September 4, 1976, Division One

LeedsvDerby1504 September ~ Two recent League champions (Leeds in 1974, Derby in 1972 and 1975) had started the season with high expectations, but poor results – both were winless after three games. Leeds manager Jimmy Armfield says in his programme notes that the two goals conceded in the home game against West Brom "were what I termed sloppy goals by First Division standards even allowing for the fact that they were both well taken by Albion". Doesn't this cut right to the crux of one of football's centric philosophical questions? Did West Brom score twice because they were good, or because Leeds allowed them to be good? Are goals the result of good play by the scoring team, or poor play by the defending team?

Yet against Coventry, a 4-2 away defeat, Armfield points out that "two of the goals resulted from fierce long range drives and there is very little you can do to prepare for those". Well, apart from coaching your players to close down opponents when they're 30 yards out and shaping up to shoot. Here, it seems, Armfield is happy to cede the pure talent to Coventry, rather than admit to any possible deficit within his own ranks. There's more. The 0-0 away draw at Birmingham, where his team were less entertaining and more defensive than at Coventry, yielded a more positive result in terms of points. Which would the fans prefer? So many conundrums and contradictions, and we're still only on page two.

There is a further paradox on page five. Under the headline Our Conduct, Billy Bremner appeals to the fans to show "the rest of the country just how we at Elland Road behave". If Bremner's advice and example were followed, then 33,000 people were out on the streets of Leeds that evening going in knee high on innocent passers-by and haranguing imaginary referees. Given that it was 1976, this sounds more than plausible (no letters, please).

Targeting the fan demographic Woolworths suggest: "While you are in town shopping before and after the match, why not have a meal or snack in our licensed restaurant?" If I ever build a time machine, I reckon that is absolutely the first thing I will do.

Result Leeds United 2 (Cherry, E Gray) Derby County 0
Crowd 33,352
Leeds Stewart, Reaney, F Gray, Bremner, Madeley, Hunter, Cherry, Clarke, McNiven, Currie, E Gray
Derby Moseley, Thomas, Nish, Macken, McFarland, Todd, Newton (King), Gemmill, Rioch, George, James

Ian Plenderleith

Ian Plenderleith's "Rock n Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League" is published this week by Icon Books

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