As Hull City bid to become Yorkshire’s first FA Cup winner in 42 years, Richard Sutcliffe looks back to three previous finals.
‘GREAT winning the Cup, isn’t it?’
The words smacked of sarcasm and brought immediate guffaws from those present. Don Revie’s Leeds United, fresh from lifting the FA Cup at Wembley just a couple of hours earlier, were sitting in a service station just outside London and en route to Wolverhampton.
All had toasted the club’s 1-0 win over Arsenal – the last time a Yorkshire side lifted the famous old trophy – nothing stronger than a cup of tea in their hands and all were miserable as sin, knowing that the usual form for a Cup winning team was a post-match celebration party and then a night on the town in London.
Instead, Leeds had a vital final league game of the season 48 hours later at Molineux and Revie, whose side needed just a point to be crowned champions and become Yorkshire’s first double winners, had ordered his side straight to the Midlands.
The Cup winners had been allowed one plastic cup of champagne in the Wembley dressing room by Revie and a celebratory sip from the trophy itself. But that was all with even the Cup being left in the care of club secretary Keith Archer, whose job was to take it back to Elland Road.
“I’ll never forget it,” recalls Peter Lorimer, the club’s all-time top goal-scorer, of perhaps the flattest winners’ party of all time.
“We stopped at a service station just outside London on the way to Wolverhampton and ‘celebrated’, in the loosest sense of the word, with a cup of tea and a sandwich in the cafe. One of the lads joked, ‘Great winning the Cup, isn’t it?’ It just about summed up the situation.”
Lorimer and his team-mates may have cut a glum picture in the service station cafe. But that had not been the case a couple of hours earlier after carving their name in United’s history as the first – and, so far, only – winners of the FA Cup.
The 1971-72 season had been a coming of age for Revie’s men. Regarded as cold and dour in those first few years after winning promotion from Division Two, Leeds had blossomed into a team capable of playing the most entertaining football.
A little over two months before taking on Arsenal at Wembley, United had destroyed Southampton 7-0 and Manchester United 5-1 in back-to-back home games.
Revie had, in an attempt to given his lads the credit they deserved, also been on a charm offensive and even brought in Paul Trevillion, the highly acclaimed sports artist and illustrator for ‘You are the Ref’ column, to inject some US-style razzmatazz.
Sock tags, the team waving from the centre circle and tracksuits with individual players’ names on the back all arrived at Elland Road for the first time around the time Southampton and Manchester United were being put to the sword.
Come Cup final day itself, Revie, famously superstitious when it came to football, was give reassurance that his side would win after the team bus had driven past a bride on the way her wedding. Leeds, their manager reasoned, had so often been the bridesmaid rather than bride on big occasions that this meant it was going to be United’s day.
Revie was right, with Leeds dominating the May 6, 1972, Centenary final in front of a 100,000 crowd.
Allan Clarke hit the crossbar with a header and Lorimer had a shot bundled wide by Gunners goalkeeper Geoff Barnett before the most famous goal in United’s history arrived eight minutes into the second half.
An attempted pass by Alan Ball that was cut out by Jack Charlton inadvertently began the move that then saw Paul Madeley find Lorimer who, in turn, spread the play to Mick Jones on the right.
Clarke, showing the awareness that had persuaded Revie to shatter the British transfer record three years earlier when buying the Leicester City forward for £165,000, immediately sensed an opening and duly found sufficient space in the area to meet Jones’s inviting cross with a diving header that gave Barnett no chance.
Revie, mindful of how things had gone wrong in the past, calmly rose from the bench to remind his players to stay focused as all around him the United staff celebrated.
He need not have worried, though, with Arsenal going close just once in the remaining 37 minutes, when Charlie George’s shot crashed against the crossbar. The rebound was then stabbed wide by Peter Simpson and Leeds had won the Cup.
The only black spot for the Yorkshire club was an injury suffered by Jones during the final few minutes when the striker collided with Barnett. Not only did it leave Jones having to be helped up the steps to the Royal Box to collect his medal, it also meant he would not be fit to face Wolves the following Monday night.
Trevillion, drafted in to by Revie to try and improve United’s public image, also remembers the collecting of the Cup with mixed feelings.
“The saddest thing about the 1972 FA Cup final for me was the missed opportunity that came after the game,” said the illustrator. “Don, always looking for ways to make the public view his team more positively, had come up with the idea of presenting the Queen with a bunch of roses if Leeds won the Cup.
“Don loved roses and Terry Cooper, who had broken his leg and was not playing, was put in charge of getting the roses to the dressing room. He delivered them before kick-off.
“But then, in all the excitement, the roses were forgotten about and left in the dressing room. It was a real shame as the gesture would have shown Don in a completely different light and just what sort of a club Leeds were away from the public image.”
A far more pressing issue for Revie as Leeds headed straight to Wolverhampton from Wembley was a growing injury list.
Jones was out, while Eddie Gray, Clarke and Jonny Giles were all struggling.
All three needed pain-killing injections to play and were a pale shadow of themselves as Leeds lost 2-1 at Molinuex. It meant the dream of a first double was over, ensuring that United’s sole Cup triumph will always be remembered with mixed feelings.
Jack Charlton said: “We had such fixture congestion that it cost us. There were also people in the FA and Football League out to get us. Can you imagine a team having to play their final game of the season on a Monday night nowadays, just two days after winning the FA Cup?
“Why they could not have delayed the game to the Wednesday or Thursday was something we never got explained.
“In the end, we had to travel to Wolves, stay in the hotel and then play on the Monday. It was too much and we paid the price.”