May 10, 2022 4 min read
In 1970, Leeds United and Chelsea cancelled each other out at Wembley Stadium. A 2-2 draw in the FA Cup final after 120 minutes of football led to the first replay since before the Great War.
After another 120 minutes, Chelsea took the trophy after a David Webb goal. 50 years on, the final is still held up as one of the most epic tussles in English football, all the more so because it started to be televised in an era where plenty of folk had their own sets in the living room. It was appointment viewing: the FA Cup final was the only live game broadcast each season.
FA Cup Glory for Chelsea
Accordingly, football fans around England were aware of flair players like Peter Osgood and Eddie Gray, and the tough-tackling pair of Ron Harris and Norman Hunter: Chopper and Bites Yer Legs, to give them their wrestling-type nicknames. Like the wrestling which held millions rapt in the 1970s, there were heroes and villains in association football.
Today, with wrestling and UFC fighting still getting plenty of attention, it has never been easier to follow live football. Anyone can call up a clip of Kai Havertz or Patrick Bamford, and plenty of their club games are broadcast live behind a paywall. The FA Cup has inevitably become just another TV event, one which Chelsea have starred in plenty of times in the last 20 years under the aegis of former Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea won four tournaments between 2007 and 2012. In the last six seasons, they have reached the final five times, beating Manchester United in 2018, and those five finals include that of 2022, which takes place this Saturday as one of only three games on that day in the entire English football pyramid.
In the semi-final, the Blues overcame Crystal Palace 2-0 with goals from Academy graduates Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who previously had a successful spell on loan at Palace. After losses against Arsenal and Leicester City when Wembley was closed or only partially filled, might their third FA Cup final in a row bring luck in front of some proud fans? After Chelsea’s victory in the 1997 final, 25 years later they will have to beat Liverpool to equal that team’s success.
FA Cup Glory for Leeds
Leeds, for their part, haven’t reached a final for 50 years, famously losing to second-tier Sunderland in 1973 after beating Arsenal in 1972. They conceded two goals in the entire run to the 1972 trophy, with a famous XI captained by Billy Bremner and with fellow Scots Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray on the wings. Allan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke scored the winner in the cup final; now 75, he and fellow Leeds legend Paul Reaney recently opened Star Sign Autographs, a shop in Doncaster which stocks memorabilia and signed photos.
In recent years, the pair have mourned the loss of team-mates Hunter, Jack Charlton, Hunter and Trevor Cherry. Charlton, Clarke said, used to train in odd socks and Clarke would play with him and other English players in a five-a-side game against the team’s Scottish players.
Don Revie created a team in his image which remains the most successful period of Leeds’s history. 30 years ago the 1992 team won the First Division with another fine team including Eric Cantona, Gary Speed, Gordon Strachan and Lee Chapman. Clarke’s hope is that ‘young fans can come to idolise a new generation of legends’. Judging by the last few seasons, there are certainly a few of them to toast with a club-branded bottle of alcohol which is available on the site.
Unfortunately, injuries have wrecked any plans Leeds had for the 2021/22 season since they have seldom been able to play their best XI. Kalvin Phillips played so well at club level that he became an automatic choice at the delayed EURO 2020 tournament last year, but he missed three months of the season with a hamstring problem. Patrick Bamford, who turned down a Harvard scholarship to sign a pro deal with Chelsea, made his own England debut in September 2021 but he has been limited to 10 appearances after injuries to his ankle, hip and foot. But for young Illan Meslier in goal, who has gained experience with France under-21s, Leeds might well have been relegated by the time they come up against Chelsea today (Wednesday).
With a small squad augmented by under-23s players, Leeds have not gained enough points this season, winning only eight of their 35 games. They go into their final three games of the 2021/22 season hoping Burnley and Everton do worse than them. Everton go to an already relegated Watford tonight, while both the Toffees and the Whites still have to play Brentford, who have defied logic and are well safe this season.
Back in December, it took a couple of Jorginho penalties for Chelsea to beat Leeds. Because its original date clashed with Chelsea’s FA Cup match against Crystal Palace, the return fixture at Elland Road was rescheduled to this evening.
Chelsea have had well documented recent troubles concerning their ownership but reached the Champions League quarter-finals. They were unlucky to lose to a powerful Real Madrid side after extra time, having been ten minutes away from the last four. Their 2021/22 Premier League season has been full of highs (7-0 at home to Norwich City, 6-0 away at Southampton) and lows, including a 4-1 loss against fellow West London club Brentford.
Last weekend, Everton held on for a 1-0 win against Chelsea while two Eddie Nketiah goals and a wild tackle by Luke Ayling condemned 10-man Leeds to a defeat at the Emirates. Two Nketiah goals also set Arsenal on their way to a 4-2 win against the Blues, who nonetheless sit third in the table just ahead of the Gunners. With the delayed North London derby pitching fourth against fifth on Thursday evening, Chelsea can put four and eight points between themselves and Arsenal and Spurs respectively.
Ladies and gentlemen, please charge your glasses to Chelsea and Leeds United, two teams who won the FA Cup in the early 1970s and go into their match tonight as top-division clubs. For now. You can find club-branded alcohol on the site, with gin and vodka available for Chelsea fans here, which will make an FA Cup victory all the more sweet.