THE DATE May 28, 1975 will forever be etched in the minds of the Gray brothers, – and those of legions of Leeds United fans.
Forty years ago today, United lost 2-0 in the European Cup final against Bayern Munich on a bitter and ugly evening in Paris, forever besmirched by appalling refereeing decisions and fury in the stands. For the Whites, it was the darkest of nights.
The records may show that goals from Franz Roth and Gerd Muller gave Bayern victory at the Parc des Princes, but that does not tell half the story.
Shocking refereeing from Frenchman Michel Kitabdjian, who turned down two penalty appeals and compounded matters by disallowing a perfectly legitimate-looking second-half ‘goal’ from Peter Lorimer have stuck in the craw of Leeds followers for four decades.
Whites legend Eddie Gray viewed most of the proceedings from the bench before entering the fray as a substitute and while Paris possessed a long-held reputation for being a city of love, there was only rancour on offer that late Spring night.
He said: “How it unfolded was disappointing for everyone connected with the club because I don’t think there is any doubt that we deserved to win.
“We felt it was taken away from us, when you look at a few of the incidents – especially the penalty kick when (Franz) Beckenbauer brought down Allan (Clarke). That was just ridiculous.
“You can watch that as many times as you want and still not believe we did not get a penalty.
“All in, it wasn’t a very happy day for me in not starting the game, which was disappointing. But the team getting beat was the bigger disappointment, after putting so much into it.
“We had beaten a great Barca team with (Johan) Cruyff and (Johan) Neeskens in the semi-final as well.
“(Manager) Don (Revie) had left by then, but it still would have been great for ‘his’ team to win the European Cup.
“We would have probably gone from strength to strength if we’d won it. But instead, it was a slow downward spiral and break-up.”
For Gray’s younger brother Frank, who started the game at left-back at the tender age of 20, it was an evening which proved a water-shed moment for Leeds, whose descent as a major force for nigh on 15 years began when the final whistle blew.
Their next game in the competition came over 17 years later, again versus the German champions, in Stuttgart, in September 1992.
Paris 1975 is an occasion that the young defender had cause to rue more than most with Leeds nowhere near the potent force they were after that grievous blow with the club forced to rebuild for the remainder of the decade when he was there.
He said: “Not winning the European Cup final was a big defining point in Leeds history.
“A lot of the older players such as Johnny (Giles) and Billy (Bremner) were coming towards the end of their careers after the European Cup final.
“It would have been easier to attract the top players if we were European champions. We could well have continued after that.
“It was sad. I watched a documentary on Bayern Munich on Sky recently and all their players were talking about that game saying that they should not have won it and that all the referee’s decisions went their way and that Peter’s ‘goal’ was a goal, and that it should have been a penalty.
“We knew we should have won that game and we were the better team that night, no doubt about that.”