The FA Cup Final used to be the showpiece of English football and, in the days before the Premier League and Sky Sports, it was virtually the only live match TV viewers in the UK got to see live every year.
.Normally the teams wanted to put on a spectacle for the watching millions, but the FA Cup replay of 1970 between Chelsea and Leeds United will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Amazingly, only one yellow card was shown in the course of the match but, when current Premier League referee Michael Oliver watched the match in its entirety again, his opinion was that, by today’s standards, only eleven men would have remained on the pitch at the end of the match.
It had gone to a replay after the first match at Wembley had finished in a 2- 2 draw. That was played on a terrible pitch after an ill-judged decision by stadium organisers to stage the Horse of the Year show on the hallowed turf. It made for a disjointed game and, at least two of the goals were partly due to the state of pitch.
The replay was set for Old Trafford, Manchester, but already both teams had a reputation for being physical. Leeds, in particular, under Don Revie, were known for being dirty and cynical, with the likes of Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Normal Hunter and jack Charlton never afraid of the dark arts.
Chelsea were no angels either, with full-back Ron “Chopper” Harris always prepared to live up to his nickname, with ream mates always ready to wade in to any situation themselves.
To add to the spice, there was an element of northern/southern rivalry going into the game, with Leeds regarded as the tough and, dour Yorkshiremen, and Chelsea as the fancy London toffs.
Both sides played their part in an encounter more suited to a Mixed Martial Arts bout.
Chopper Harris made his mark by kicking Eddie Gray in the back of the knee, his colleague Eddie McCreadie kicked Bremner in the head, whilst Jack Chariton kicked and headbutted Peter Osgood. All over the pitch there were off the ball tackles, sly punches and kicks, and the trainers were constantly called on to the pitch.
Nobody was seriously hurt, but many left the game afterwards hobbling and several required stitches.
Allan Clarke put Leeds ahead only for Osgood to equalised with a diving header.
Chelsea won it in extra time with a far post header by David Webb, but even that might be disallowed nowadays in the era of VAR due to all the pushing in the box involved.
Chelsea had won the FA Cup of the first time, but the match will best be remembered as one of the most brutal games in English football history.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.