If this game had been on SkyTV they would be trying to come up with superlatives to outdo ‘massive’ as the curtain raiser for the 1974-75 season got underway at Wembley.
The meeting promised plenty of drama as two of English football’s heavyweights went toe-to-toe. But it wasn’t just the players who were in the spotlight. The current managers were sharply in focus, not least because they were taking charge of their teams for the first time. Both replaced legends of the game.
The Charity Shield (since renamed Community Shield) had started off as a professionals v amateurs match at the early part of the twentieth century. From 1930 the format of league champions v FA Cup winners took shape. But the game and format was patchy and inconsistent and it wasn’t until 1959 it was moved to the start of the season. There seemed to be a decision every year as to which teams would compete in the match. In 1974 Ted Croker, then FA Secretary, created the current format of a match between League Champions and FA Cup winners, to be played as a curtain raiser for the new season, at Wembley Stadium. It was also the first time the Charity Shield would be televised.
A dream come true
The very first televised match was potentially a dream come true for the organisers. Liverpool were FA Cup holders and had won the League in 1973. Leeds United were reigning League Champions and had won the FA Cup in 1972 and were beaten finalists a year later. Each of the previous four FA Cup Finals contained either Leeds or Liverpool. In the League the two had finished in the top three in each of the previous three seasons. These were giants. Yet almost as big as the clubs themselves were the managers who had overseen this domination. Bill Shankly (Liverpool) and Don Revie (Leeds United). At the end of the 1973-74 season both had resigned their posts, leaving a huge vacuum.
English football was far from a two-horse race, with Everton and Arsenal competing for honours. Into this battle burst Brian Clough, taking his Derby County side to the League title in 1972 just three years after they were Second Division Champions. A year later they reached the European Cup Semi-Finals, losing to Juventus. Clough then tried to call the bluff of Derby’s Chairman, Sam Longson, when he threatened to resign after one of their many fall outs, but this time Longson accepted it. Clough then spent eight months at Brighton in a rather unsuccessful spell.
In April 1973 England sacked World Cup winning manager, Alf Ramsey, after they failed to qualify for the 1974 tournament. Former Manchester City manager, Joe Mercer, took over as caretaker manager. England had the British Home International Championship and then an Eastern European tour, which Ramsey had arranged before he was given the push. Under Mercer England won three, drew three and lost one of their matches and for a while it seemed he might get the job on a permanent basis, despite appearing reluctant. Eventually, England plumped for Don Revie as permanent manager. This resulted in a vacancy for the Leeds United job. To everyone’s amazement, including some of his closest friends, Clough put himself forward.
Clough had been a bitter critic of Leeds and Revie’s methods. He believed they had not won any honours fairly. They had adopted a particularly tough brand of football, often resorting to kicking opponents off the park, as well as pursuing a continual strategy of gamesmanship. Clough had made no secret of his view of the side as “dirty” and “cheats” and also called for the club to be demoted to the Second Division as a punishment for their poor disciplinary record. The Leeds players had wanted Johnny Giles to be promoted to manager, but the directors chose Clough.
At one of his first training sessions he told the players:
“You can throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly”.
He then revealed his plan to get them to win them all again but playing “clean”. Unfortunately, the players were clearly unimpressed, struggling to conceal their utter contempt for their new boss. One player, Joe Jordan, had been singled out by Clough as a diver and a cheat and once he was installed in the Leeds hotseat, Clough duly signed two strikers, Duncan McKenzie and John O’Hare, who were immediate challengers to the Scottish international’s position. Against this backdrop they embarked on the new season. The Elland Road dressing room was full of strong characters, all of whom would need persuading Clough was the right man for the job.
The Charity Shield was to be Clough’s first game as manager of Leeds United.
Shanks shocks the world
At Anfield, Bill Shankly had just guided Liverpool to their second FA Cup success, both under his management. In 1973 he guided them to their eighth League title, and his third, as well as their first ever European trophy, the UEFA Cup. He was the most enigmatic manager English football had ever seen with many column inches given over to his quotes. When he took over at Anfield they were a Second Division team, a shadow of a once great club. He guided them to promotion and then the League title within a few years. He’d been at the club for over fourteen years, yet on 12th July 1974 Liverpool chairman, Peter Robinson, shocked the football world by announcing Shankly was resigning from the club. The news shocked football and even when the teams took to the field few at Liverpool knew how they were going to be able to continue. First team coach, Bob Paisley was a reluctant replacement.
The Charity Shield was to see Shankly lead out his Liverpool team for the last time.
Years later Clough revealed he didn’t want to lead his team out that day, claiming he had asked Revie to do it. He felt as Revie had won the title with Leeds, he should have the honour of leading ‘his’ team out, but Revie declined the offer stating this was Clough’s team now and his ‘privilege’ to lead them out. Such was the distance between manager and team, Clough spent much of the match watching from Liverpool’s bench.
Liverpool’s star player was Kevin Keegan. The 23-year old had been signed as a scrawny teenager from Scunthorpe, yet under Shankly he’d moulded himself into an important player for both club and country. He scored twice at Wembley in May as Liverpool lifted their second FA Cup beating Newcastle, 3-0. England’s caretaker manager, Joe Mercer saw Keegan as an important part of the team and played him in each game he was in charge. After the euphoria of scoring twice in the FA Cup Final, Keegan got his first international goal when he scored against Wales in the Home International Championship. From there England embarked on an Eastern European tour, and after matches against East Germany and Bulgaria, there was almost an international incident when Keegan was arrested and beaten up in Belgrade airport. After FA officials managed to convince security guards of who they were attacking, all charges were dropped. Keegan went onto score in the subsequent match against Yugoslavia.
In a pre-season game at Kaiserslautern, Keegan was sent-off for punching an opponent. Liverpool claimed it was Peter Cormack who’d thrown the punch, but years later Keegan admitted it was him as several players had been looking to get retribution for a bad tackle on one of their teammates. Keegan just happened to get to the player first. He’d been through an eventful few months.
Leeds talismanic captain was Billy Bremner. The diminutive, fiery-haired Scot was a Revie-disciple, playing a vital role in the club’s success. He was in the Leeds team beaten in extra time by Liverpool in the 1965 FA Cup Final. He’d just spent the summer with the Scotland team for the World Cup in West Germany, where they went out in the Group stage without losing a game. He was known for his no-nonsense, tough-tackling approach and was the undisputed leader of this notorious side.
To combat this, Liverpool had an equally renowned hard-man, Tommy Smith, and these were the two best teams in England, neither wanted to give an inch. You had the perfect recipe for a real humdinger yet few were prepared for what they would witness.
The kick off – in more ways than one
The scene was set early on when Allan Clarke was a little vigorous in a challenge on Phil Thompson and Smith took it upon himself to let Clarke know what he thought of it. That challenge earned Smith a booking. In response, Norman Hunter kicked Steve Heighway up in the air. Nineteen minutes in and Phil Thompson played a ball forward where Keegan turned Hunter and his shot was parried by David Harvey in the Leeds goal. The ball bounced up and Phil Boersma bundled it over the line for the opening goal. Liverpool used that move several times in the first half as Keegan was giving Hunter a torrid time, but in the end he would pay for his impudence. It was all Liverpool as Hall and Boersma both forced Harvey into good saves. Emlyn Hughes then fired a fierce shot against the bar from thirty yards out. Leeds only meaningful chance fell to Clarke who headed Reaney’s cross wide when unchallenged in the area.
Second half and it kicks off again
In the second half Leeds, who’d looked sulky and petulant all afternoon, came more into it but there was little of their zip and movement. Things then literally ‘kicked-off’ on the hour. Liverpool attacked and Boersma again forced Harvey into a save. Once again the keeper couldn’t hold it but the follow-up went across the goal to where Cormack retrieved it on the right wing. Smith then found Hughes, free in midfield just outside the ‘D’ and as he played it to his left to find Keegan, two Leeds players, Giles and Bremner, both converged on the Liverpool skipper and ‘assaulted’ him. Keegan tried to find Hall to his right but Bremner got hold of the ball and as he attempted to bring the ball out of defence, Hall managed to nick it. The ball was now loose with both Bremner and Keegan going for it and Keegan’s challenge on Bremner was particularly robust. The Liverpool striker then continued to chase the ball which now found its way to Giles on the left of the area. Giles, unaware Keegan was closing him down, played the ball back to Hunter when Keegan grabbed him. The Irishman instinctively turned round and landed a punch on Keegan.
As Keegan lay prostrate on the ground, Bremner ran over to him to protest at the ‘momento’ Keegan had left on his knee. Giles was eventually booked, and the resultant free-kick was played short allowing Lorimer to boot the ball away before Keegan could take a shot. Keegan was then seen remonstrating with Hunter and McQueen as Bremner appeared to continue their little spat. Both sets of players attempted to calm their teammates down when referee, Bob Matthewson, called both Keegan and Bremner to him and after a few minutes sent them both off. Keegan, clearly angered by the whole situation believing he was the innocent party, left the pitch and ripped his shirt off in disgust. Bremner soon followed, doing the same as both players made their way down the tunnel to derision from the watching public.
From within the melee, a game breaks out
Eventually a game continued and ten minutes later Leeds were level when Lorimer’s floated ball into the area was met by the head of Trevor Cherry, just as Ray Clemence tried to reach it. The game finally seemed to come alive as both sides had chances to win it. With the scores still level after ninety minutes the match went to a penalty shootout.
The first five kicks for each side were perfect as Lorimer, Giles, Gray, Hunter and Cherry scored for Leeds with Lindsay, Hughes, Hall, Smith and Cormack successful for Liverpool. Inexplicably, the first penalty of the sudden-death phase for Leeds was taken by the keeper, Harvey and he blasted it wide. Liverpool refused to return the favour and Ian Callaghan stepped up and despite slipping, fired his kick into the roof of the net. Liverpool had won another trophy and for Shankly he had won on his final visit to Wembley.
The aftermath sent shockwaves through English football as various parties put in their opinion over how outraged they were. Clough was in no doubt who the guilty party was;
“Bremner’s behaviour was scandalous. He seemed intent on making Kevin Keegan’s afternoon an absolute misery. He kicked him just about everywhere, until it became only a matter of time before a confrontation exploded. Keegan was a victim, not a culprit. I told Bremner afterwards he should pay compensation for the period Keegan was suspended”.
Obviously well before the days when managers backed their players, no matter what.
The press was equally scathing in their condemnation. The Times was particularly angry as Wembley Stadium witnessed two British players sent off for the first time in its illustrious history. Describing the removal of their shirts as “shameless”, as they should’ve been “proud to wear them”. It singled out Bremner for criticism as he threw his “petulantly to the ground, where it lay crumpled like a shot seagull until cleared away by a linesman. It was a disgusting scene”. They went onto claim:
“Sadly, Keegan could have been the man of the match. Leeds patently realised this by half-time and seemed intent on eliminating him by fair means or foul”.
Interestingly, just watching the footage of the immediate build-up to the incident would suggest Keegan was incensed at the treatment of his captain under the hands, or feet, of Giles and Bremner, and he sought his own justice. But later, Tommy Smith gave a little more detail to the event.
“Leeds had been at Kevin all day. It was at a corner and Giles came up behind Keegan and whacked him. Kevin whirled around but Giles had disappeared and Billy was the nearest Leeds player so Kevin went for him”.
We are not amused
Ted Croker was especially angry about the fracas, as he’d seen this as an additional showpiece event for The FA to add to the FA Cup Final and League Cup Final. The build-up was similar to those Finals and back then they were the only two domestic matches televised live. To say The FA was embarrassed would be an understatement and it’s clear they wanted both clubs punished severely. The panel which sat on judgement over this included some club managers, including Matt Busby, who were never going to agree to this because of the precedent it could set. It is very possible the clubs did not share Croker’s view of the match as being any more than an exhibition.
Both players received lengthy bans and a £500 fine but despite calls in the press neither club received sanctions. Both players were banned for eleven matches and by the time Bremner returned to Leeds, Clough had left the club after only forty-four days. Clough was paid-off after his early sacking yet despite his wealth he was demoralised. Shortly before his death he revealed “I didn’t think it out. Leeds weren’t for me and I wasn’t for them”, which was probably an understatement.
The whole episode may seem tame by today’s standards but back then a watching television audience had not seen the like, and of course many were concerned with the example being shown to others. The fact we are less shocked about it all now shows the authorities failed to rein the behaviour in.
Saturday 10th August 1974, Wembley Stadium, 67,000
Liverpool (1) 1 (Boersma 19)
Leeds United (0) 1 (Cherry 70)
Liverpool: Clemence; Smith, Thompson, Hughes, Lindsay; Callaghan, Hall, Cormack, Heighway; Keegan, Boersma
Leeds United: Harvey; Reaney, McQueen, Hunter, Cherry; Lorimer, Bremner, Giles, Gray; Clarke (McKenzie), Jordan
Liverpool: Lindsay, Hughes, Hall, Smith, Cormack, Callaghan
Leeds: Lorimer, Giles, Gray, Hunter, Cherry, Harvey (missed)