No Love Lost. How Chelsea And Leeds Teams Learned to Actively Dislike Each Other
There are few footballing rivalries that merit their own Wikipedia page. The hostility between Leeds United and Chelsea is one of these.
Popular supposition is often that the Chelsea and Leeds rivalry emanates from the 1970 FA Cup Final and, particularly, the replay. Not quite true. A few games in preceding years appear to sow the roots of the mutual antipathy.
As a backdrop you need to understand the image Leeds cast for themselves (or had cast, depending on your viewpoint) in the mid 1960’s. They got promoted to Division One in 1964 and immediately challenged for honours in both Division One and FA Cup. Their manager, Don Revie, was a complex man. “Rank paranoia was a feature of Revie’s career” according to the www.mightyleeds.co.uk website, which is highly informative, particularly on their 1960’s and 1970’s adventures. His team included intimidatory hard men like Bobby Collins, Billy Bremner, Willie Bell, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles and Jack Charlton and rightly earned itself the nickname “Dirty Leeds”. Even keeper Gary Sprake used to put it about, as John Boyle doubtless still remembers. The irony is Leeds had some gifted players (Gray, Lorimer and Giles to name but three) but they cultivated an image of a team happy to get their retaliation in first.
Every top team in those days had hard men (Chelsea had Ron Harris and Eddie McCreadie, for starters) but Leeds really were harder, more cynical, more provocative and more consistently brutal than their rivals. They perfected the harassment of referees (Bremner was particularly gifted at this), the rotational fouling, the ‘early foul that would avoid the booking’ and the mass punch-ups that got football such a bad press.
Chelsea were not the only team Leeds had ‘tough’ matches against – Everton, Manchester United, Sunderland and Liverpool all had notoriously bruising encounters with them at this time. It just seems, maybe just with hindsight, that many of the Chelsea games were more important and hence even more charged.
Revie, who wore a lucky blue suit on occasions, spent years moaning about how Leeds were unlucky or cheated. On occasions he certainly had a point, but this siege mentality often backfired when it mattered most. “We have enemies in the Press Box” is a classic Revie quote.
It seems clear that highly charged games over five or six seasons during this period helped contribute to the building of the rivalry, culminating of course in the 1970 final. The ‘dour Northerners’ against ‘flash Kings Road cockneys’ image inevitably includes some stereotyping, but there is more than a ring of truth about it. Revie was a pragmatic, puritanical man, in many ways the antithesis of the wise-cracking, volatile Tommy Docherty, and tales about his dislike of flashiness abound. It is hard to see Doc organising games of carpet bowls the night before matches.
There is no real obvious history of animosity between the teams in the early 1960’s, although Harry Smith effectively had his Leeds career ended in 1962 after a tackle with Chelsea’s Graham Moore.
1964/65. Newly promoted Leeds visited Stamford Bridge that September in a clog-fest that set the standard for a bruising series of encounters over the coming years. Collins brutal retaliation on Ron Harris was matched shortly after by McCreadie hammering into the influential Giles who had to leave the field of play on a stretcher, reducing Leeds to ten men (this was the final season before substitutes were introduced) and Chelsea ran out 2-0 winners. The whole game was played a breakneck pace, punctuated throughout by a series of fouls. It is possible that the hostility between the two sets of players dates back to this game. Having seen c30 minutes highlights of this game, there wasn’t much chanting, and not many Leeds fans were in evidence so there wasn’t any obvious fan hostility. Very brief highlights here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC7v1YX4b8o .
Chelsea, Leeds and Manchester United were all fighting for both League and FA Cup honours as the season entered April. Having just won the League Cup, Chelsea were in theory on for a unique treble. Chelsea imploded as the team ran out of energy (squad rotation was not as common in those days) and the infamous Blackpool incident (8 players sent home by Docherty for supposedly breaking a curfew) was the last straw in terms of title hopes. Leeds lost the league title on goal difference to Manchester United and a dull cup final to Liverpool, who had beaten a flat Chelsea in the semi-final. To get so close to honours a year after promotion was a great achievement by Revie, but the methods he and his team used left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Interestingly pocket-battleship Collins, arguably Leeds dirtiest player at this time (despite stiff competition), easily won the football writers 1964/5 Footballer Of The Year award, which suggests an ambivalence about Leeds approach from the gentlemen of the press.
1965/66. A 4th round FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge attracted a 57,000 crowd with thousands locked out and resultant chaos on the streets outside. A ludicrous mistake by London Underground staff, who misheard a ‘the game is on’ phone message from Chelsea as ‘the game is off’ and accordingly put up ‘Match Postponed’ notices at tube stations, probably didn’t help matters. Chelsea sold out of programmes well before kick-off, bizarrely later blaming this on Leeds fans purchasing multiple copies.
A superb goalkeeping display by Peter Bonetti and a goal from Bobby Tambling won a highly physical game that Leeds largely dominated in terms of possession and chances. Brief highlights here. http://www.britishpathe.com/video/chelsea-v-leeds-u Revie was left bemoaning their luck in a tournament they saw themselves well placed to win that season, a recurrent theme.
1966/67. The draw for the FA Cup semi-finals paired Chelsea with the favourites, Leeds United, at Villa Park. Over 62,000 packed the ground, including over 30,000 Chelsea fans. The sense of anticipation was massive, with Leeds looking for revenge and Chelsea trying to reach their first ever final. The mightyleeds.co.uk website, in a piece about this game, says that “the clubs did not get on and a bitter enmity had developed”. In the usual bruising encounter between the teams Leeds set about intimidating Chelsea (Sprake’s attempted decapitation of Boyle was only punished by a booking). The bare facts (Tony Hateley scored the only goal as Chelsea won 1-0) barely scratch at the surface of a tempestuous match. Charlton missed the game injured and Hateley easily outjumped his replacement Paul Madeley to score a classic header (one of his few significant contributions in a frustrating year at the club).
Terry Cooper had an equaliser disallowed for offside, which infuriated Revie and his team, but this was nothing compared with what was to happen in injury time. Leeds were awarded a free kick, waited a few seconds for Chelsea to form a wall then Giles passed to Peter Lorimer who thundered a shot into the net. Pandemonium ensued as referee Ken Burns disallowed it as the Chelsea wall hadn’t retreated ten yards. Leeds players surrounded Burns, to no avail. The final whistle went shortly after and Chelsea, after two successive losing semi-finals, had finally reached Wembley. Brief highlights here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmLMb1su5Lg and here http://www.britishpathe.com/video/fa-cup-semi-finals-leeds-v-chelsea/query/CHELSEA+V
The fact that newspapers pointed out that Chelsea had been the better team (a point underlined in ‘The Unforgiven’, an account of Leeds under Revie by Bagchi & Rogerson) meant nothing to an embittered Revie, his team and their hugely disappointed fans. It is clear that by this point relations between the teams were actively hostile, although as pointed out above, this had been brewing for a few years.
1967/68. A series of controversies and a set of poor results led to the departure of the volatile Tommy Docherty as Chelsea manager in October 1967, after six years in charge. The first game after Doc left was at Leeds. The Chelsea team were in uproar and, sensing blood and revenge, Leeds tore into them. A demoralised (and possibly hungover, according to some accounts) Chelsea were never at the races and lost 7-0, amid wild celebration from the Leeds fans. As an aside, papers reported that on the train home Chelsea fans attempted to attack the carriage containing the Chelsea board, Chairman Charles Pratt being widely seen by fans as the reason for the highly popular Doc’s leaving. Fortunately, the board appointed Dave Sexton shortly afterwards and the ship was steadied.
1969/70. A 5-2 thrashing by Leeds (on Match Of The Day) in January 1970, when Chelsea were widely seen as being given a footballing lesson, helped make Leeds firm favourites for the 1970 FA Cup Final. The 1-1 league draw at Elland Road earlier that season had led to six players being injured amid the usual flying tackles and open hostility. The bare bones of the two final games themselves are well documented. The first game on an absurdly muddy pitch, had bizarre goals and a stack of fouls and it was generally accepted that Chelsea were lucky to win a replay in a game Leeds dominated.
In the second game at Old Trafford, manager Dave Sexton ensured Eddie Gray, star of the first game, would have less space and time by putting Ron Harris to mark him. Harris clattered him early on, and Gray was far less effective second time around. Bonetti was flattened by Mick Jones and needed treatment before carrying on. The outright thuggery from both teams (Chelsea gave as good as they got) continued largely unabated. As mightyleeds.co.uk point out, 30 years later former referee David Elleray reviewed the match against the standards set by modern day refereeing. Elleray came to the conclusion that Leeds should have had seven bookings and three dismissals (Giles, Bremner and Charlton), while Chelsea deserved 13 bookings, including three each for Webb, Harris and Cooke. In the event there was only one booking, Ian Hutchinson for pushing Bremner to the ground after the Scot had hacked at a prone Peter Osgood.
Jones gave Leeds the lead past a not yet fully mobile Bonetti before half time, Osgood scored his iconic, classic equaliser and celebrated in front of the Chelsea fans in the Stretford End. David Webb’s extra-time winner, in front of the Leeds fans and a few delirious interlopers from London, must have been the last straw for a team who had been so near and yet so far in so many competitions over the past five years. The general public, however, probably had little sympathy with Revie and his team and there was certainly none emanating from SW6.
In an ironic twist, in the early 1970’s Leeds belatedly tried to build a trendy, showbiz image. Synchronised waving to fans before games, tracksuits with players names on, a ‘modern’ kit and sock tabs were all innovations introduced, with much mockery from many whose view of the club was carved from years of ‘Dirty Leeds’. This not entirely successful attempt at rebranding came about as Chelsea were starting to lose their glamorous image. Revie’s image was tarnished after he had left the club (to manage England) by a series of allegations about attempts to bribe opposition players.
Chelsea and Leeds both underachieved as teams between 1964 and 1972, although arguably for different reasons. What is clear, however, is that the players genuinely disliked each other – Jack Charlton’s infamous “Little Black Book” contained the name of at least one Chelsea player he was aiming to get retribution on. The open hostility between the two sets of players died down by the late 1970’s, by which point most of the usual suspects had retired and, perhaps critically, Revie had moved on.
In terms of antagonism between the fans, it is harder to pinpoint when this became overt – in the time available I haven’t been able to talk to fans who went away with Chelsea in the late 1960’s. There is brief blurred ITV film http://www.itnsource.com/shotlist/ITN/1968/11/30/FS301168068/?setlng=true&save=Save&v=0&a=0 of a small group of Leeds fans being ‘encouraged’ out of The Shed in 1968, and there was certainly chaos at Stamford Bridge at an opening day 4-0 Chelsea win in 1972/73 (exacerbated by a shambles as the East Stand was closed for redevelopment and 51,000 fans swamped the remaining three sides of the ground) – highlights here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YSaN-oKtXo . What is clear, though, is that by the early 1980’s both sets of fans had a reputation and clashes between the two had the police on full alert, as will doubtless be the case this week.
Wednesday’s game at Elland Road will be highly charged off the pitch, and given Neil Warnock is involved, probably on it too. Whether it will reach the on-pitch ‘heights’ of the late 1960’s is doubtful – if it does, the red card will be working overtime.
‘Chelsea – The Official Biography’. Rick Glanvill. Headline 2005
‘The Unforgiven’. Rob Bagchi & Paul Roberson. Arum 2002
‘100 Years Of The Blues – A Statistical History Of Chelsea’. Ron Hockings. 2007
Various Chelsea programmes 1964-72