Former Leeds United defender Paul Reaney has described the club’s title-winning performance at Liverpool in 1969 as an “unforgettable experience” – and recalled the “astonishing” reaction of the Anfield crowd.
The Division One clash, which has been voted by YEP readers as their most memorable match of the 1960s, ended in a goalless draw and earned Leeds a first-ever top-flight championship after a fierce battle with Bill Shankly’s Liverpool.
Reaney acknowledged the “perfect” game-plan put in place by Leeds manager Don Revie and admitted his enduring surprise at the gracious response of the Reds supporters to a crowning moment in United’s history.
“It was a massive achievement for us,” Reaney said. “Not only to win the league, but to beat Liverpool to the title and win it an Anfield. “We went straight over to applaud our own supporters but Don grabbed hold of Billy (Bremner, United’s captain) and said ‘go and applaud the Kop’.
“Billy looked at him as if he was joking, but we did what we were told and walked in a row to the 18-yard line. It was quiet for a few moments but after a while the Kop started chanting ‘champions’ at us.
“I won’t ever forget that moment and none of the other lads will either. That sort of thing doesn’t happen in football – or very rarely anyway.”
Leeds needed a point from the game at Anfield to pip Liverpool to the title, and Bremner confessed to feeling intensely nervous in the hours before the fixture, saying: “I couldn’t sleep. I even got out of bed at four o’clock in the morning and smoked a cigarette to try and stop thinking about the game.”
Reaney said: “You always had a certain amount of nerves before matches, and especially one as big as that, but I don’t remember feeling more tense than usual.
“We went there knowing what we had to do and the tactics worked perfectly.
“Don Revie spelled out his plan and told us he wanted to stifle Liverpool’s better players – which was basically all of them. They didn’t have any poor players. It worked perfectly and there was never a time when I felt seriously under the cosh.
“We’d gone close to the title before, but to finally realise the ambition and make it ours was such a special moment, an unforgettable experience.
“Bill Shankly was a winner but a good man, and he and Don were mates. He came into our dressing room to speak to us afterwards and say well done.
“We had a reputation in those days and a lot of people didn’t like us but winning the league title takes class and quality. I think Shankly would have been first to say that.”
The Reds had the strongest defensive record in Division One and a home record bettered only by Leeds, who saw out the campaign without losing at Elland Road.
Reaney said: “To win the title at Anfield was really satisfying.
“It was as difficult a place as you could go to with that sort of pressure on you. All eyes are on you, waiting to see if you buckle. We never did.”
Result of 1960s Match of the Decade poll:
Liverpool 0 Leeds 0 (1969) – 45 per cent
Leeds 1 Arsenal 0 (1968) – 29 per cent
Ferencvaros 0 Leeds 0 (1968) – 21 per cent
Charlton Ath 0 Leeds 2 (1964) – 3 per cent
Liverpool 2 Leeds 1 (1965) – 2 per cent