THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

They weren't very popular but Don Revie's Leeds United side were certainly effective. James Calder takes a look back at their first League success

The long-term significance
This was Leeds United’s first League title. Developing what Geoffrey Green of the Times described as a “cult of collective anonymity”, the meticulous Don Revie shaped a resilient yet ruthless side that had won few friends since gaining promotion in 1964. But among the grit were regular flashes of brilliance. That, and their ability to absorb punishment and counter-attack to great effect, earned them general recognition as worthy champions. After their near-misses in previous seasons, championship success allowed Revie’s side to adopt a more expansive style. And though the “dirty” tag remained and only one more League title would follow, their consistency and organisation provided a blueprint that other less gifted teams tried to copy, Arsenal among them.

Story of the season
Everton, inspired by the “Holy Trinity” midfield of Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball, briefly went top in November, as did Arsenal before them. Thereafter, Leeds and Liverpool took control. The contest made for grim viewing at times. Identifying the Championship as his main priority, Revie had promised a positive approach only for a 5-1 thrashing at Turf Moor in October to prompt a rethink, with top scorer Mick Jones being employed as a lone striker for much of the rest of the season. Remaining undefeated from then on and conceding only 11 more goals, a vengeful Leeds would later put six past Burnley at Elland Road.

Bill Shankly’s superbly fit but dour Liverpool side held the lead at Christmas, a 2-1 win at Chelsea in January prompting their manager to comment: “Who will catch us now?” A rash of postponements checked their momentum, however, with Leeds, this time unhindered by domestic cup commitments, beating Ipswich in a February snowstorm to overtake them.

In a run-in featuring seven away games in their last ten matches, Revie’s side won 2-1 at Arsenal, a match that began with Gary Sprake flattening Bobby Gould with a left hook. A 0-0 draw at Everton then gave them a five-point cushion ahead of the decisive trip to Anfield in late April.

Weathering a Liverpool onslaught in front of a 54,000 crowd, Leeds produced a flawless defensive display, sealing the title with their eighth goalless draw of the season. Their efforts were applauded by an appreciative Kop at the final whistle.

European Cup holders Manchester United briefly dallied with relegation before finishing 11th and Newcastle United won the Fairs Cup, their last trophy to date. Arsenal lost 3-1 on a Wembley quagmire to Third Division Swindon Town in the League Cup final, a humiliating defeat that sped the creation of the 1971 Double-winning side. Leicester City became the first team since Manchester City in 1925-26 to go down and lose the FA Cup final (to Man City), while QPR’s dismal season included a 29-day managerial stint for Tommy Docherty.

For the record books
Leeds’ total of 67 points was a Division One record until 1979. Their total of two defeats was a new low for the 42-game season, as was the 24 goals conceded by Liverpool, a feat Shankly’s side would repeat in 1970-71. Spurs’ Jimmy Greaves was top scorer with 27 goals, two ahead of West Ham’s Geoff Hurst.

Same place today
Twelve of these clubs are currently in the top flight, though only Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton have been ever-presents. Wolves and Burnley have both had subsequent spells in the old Fourth Division.

Moved furthest away
Relegated in 1982, Leeds returned to win the title ten years later before going down again in 2004. They were demoted to League One in 2007, with Southampton joining them at the third level last year.

From WSC 279 May 2010

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