Recently the English Championship side Leeds United celebrated its centenary so club Historian Tom Wright looks back at the history between the clubs.
Just recently the English Championship side Leeds United celebrated its centenary. Formed in 1919 after the expulsion of Leeds City by the Football League following allegations of making illegal payments to their players during the First World War, United were accepted as members of the Midland league playing at City’s former Elland Road ground. The new club, however, would have an early chequered history. Elected into the Football League in 1920, United would win promotion into the top division as champions in 1924, but the following few seasons would prove difficult and they would be relegated in 1927, the first of three demotions the club would suffer over the next few decades.
Don Revie lifts the FA Cup in 1972 pictured with Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner and Paul Reaney
In 1961 the former Manchester City and England player Don Revie was appointed manager of a club that was then in severe financial difficulties, only a victory on the final day of the season staving off the threat of relegation into the Third Division. Things were about to change, however. Under Revie, United would soon become one of the top sides in the country, their first major trophy a victory over Arsenal in the 1968 league cup final. By that time however the club had already established an impressive European pedigree by reaching the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup the previous season, only to be defeated by Dynamo Zagreb. It would be just the start of the most successful period in the clubs history. Despite losing in the European final, a fifth-place finish in the league had guaranteed the Elland Road side a place in the 1967-68 competition. Meanwhile back in Edinburgh, a fifth-place finish at the end of the season had also ensured Hibs entry into the Fairs Cup for the fifth time.
After defeating Porto 4-3 over two legs and the Italian side Napoli, in the third round, Hibs had been drawn against Leeds United, the first game to take place under the Elland Road lights. Hibs had always been a big draw in England and in November 1953 had even been invited to inaugurate the Leeds floodlights, United winning a thrilling game 4-1 in front of over 32,000 spectators.
Pat Stanton scores past Dino Zoff at Easter Road
Hibs would be under no illusions. A United side containing several full internationals including the Welsh goalkeeper Gary Sprake, England Cap Norman Hunter, Irishman Johnny Giles, and the Stirling born Billy Bremner, a player that Hibs had tried sign several years before, were certain to provide a significant challenge.
On a treacherous ice-bound Eland Road pitch that made good football difficult for both sides, Hibs had been kicked, pushed and shoved throughout the entire 90 minutes but had refused to be intimidated. Despite conceding an early goal scored by Eddie Gray after only four minutes, the visitors had proceeded to make one of the top teams in England look second rate with a spirited all-round performance, and according to some, were already favourites to progress into the next round even with the second leg in Edinburgh still to come. The main talking point of the evening, however, had occurred midway through the first half when the Hibs centre-forward Colin Stein, who had already been on the receiving end of several ‘harsh tackles’, was carried off on a stretcher after he had been crudely bundled onto the trackside by Bremner. Incredibly, and much to the fury of the large number of travelling fans, Bremner had not even been spoken to by the referee. There would be no more goals, and despite the almost total dominance of the visitors, the result had left the second leg in Edinburgh finely balanced.
Hibs tremendous performance at Elland Road had created enormous interest in the return leg at Easter Road, and such was the demand that the kick-off had to be delayed for several minutes to allow over 45,000 fans time to enter the ground. Hibs started the game well and after just five minutes Colin Stein had levelled the overall score when he lobbed goalkeeper Sprake from an extremely narrow-angle despite the valiant efforts of Jack Charlton to prevent the ball from crossing the line. From then until the end Hibs were in almost total control as they ‘proceeded to show their opponents who were the masters,’ Leeds at no time looking likely to score. However, with just five minutes remaining and the aggregate scores level, the visitors were awarded an indirect free-kick inside Hibs penalty area after an over-fussy Welsh referee Clive Thomas, an individual who was no stranger to controversy, had penalised the Hibs goalkeeper Wilson for carrying the ball more than four steps after he had been impeded by the Leeds Scottish inside-right Lorimer. The new four-step ruling had been introduced only at the beginning of the season and it was to prove expensive for Hibs. With time fast running out, the resultant free-kick by Giles had allowed the giant centre-half Jack Charlton to out jump the Hibs defence to score the goal that would end Hibs interest in the competition and send Leeds into the next round of a competition that they would eventually win when defeating the Hungarian side Ferencvaros in the two-legged final.
Hibernian Manager Eddie Turnbull
Five years later the sides would meet again in a European competition. Now managed by the former ‘Famous Five’ legend Eddie Turnbull, a 3-1 aggregate victory over Keflavik from Sweden had seen Hibs safely through to the second round. However, any hopes of avoiding one of the favourites in the draw would be dashed when they were again paired with Leeds United, at that time considered to be not only the top side in England but one of the best in Europe. Since their last meeting, Hibs had won the league cup and the Drybrough cup twice, while the Elland Road side had won the Fairs Cup twice, the League Championship, League Cup and the FA Cup, a quite magnificent pedigree. Once again the first leg would take place at Elland Road. Writing in a national newspaper before the game, the former Leeds and England centre half Jack Charlton, at that time manager of Middlesbrough, had advised ‘Hibs and their supporters to save the expense of their bus travel as they had no chance against a Leeds side then containing nine present or former internationals.’ As could perhaps be expected, the newspaper article had been pinned on the wall of the Hibs dressing room prior to the kick-off, and it would have the desired effect.
As was manager Eddie Turnbull’s habit in Europe, Hibs attacked from the first whistle and only a tremendous performance by the Leeds Scottish international goalkeeper David Harvey had prevented the visitors from taking an interval lead, probably by more than one goal. In what would possibly have been his finest ever 90 minutes in a Hibs jersey, Tony Higgins had missed the best chance of the game near the end when he headed over the bar from close range when it seemed easier to score, the game ending goalless. According to one newspaper the following morning Hibs had ‘murdered the English side in midfield with Pat Stanton particularly outstanding.’ Although the game had ended goalless it had undoubtedly been a moral victory for the Easter Road side, and later the Leeds manager Don Revie would confess that ‘he had always known that Hibs were a good team and they had proved it tonight.’
Alan Gordon goes for goal at Easter Road but is denied by the Leeds United goalkeeper.
In the replay at Easter Road watched by a crowd of 36,000, far fewer than the 45,000 expected, Hibs had been denied a deserved victory against it has to be said, a Leeds side severely weakened by injury, when an Alan Gordon goal had been ruled off for offside. After initially awarding the goal, the referee had changed his decision after consulting a linesman, the only person in the ground who thought the Hibs centre-forward had been offside. With a display of totally negative and time-wasting antics that did not endear them to the Hibs support, the Leeds players had also continually contested the referee’s decisions, antics that had clearly been designed to settle for penalty kicks, and that’s how it would eventually turn out. Even with the advantage of an extra 30 minutes, the game remained goalless, and it was now on to penalties, the first time that either side had faced the situation in a competitive game. The use of penalty kicks to decide a result had only come into operation at the beginning of the season, replacing the unpopular tossing of a coin.
Captain Pat Stanton took the first kick but despite sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, his otherwise well-struck shot had hit the post before rebounding to safety. All the others were converted and despite Hibs having been the dominant side over both legs, the result gave champions-elect Leeds an undeserved passage into the next round
The Leeds manager Revie and his assistant had both stood in the centre-circle while the penalty kicks were taking place which was in clear breach of the rules. An immediate protest was made by Hibs to the UEFA observer attending the game, but despite Revie later being found guilty of deliberately infringing the rules and suspended for Leeds next game in Europe, Hibs were denied the replay that they had probably been seeking. To add insult to injury, although their case had technically upheld Hibs had even been required to forfeit the 500 franks that accompanied the appeal.