The 1969-70 F.A Cup saw Leeds United and Chelsea take the final to a second match, the first time the season’s showpiece had not been settled at the first time of asking since it was moved to Wembley way back in 1923. And what a final it was.
The two teams fought out a thrilling, and most would agree, brutal, 2-2 draw on a Wembley pitch that was in no state to stage a game of this importance. At the second time of asking it was Chelsea who came out on top, taking the honours thanks to a David Webb extra-time goal at Old Trafford which brought to an end four hours of play in which two of the game’s toughest, and most talented, teams slugged it out for the trophy.
The competition had kicked off way back in September 1969 and when the ‘big guns’ entered the tournament on January 3rd there were still four non-league teams competing. Of these Brentwood Town succumbed to a 1-0 home defeat by Northampton Town whilst South Shields suffered a 4-1 loss at Queen’s Park Rangers. The other two, Sutton United and Hillingdon Borough were pitted against each other and it was Sutton who came out on top, winning the replay 4-2 at Gander Green Lane after a goalless draw in the first match at the Leas Stadium to send former England international Jim Langley’s team out of the competition and give Sutton a plum draw in the 4th Round against the mighty Leeds.
Elsewhere in the 3rd round there were upsets galore as five 2nd Division teams overcame top flight opposition. Carlisle United, Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Leicester City saw off Nottingham Forest, West Ham United, Arsenal and Sunderland respectively whilst the biggest surprise saw Sheffield United, who would eventually finish 6th in the second sphere, get the better of champions-elect Everton 2-1 at Bramall Lane. Chelsea were also given second-tier opposition but bucked the trend recording a comfortable 3-0 home victory over Birmingham City with goals from Ian Hutchinson (2) and Peter Osgood.
Don Revie’s Leeds barely avoided another shock, edging past Swansea Town, then of the Fourth Division, 2-1. Having fallen behind to a David Gwyther goal, United were on course for a shock early exit until Mel Nurse was sent off after a clash with Allan Clarke on the hour mark. Ten minutes later Johnny Giles converted a penalty and then with 12 minutes left Mick Jones scored to save Revie’s blushes. It says much for the Welsh club’s display that Gary Sprake, playing against his hometown team was the Leeds Man of the Match.
And so, after some talk of switching the tie to Elland Road, Revie’s star-laden team made the trip to Sutton. A crowd of 14,000 crammed into Gander Green Lane bringing in receipts of £8,000 for the Isthmian League club, the first amateur team to reach the 4th Round for 17 years.
Peter Lorimer scores for Leeds against Sutton
Dreams of a remarkable upset were quickly dispelled as four goals from Allan Clarke and a brace from Peter Lorimer saw the Yorkshire giants comfortably deal with an opposition team which included a fishmonger, a jig borer and a panel-beater in their line-up.
Chelsea were handed an all-first division tie at home to Burnley and Dave Sexton’s team seemed to be coasting into the last 16 when goals from John Hollins and Peter Osgood sent them two up. But Martin Dobson struck twice for the visitors in the last 10 minutes to force a replay at Turf Moor.
The Clarets took the lead in the second match but Tommy Baldwin equalised and a brace from Peter Houseman saw the visitors home.
There were shocks elsewhere in the 4th Round; 4th Division Scunthorpe United visited Hillsborough and shocked their hosts, overcoming a Sheffield Wednesday side who would finish bottom of the top flight 2-1. 2nd Division Watford hosted Stoke City and ran out 1-0 winners in front of a crowd of 23,000 thanks to a 25-yard strike from Colin Franks.
There were two more all Division 1 clashes. A George Best-less Manchester United comfortably overcome local rivals Manchester City 3-0 at Old Trafford. Willie Morgan slotted home a first half penalty after Bobby Charlton had been brought down and Brian Kidd added a pair in the second half. Crystal Palace, in their first season in the top flight, forced a goalless draw at White Hart Lane before seeing Spurs off 1-0 in front of 45,980 fans at Selhurst Park with a goal from Gerry Queen in what proved to be Jimmy Greaves’ last match for the North Londoners before departing for West Ham.
Palace’s reward for their win over Spurs was a home tie against Chelsea but they couldn’t repeat their heroics, losing 4-1 with over 48,000 in attendance.
Leeds had another home tie against lower-league opposition and easily saw off Mansfield Town 2-0. But the individual performance of the round came at the County Ground Northampton. Returning from a four-week van for kicking a ball out of the referee’s hands, George Best scored six times in his team’s 8-2 thrashing of their hosts. Elsewhere wins for Watford, Middlesbrough, Swindon Town and Queen’s Park Rangers ensured that the 2nd Division would be well represented in the quarter-final with the top flight also having four clubs through in Leeds United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
It was 1st against 2nd all the way in the last eight. Chelsea was handed another away draw in London making the short trip to Loftus Road to play Queen’s Park Rangers. Goals from David Webb and Peter Osgood inside the first eight minutes established the Stamford Bridge club’s superiority. Former Chelsea-man Terry Venables got the home team back in the game with a twice-taken penalty after another ex-Blue Barry Bridges had been brought down. Peter Bonetti saved the initial effort but was deemed to have moved too soon. Osgood restored Chelsea’s two-goal advantage after Mike Kelly failed to hold a John Hollins shot and then went on to complete a hat-trick before Bridges got a late consolation for the home team.
Manchester United travelled to Ayresome Park and took the lead through Carlo Sartori but a fine chip by John Hickton sent the match to a replay. At Old Trafford Bobby Charlton put the home side ahead but Hickton again provided the equaliser. But a penalty with 12 minutes to go from Willie Morgan saw the home team through to the last four.
A brace from Allan Clarke saw Leeds through a tricky looking tie at League Cup holders and Anglo-Italian cup winners Swindon so Don Revie’s men reached the semi-final without having faced top-flight opposition and it was left to Watford, priced at 40/1 entering the quarter-final stage, to provide the upset. The Hornets relied on a goal from Barry Endean, a major factor throughout their cup run, and some solid defending led by Man of the Match Ray Lugg to see off Liverpool in front of 34,047 fans, a result which set Bill Shankly on the road to rebuilding his team heading into the 70s.
Watford’s reward for their win was a semi-final clash with Chelsea at White Hart Lane.
David Webb scores for Chelsea against Watford
On a sand-covered pitch Chelsea took the lead when David Webb prodded home from close range after Watford failed to deal with a corner. But the lower division side hit back when a combination of a long-range shot from Terry Garbett and an uneven surface deceived Peter Bonetti. But then the Blues took over; Osgood, Hutchinson and a brace from Peter Houseman, who, along with Alan Hudson (who sadly missed out on a place in the final team through injury) had an outstanding game, saw them race to a 5-1 to earn their second Wembley appearance.
Part of the 55,000 crowd at Hillsborough.
While 55,209 were crammed into White Hart Lane to watch the ‘Southern’ semi, 55,000 were at Hillsborough, with 10 shilling tickets reportedly changing hands for £8, to see the clash of the giants between Manchester United and Leeds United. With Paul Reaney negating the threat of George Best teams fought out a tough goalless draw on another mud heap.
The teams met again nine days later in front of 65,000 fans at Villa Park and once again couldn’t be separated. There were plenty of chances but again, no goals so they met for a third time and Leeds kept their bid for an historic League, Cup and European Cup treble alive.
The second replay took place at Burnden Park and this time a crowd of 55,000 were on hand to see newly-elected Footballer of the Year Billy Bremner settle the tie with a superb goal after just eight minutes. Allan Clarke’s goalbound effort was blocked and Bremner rifled the ball past Alex Stepney from just inside the area.
Allan Clarke and Billy Bremner celebrate the Scots’ winner
Bremner’s strike proved to be the winner, and just like five years before he scored the only goal in a semi-final to deny Manchester United and earn his team a place at Wembley. Manager Revie, whilst acknowledging that his skipper was outstanding praised the team effort saying after; “The lads were wonderful, just wonderful. It was a perfect show”.
Bremner and Harris at the toss
So, on April 11, the two teams walked onto a Wembley pitch described by commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme as ‘like Goodwin Sands’, due to the fact that the Horse of the Year show had been staged just a few days previously.
The rivalry between the two teams had been building throughout the 1960s. Chelsea’s Tommy Baldwin would later say of the clashes between the two; “There were a lot of scores being settled from previous games whenever we played them. It just always seemed to go mad with everyone kicking each other” whilst Leeds star Johnny Giles said that there was; ‘a special sort of animosity’ between the teams whilst Blues striker Ian Hutchinson didn’t mince words; “They hated us and we hated them.” He said.
Way back in 1964 when the clubs were in a three-way battle for the title with Manchester United a game at Elland Road where Johnny Giles was stretchered off was described as ‘Never mind the ball’ by one reporter. The feud continued, including a cup semi-final at Villa Park in 1967 where Gary Sprake kicked John Boyle in the head.
Things would come to a peak at Wembley, the fifth meeting of the season between the teams and again at Old Trafford for the sixth.
Leeds were in early control in the first match and took the lead after 20 minutes when Jack Charlton headed home from a corner. Both Eddie McCreadie and Ron Harris seemed to have a chance to clear off the line but the conditions saw the ball roll underneath their combined efforts to clear. The Yorkshire team were well on top and taking better advantage of the easier conditions out wide with Eddie Gray giving Blues’ full-back David Webb a torrid time. But Chelsea managed to avoid slipping further behind and five minutes before the break they equalised with the pitch again playing a part, although the blame mostly fell of the Leeds ‘keeper. A speculative 20-yard shot from Peter Houseman somehow got past Gary Sprake and the break came with the teams all square.
Eddie Gray with his wife and the Man of the Match trophy
The second half was more even but, with Gray, later named Man of the Match, continuing to torment Webb who admitted afterwards; “I didn’t have a battle with him, I never got near enough to battle!”, it was the Yorkshire team who retook the lead with just six minutes left. After Gray had hit the bar with a rasping drive, an Allan Clarke header struck a post and Mick Jones followed up to rifle past Peter Bonetti who Chelsea had to thank for not being further behind. The Londoners bounced back again and managed to level when Hutchinson bravely headed home. There was still time for Leeds to strike the woodwork for a third time but Chelsea survived until the final whistle With the players energy sapped by the pitch, extra time failed to produce a goal so, for the first time in Wembley’s history the game went to a replay.
The stars talk about the first match.
With Leeds set to play the second leg of their European Cup semi final against Celtic there was an 18-day break before the replay, which may well have proved crucial for Chelsea’s hopes.
Chelsea manager Dave Sexton picked the same 11 for the second match but he did make one crucial positional change. Sexton knew that his team was unlikely to survive if Webb, tormented by Gray at Wembley, was forced to mark the Scot again. So he switched him to central defence with skipper Ron Harris taking over the right back position, a move the late Peter Osgood would later say; “won us the Cup”. Leeds boss Don Revie replaced goalkeeper Gary Sprake, held accountable for the first equaliser at Wembley, with David Harvey
The match was watched by a TV audience of 28million, the sixth largest television audience ever in the UK, and is popularly regarded as one of the dirtiest ever. Some years later referee David Elleray watched a recording of the match and said he would have sent off six players and booked 12. Over the two matches, referee Howard Jennings booked just one player, Ian Hutchinson. The legendary journalist Hugh McIlvanney said of the ref’s performance in the replay; “at times it appeared Mr Jennings would give a free kick only on production of a death certificate”.
Leeds went in front for the third time in the tie when Jones’s fine run and shot beat Bonetti whose agility had been hampered by a previous clash with the same player. In the second period, as football war continued to break out all over the pitch Chelsea equalised for the third time when a curling ball from Charlie Cooke was met by Osgood whose diving header gave Harvey no chance.
Extra-time was needed for a second time and finally Chelsea took the lead in the 224th minute. A long Ian Hutchinson throw was inadvertently headed back across his own area by Charlton and Webb rose at the far post and forced the ball over the line.
Ron Harris and Peter Osgood with the trophy
Having finally got the lead Chelsea held on comfortably for the remaining 16 minutes and in fact could have doubled their advantage had a Hutchinson effort not been ruled out for offside. Even with Charlton moving forward to support the strikers, Leeds failed to muster an equaliser of their own so the Londoners took the cup for the first time in their history. How much the game meant to the two teams was shown in the reaction of Charlton following the final whistle. After refusing to go up and collect his runners-up medal he later said; ‘It wasn’t the losing of the game, it was the losing of the game to Chelsea”.
Chelsea parade the trophy
It proved to be part of a disappointing end to the season for Leeds. Challenging for honours on three fronts, they were beaten to the title by Everton (Chelsea were third) and lost the ‘Battle of Britain’ when beaten by Celtic in the European Cup semi-final.
The following campaign saw both teams go on to glory in Europe – Chelsea won the Cup Winners Cup and Leeds took the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, and United would go on to claim victory at Wembley in 1972’s centenary F.A. Cup Final as well as capturing another 1st Division title in 1973-74. But the 60s decade closed, and the 70s started, with one of the most memorable finals of all time.