Monday, September 12, 2011

English Leagues the 80s: Leeds Everton Fa Cup 1984 1985

Third Round
4 January 1985
Elland Road,

Referee: Mr D. Richardson
Attendance: 21,211

Everton, the FA Cup-holders, produced a professional performance worthy of their growing reputation to move safely into the Fourth Round at Elland Road in this experimental Friday Night Cup-tie at Elland Road at the expense of Leeds United. Leeds, in front of a live TV audience, showed a high level of commitment, but rarely unsettled their First Division opponents in a match which produced enough passion to compensate for its lack of goal-mouth incident. A penalty by Graeme Sharp, his twentieth goal of the season, put Everton ahead after thirty-nine minutes and they needed to soak up persistent Leeds pressure in the second half before Kevin Sheedy settled the matter six minutes from time. Increasing stress on the Leeds defence in the opening half finally told on Andy Linighan, the tall central defender, who beat Graeme Sharp to the header from Gary Stevens’ throw but as the ball fell between them handled it in his anxiety to clear. Referee, Mr David Richardson’s suspicions were confirmed by his linesman and, although Phil Hughes guessed correctly, Graeme Sharp’s spot kick had the necessary power. It took another set piece to give Everton their first win at Elland Road in thirty-four years. Kevin Sheedy’s free-kick crashed against the bar as it beat Phil Hughes for pace and, as Leeds failed to clear, the Everton midfield man completed the job by hooking it in from six yards. The ageless Peter Lorimer, showing a consistency of passing not always shown by his colleagues, was Leeds’ inspiration and his example rubbed off on John Sheridan, the Eire Youth International midfield player, who rose to the occasion with a confident display. The presence of the TV cameras did not unduly affect a fine Cup-tie atmosphere as the holders attracted  21,211, Elland Road’s third highest of the season. Leeds gave them most heart in the first minute when George McCluskey fell on the edge of the area under pressure from Gary Stevens and Neville Southall needed to respond quickly to turn John Sheridan’s curling free-kick round the post. Lorimer, gathering himself to shoot in typical fashion, brought Neville Southall to his knees from twenty yards from the resulting corner but Leeds could not maintain such pressure. Everton worked hard in midfield where Peter Reid, Paul Bracewell and Trevor Steven, hungry for possession, produced a succession of one-touch moves. The most incisive move of all involved Gary Stevens and Andy Gray, both recalled after injury. The full-back’s long cross from the right was headed back into the path of Paul Bracewell, whose low drive raced wide. Early on, Leeds existed on scraps. Further forward, Tommy Wright’s pace was cancelled out by equally swift Everton central defenders and McCluskey, playing despite suspected tonsillitis never figured until his substitution after sixty-eight minutes.

Both goalkeepers were largely inactive for the entire match. Phil Hughes, deputising in the Leeds goal for the injured David Harvey, settled his nerves after twenty-three minutes as he caught a corner and his first save, purely routine, came eight minutes from half-time as Paul Bracewell’s shot lacked conviction. When Sharp’s penalty flew past him, he had hardly been in the game. Trevor Steven’s whip-lash volley a minute later, fractionally too high, almost settled the match there and then. Leeds approached the second half with renewed vigour. From one rare Everton break Peter Reid fluffed a left foot volley and Mark Gavin’s introduction on the left, allied with Peter Lorimer’s presence on the right, saw United begin to provide crosses on either flank. Neville Southall, however, apart from his save in the opening minute, remained uninvolved. When even Peter Lorimer’s angled free-kick finished near the corner flag it was symptomatic of a tight Cup-tie laden with effort but bereft of chances. Eddie Gray, the Leeds Manager reacted, “Neither side created many chances. The first goal came at a bad time and I don’t think Andy Linighan intentionally handled the ball. They are a good side who work hard for each other all over the field and I thought we competed well.” Everton Manager, Howard Kendall, said, “It was a very impressive performance. We were never really in any trouble. The anxious moments were in the first couple of minutes. Our goalkeeper made an incredible save from a free-kick, which was vital because if we had gone one down it would have changed the course of the game. There are some saves you think that he has no right to pull off and that was one of them. He is a brilliant goalkeeper.” (Mark Ledgard)

Leeds United: Hughes; Irwin, Hamson; Sellars, Linighan, Aspin; Wright, Sheridan, McCluskey (Gavin), Lorimer, F. Gray.
Everton: Southall; Stevens (Atkins), Van der Hauwe; Ratcliffe, Mountfield, Reid; Steven, A. Gray, Sharp, Bracewell, Sheedy.
Scorers: Leeds United: Nil Everton: Sharp (pen), Sheedy.

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 In July, popular Scottish winger Eddie Gray was named player-manager of the club he had served so loyally for nearly two decades. Gray had no managerial experience but during one of his lengthy spells of injury as a player, he had impressed when coaching the juniors. A quiet family man, some thought he would struggle to adapt to the hard, frantic world of soccer management, but he carefully dismantled the existing team, at the same time ending his own playing career in May 1984. He brought back old favourite Peter Lorimer as skipper and blooded a batch of talented youngsters from the juniors and reserves, all of which helped check United's slide. Gray, who received an MBE for his services to football, was unable to win back United's First Division place although they were promotion candidates for three successive 54 seasons. Bookmakers reckoned that the team's rich promise would bear fruit in 1985-6 and installed them as promotion favourites. Indeed, Leeds looked a good bet, but the skilful squad lacked physical presence and lost out to less able but harder-tackling opponents.
United made a bad start and soon began to lack confidence, but with only one defeat in eight games they seemed to have turned the corner when 38-year-old Gray was sacked on 11 October 1985, along with his right-hand man Jimmy Lumsden. For Gray it ended a 22-year association with the club. As coach Peter Gunby was put in temporary charge, chairman Leslie Silver paid tribute to Gray's work but said that 14th place in Division Two was not good enough. The board had voted 6-2 to end Gray's stewardship and one of the directors, Brian Woodward, a former United reserve, resigned in protest.
The repercussions went further still. Some senior players cried openly after being told of the sacking and Lorimer handed a statement to the board in which the players condemned the timing and handling of the announcement, although they pledged to continue to do their best for the club. The day after the shock news, United beat Middlesbrough with a Lorimer penalty as Leeds fans demonstrated against Gray's dismissal, calling for Silver's resignation. The board, however, were adamant.
Gray, typically, showed no bitterness at the decision and bowed out quietly from the Elland Road scene, later joining his old teammate David Harvey as a player for non-League Whitby Town, to where Lorimer also moved. It did not take long for a man of Gray's quality to get back into the full-time game and at the start of the 1986-7 season he was working as Middlesbrough's reserve and youth-team coach. In December 1986 he was appointed team manager at Rochdale but quickly stepped up the managerial ladder when he became Hull City's boss in June 1988. Sadly, he was sacked by Hull in May 1989. The following September he became manager of Whitby Town but quit in May 1990 to concentrate on outside business interests.
In 1984-5, Leeds United showed some signs of improvement and a splendid late run gave them a flicker of hope for promotion until defeat in the final game, at Birmingham when both sets of fans ran riot, dashed their First Division dreams. A young man died at St Andrew's during the trouble the game was played on the same day as the Valley Parade fire disaster and United were later fined £5,000 for their fans' part in the affair. Moreover, it was ruled that all Leeds 1985-6 matches must be all-ticket. There had been crowd violence involving Leeds followers at Oxford, Barnsley and Huddersfield in 1984-5 and there was genuine talk of closing the club down to avoid further trouble. After a mediocre start to 1985-6, Gray was sacked and Billy Bremner appointed in his place, but United slipped closer still to the relegation zone before a frustrating season ended in safety, although the team's defensive record gave the fans real cause for concern...