When Don Revie's Leeds United brigade first took on Europe

LEEDS UNITED came within a whisker of sealing English football’s ultimate double upon their top flight return in the 1964-65 campaign.
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Yet United’s second-placed league finish as part of a season in which they also finished FA Cup runners-up meant a new quest for glory would present itself the following season - in Europe.

The 1965-66 campaign did not bring the silverware that Leeds or Revie would have hoped for, yet United made a huge impression in their first season in Europe, reaching the semi-finals as of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and again runners-up in the league.

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After a strong start to their league campaign, United’s European adventure began against Torino and after a 2-1 victory at Elland Road, Leeds progressed after holding their Italian hosts to a goalless draw in Turin.

MAIDEN VOYAGE: Jack Charlton, left, leads out Leeds United for their Fairs Cup clash against Valencia. Picture by Varleys.MAIDEN VOYAGE: Jack Charlton, left, leads out Leeds United for their Fairs Cup clash against Valencia. Picture by Varleys.
MAIDEN VOYAGE: Jack Charlton, left, leads out Leeds United for their Fairs Cup clash against Valencia. Picture by Varleys.

United had to see the job through with ten men with captain Bobby Collins suffering a broken thigh after a nasty tackle with no substitutes allowed in European football.

Jack Charlton then took the captain’s armband for the subsequent league game at Sheffield Wednesday with Johnny Giles then pushed further forward as Collins’ replacement.

Revie also signed winger Mike O’Grady from Huddersfield Town before Leeds were knocked out of the League Cup via a 2-1 loss at West Brom but the league title and the Fairs Cup were the two main points of focus.

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In the league, Northampton Town were hammered 6-1 in October, equalling United’s best top-flight since hammering Leicester City 8-2 in October 1938.

But Leeds then took just eight points from their next five league games before ensuring further progress on the Fairs Cup front by progressing past East German side SC Leipzig.

United then faced two crucial games against clear league leaders Liverpool in an astonishing Festive double header of two games in two days.

Peter Lorimer’s strike gave Revie’s side a 1-0 win at Anfield on December 27 but Bill Shankly’s Reds then won by the same score at Elland Road the following day.

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It would be Liverpool’s year but Leeds hit back with a 3-0 win at home to Sheffield Wednesday on New Year’s Day as a 17-year-old Eddie Gray netted on his first team debut.

United were then dealt another blow as Alan Peacock suffered damaged knee ligaments in a 2-0 reverse at Sunderland which ended his season.

But still Leeds battled on with Revie’s side then progressing past Valencia over two legs in the Fairs Cup either side of an FA Cup exit at Chelsea. In Europe, Ujpest Dozsa were next in the quarter-finals and the tie was effectively over after United blitzed their Hungarian opponents 4-1 in the first leg at Elland Road.

A 2-1 loss at Northampton Town before two defeats in two days against Blackpool then left United’s league title hopes as good as over.

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But after surviving a hostile Fairs Cup quarter-final second leg in Hungary Leeds had a Fairs Cup semi-final against 1964 winners Real Zaragoza to look forward to.

United were beaten 1-0 in the first leg in Spain but then produced a brilliant performance in the second leg to record a 2-1 victory meaning the tie would be needed to settled via a play-off match and Whites skipper Charlton won a coin toss to ensure that would take place at Elland Road.

Crafty Revie then got the local fire brigade to drench the Elland Road pitch for the play-off match hoping Zaragoza would come unstuck in heavy conditions.

The Spanish side ultimately eased to a 3-1 victory meaning United’s first Fairs Cup adventure was over.

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But as Collins returned from injury Leeds then sealed a second-placed finish with a final day draw at Manchester United and finishing in the top three ensured qualification for next season’s Fairs Cup meaning United could do it all over again.

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Thank you Laura Collins