IN an era when football hooliganism sadly pockmarked the beautiful game at frequent intervals, the events of 40 years ago at Elland Road achieved a certain notoriety.
The reputation of Leeds United, 2-0 down and staring down the barrel at an immediate FA Cup third-round exit at the hands of Roses rivals Manchester City, took a grievous wound after serious disturbances took hold in the final quarter of the tie, watched by a crowd of 38,517 on January 7, 1978.
After the game, the FA imposed a ban on United playing FA Cup games at Elland Road and events from that depressing afternoon were further compounded.
While the main talking point was the crowd trouble, with home supporters pouring onto the pitch at the Geldard End not long after City scored their second goal and kick-starting the significant disorder, an angry scuffle between home players Gordon McQueen and David Harvey as the pair waited for a City corner also had repercussions.
Leeds fined McQueen for his lack of discipline and within days he had left the club to join close friend Joe Jordan across the Pennines at bitter foes Manchester United.
A dark start to the new year in 1978 saw Leeds begin January with a 2-0 home defeat to Newcastle United and an even more bleak afternoon arrived five days later against City, who they had knocked out of the FA Cup during the previous season at Elland Road, with Trevor Cherry firing a dramatic late winner in a 1-0 fifth-round victory in front of 47,731 on February 26, 1977.
City were to get their revenge less than a year later, but the post-match discussions did not centre on the football on show, with ‘highlights’ shown on Match of the Day.
Much of the late footage revolved around the disorder, which began 12 minutes from the end of the game when one fan ran out of the Geldard End and took umbrage with visiting goalkeeper Joe Corrigan, shortly after young winger Peter Barnes – later to join Leeds – put City 2-0 ahead.
The invader was quickly hustled away, only for other home fans to head towards the pitch, with the trickle soon becoming a flood with a thin line of policemen and yellow coated stewards struggling to contain the unruly elements on the fringe of the pitch.
The players promptly withdrew to a safe distance and were eventually shepherded to the dressing rooms by referee Colin Seel.
The referee told the crowd, who he addressed on the pitch with a microphone, that he would not abandon the game and would stay until midnight if necessary to conclude it. It all made for an unedifying sight.Leon Wobschall
The official promptly told the crowd, who he addressed on the pitch with a microphone, that he would not abandon the game and would stay until midnight if necessary to conclude it, as the police on horseback attempted to restore order. It all made for an unedifying sight.
Eventually after a 13-minute interval – one ‘of shame’ in the words of Match of the Day host Jimmy Hill – the pitch was cleared and play eventually resumed with City going on to win 2-1, a victory marred by the unsavoury scenes.
Earlier, City held sway in the first half of the tie, although the headline development saw team-mates Harvey and McQueen clash in extraordinary fashion before being lectured and told to calm down by the referee.
It prompted a suitably surprised commentator Barry Davies to state: “I don’t think I have ever seen that in a match before. Quite extraordinary.”
In fact, McQueen had been involved in another moment of first-half controversy, with City’s protests for a penalty falling on deaf ears after he appeared to bring down tricky winger Barnes in the area.
City continued to press with Harvey making a good save to deny another dangerman in Dennis Tueart, with Leeds knowing plenty about his cup pedigree – with the Geordie being part of the Sunderland side who stunned the Whites in the 1973 final.
It was a tough half for Jimmy Armfield’s Leeds, who came into the game on the back of a dispiriting run of three defeats in their previous four matches.
Minus the physical presence of Jordan, Leeds – with Tony Currie operating in a more advanced forward role – struggled to impose themselves on City’s robust central defensive pairing of Dave Watson and Tommy Booth, despite some penetration on the wing from Arthur Graham.
City, inspired by Colin Bell, in the best performance of his ill-fated return from two years out with a serious knee injury, continued to dominate on the restart with Harvey denying Brian Kidd in front of the South Stand.
Eventually, the pressure told, with Bell proving a telling contribution.
The classy midfielder flicked on Watson’s free-kick, with Tueart reacting quickest to ghost in front of a couple of defenders to head home just after the hour mark.
Ten minutes later, City had doubled their money with Bell heading Willie Donachie’s left-wing cross towards goal, with a back-tracking Harvey turning the effort onto the bar – only for Barnes to pounce on the rebound and bundle the ball home.
It was the prelude to a handful of visiting supporters to race onto the pitch and celebrate with Barnes, but plenty more crowd shenanigans were to come.
At the other end, the rock-solid Corrigan made an alert save to deny Graham, the cue to a bit of argy-bargy in the box between both sets of players in a crowded goalmouth with tempers fraying.
It got too much for one home spectator not long after and the trouble then began in earnest.
Eventually, play did resume after a period of time and with tthe game petering out to a conclusion, Leeds did manage to pull a goal back late on.
It came after Currie was brought down by the onrushing Corrigan following Brian Flynn’s astute through ball, with Frank Gray assuming spot-kick duties and firing home in the 89th minute.
But it was to no avail, with Leeds bowing out of the cup and the inquest into the shameful crowd scenes beginning.
For Leeds, more cup pain arrived the following month with Armfield’s side being no match for Brian Clough’s rapidly emerging Nottingham Forest side.
Forest triumphed 3-1 in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final at Elland Road in front of a crowd of 43,222, with the East Midlanders finishing off the job in the second leg with a 4-2 victory at the City Ground, watched by 38,131 spectators.
League-wise, Leeds ended in the season in ninth place, with 1977-78 being the final campaign in which revered Super Leeds favourites Paul Reaney and Allan Clarke – a substitute in that FA Cup game against City – pulled on a Whites jersey.