Down Memory Lane: When Clarke sniffed out Cup joy for Leeds
When Leeds United meet Tottenham in an FA Cup fourth round replay tonight many Elland Road old-timers’ thoughts will go back to those glory days and an era climaxed by a 1972 FA Cup Final victory over Arsenal.
They eliminated Spurs 2-1 in an earlier round that year but haven’t collected the trophy since. Will success tonight be an omen leading them, perhaps, all the way to the majestic new Wembley in May?
That would be the signal Leeds are in the top drawer again after emerging from a dark, depressing phase of indifferent performances, staggering debt, internecine boardroom strife, a mass sale of players and a list of sacked managers reading like a Who’s Who of football — Brian Clough (44 days), Jimmy Armfield, Jock Stein (44 days), Jimmy Adamson, Allan Clarke, Eddie Gray, Billy Bremner, Howard Wilkinson, George Graham, David O’Leary, Terry Venables, Peter Reid, Eddie Gray, Kevin Blackwell, Dennis Wise and Gary McAllister.
The 1972 final was labelled The Centennial although actually only the 91st due to cancellation in the years of the two World Wars. It was the 44th played at Wembley and what a gala occasion with the Leeds fans providing the colour and the introduction of the club song ‘Leeds, Leeds, Leeds (Marching On Together)’ which reached the top ten in the UK chart.
Arsenal, with Northern Ireland back Pat Rice, now assistant to manager Arsene Wenger, were the favourites despite the hype of Leeds manager Don Revie who left in 1974 for his controversial spell as England manager.
Leeds had won the UEFA Cup and finished second in the First Division the previous year.
On the pathway to the 1972 final Leeds defeated Spurs, eliminated Birmingham 3-0 in the Hillsborough semi-final while Arsenal had pipped Reading 2-1 and Stoke City 2-1 in a Goodison Park replay.
The odds on Arsenal were shattered almost from kick-off as Leeds ran the Wembley show, their back four nullifying the threat from Arsenal strikers, Charlie George and John Radford; in contrast Leeds front-runners, Allan Clarke and Mick Jones, tortured and tormented the Arsenal defenders.
And it was the rampant twin spearhead which led to Leeds breaking the deadlock after 53 minutes, Jones floating a shoulder-high ball into the box where perfectly-placed Clarke, known as Sniffer, headed into the net from 15 yards.
As a Cup Final, watched by 100,000, it rated below average. Neither side produced the standard of football normally associated with them, Clarke didn’t help either when he clipped Alan Ball after only three seconds and two minutes later Bob McNabb brought down Peter Lorimer — not a football feast to put before royalty.
Yet there were thrills, too. George’s fierce volley cannoned off the bar while Clarke and Lorimer also struck the timber.
That early goal, however, had done the damage, enabling Leeds to win the FA Cup, then a much more prestigious tournament than today. Mick Jones, one of the heroes, dislocated his shoulder and had to be assisted up the steps to the Royal Box by Norman (Bites Yer Legs) Hunter for the trophy and medal presentation — and a special cheer from the crowd.
Will Leeds under the new and rejuvenated management of Simon Grayson and operating now in the black, have another Wembley date in their diary this season? Tonight will help us find the answer but a vibrant, highly competitive Leeds is a major plus factor for British football.
FA CUP FINAL: Leeds United 1 Arsenal 0 (At Wembley Stadium, May 6, 1972)
Leeds United: Harvey, Reaney Madeley, Bremner (capt), Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles, Gray. Substitute: Bates.
Arsenal: Barnett, Rice, McNab, Storey, McLintock (capt), Simpson, Armstrong, Ball, George, Radford, Graham. Substitute : Kennedy for Radford 73.
Referee: David Smith.
Scorer: Leeds United Clarke 53; attendance: 100,000
Pathway to final: LEEDS: Round 3 Bristol Rovers 4-1; Round 4 Liverpool 0-0 (Anfield), 2-0 (Elland Road); Round 5 Cardiff City 0-2; Round 6 Spurs 2-1; semi-final Birmingham 3-0 (Hillsborough).
ARSENAL: Round 3 Swindon Town 0-2; Round 4 Reading 2-1; Round 5 Derby County 2-2; first replay 0-0, second replay 1-0 (Filbert Street); Round 6 Leyton Orient 0-1; semi-final Stoke 1-1 (Villa Park), replay 2-1 (Goodison Park).