge victorious, thanks to their midfield talisman Bremner, who crowned a fine individual showing by firing the only goal in three hard-fought and tense fixtures between the sides to prove the difference and book the Whites a place in the FA Cup final for just the second time and a date against Chelsea.
Fresh from being elected by his peers as the best player in the land, Bremner, pictured with the trophy he received the following week, provided more further evidence as to just why, not that anyone truly needed it.
It was the peerless journalist John Arlott who perhaps most sagely wrote that year about the totemic importance of Bremner to a team and his merits above George Best to be crowned the best player in the land.
The esteemed Guardian scribe wrote: “Above all Leeds have Bremner, the best footballer in the four countries.
“If every manager in Britain were given his choice of any one player to add to his team some, no doubt, would toy with the idea of George Best; but the realists, to a man, would have Bremner.”
Bremner’s energy, skill and leadership came to the fore during that FA Cup epic with the Red Devils, with both sides going at it hammer and tongs with no love clearly lost, first in front of 55,000 at Sheffield Wednesday and then nine days later in front of 62,000 at Aston Villa.
Three days later, 56,000 headed to Burnden Park to watch the final instalment, with Bremner pushed up to supplement the forwards line, with the ploy working a treat.
The tie-breaking moment arrived just eight minutes in when Allan Clarke nodded the ball down with Mick Jones’s clever dummy run splitting the Manchester defence, with Bremner needing no second invitation to hammer the ball past Alex Stepney.
Leeds then held firm against Manchester pressure, with the Lancastrians’ best chance coming when Best, for the only time, escaped the shackles of his nemesis Paul Reaney, with Willie Morgan failing to provide a decisive touch to the Northern Irishman’s cross shot.
Jones went close to sealing victory with two fiercely struck shots before the inimitable Bremner, typically, tested the reflexes of Stepney late on.
After the final whistle, there were ecstatic scenes among the Leeds players, with manager Don Revie summing things up nicely by saying: “The lads were wonderful, just wonderful, that was a perfect show.”
Leeds: Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Madeley, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles, E Gray. Substitute: Bates.