Date: Wednesday, 6th March 1963.
Venue: Elland Road Leeds.
Cup Third Round.
United 3 Stoke City 1.
United: Collins, Reaney, Hair.
Stoke City: Bebbington.
36,893. (Receipts £8,254)
Leeds United: Sprake;
Reaney, Hair; Bell,
Charlton, Hunter; Henderson, Weston, Storrie,
Stoke City: O’Neill;
Asprey, Allen; Clamp, Andrew, Skeels;
Ritchie, Bebbington, Viollet,
Referee: Mr K.J.
Seddon (Southport, Lancashire).
Unbelievably United finally
got to play their much abandoned Third Round home FA Cup tie against Stoke City
two months after it had been originally scheduled, with the draw for the Fifth
Round having already been made and featuring all the probabilities of the
contenders as West Bromwich Albion or Nottingham Forest v Blackburn Rovers or Middlesbrough or Leeds United or Stoke City were the
United were able to clear
up the conjecture by beating Stoke 3-1 with goals from Collins, Reaney and Hair and then ten days later faced Middlesbrough at Elland Road and disposed of them 2-0 with goals
from Storrie and Johanneson,
but three day after that they fell 3-0 to First Division Nottingham Forest. Stoke finished Second Division
Champions on fifty-three points and Boro’ fourth on
forty nine points just pipping fifth place United by
As United trooped off the
pitch at Roker Park after losing 2-1 on 22nd
little would they have imagined that it would be ten weeks before they were
able to play there next competitive match in a 3-1 win over Derby County at Elland Road on 2nd
It was the most severe winter
Britain had experienced in thirty years and it
literally brought football, and the country, grinding to a standstill as snow
and the big freeze froze the country to a halt. In those days there was no
under-soil heating and as a result no games were played. The coffers of the
club were getting bare with the pitches unplayable and the terraces unsafe.
The players did not jet off
to sunnier climes and it was business as usual for the players as they
struggled to maintain their fitness without the benefit of matches. Midfield
Maestro Bobby Collins recalled, “There was no question of going home and
putting your feet up. We just carried on training as normal, five days a week
all through the freeze, and there were even stints on the Saturdays, and we
were given a pounding for about two hours a day. We would work out for quite a
lot of the time at the local Matthew Murray School because, although it was still in a
frozen condition, the surface was level. No one was allowed to get out of
condition and you had to carry on as normal because you never knew when you
might play, and when that occasion came you had to be ready. It was the same
all around the country. You would work and build up to things all week, and
then at the end of it all was just another postponement. It was also before the
time when teams would get round the situation to a certain extent by jetting
out to another country to play a couple of games as was the case later. For all
the training, the lads had so much energy bottled up inside them that they were
praying for a game.”
The Leeds team had started to take shape and
when the games were resumed they kept on winning despite having to fit in about
twenty games in a two and a half month period. To get this FA Cup tie underway
there were around one hundred braziers put on the pitch to melt the ice, but
after that thawed out there was something like four inches of mud lying
everywhere, impossible conditions in later years.
Stanley Matthews was due to
play in the match for Stoke, but after seeing the conditions he decided not to
play! There were, however, several young Leeds players only too eager to play and Norman
Hunter, Paul Reaney and Gary Sprake
all made their FA Cup debuts. It proved to be the clubs first FA Cup victory in
ten years and the crowd of 36,873 was the biggest at Elland Road for four seasons. Both full backs
Paul Reaney and Grenville
Hair got their names on the score-sheet along with Captain Bobby Collins. After
the enforced ten week lay-off, United ended their campaign on 18th
May by playing a demanding twenty-two matches in seventy-seven days. Revie’s rebuilt team, which had narrowly avoided relegation
the previous season, finished a creditable fifth and promotion followed in
1963-64 when normal service on the weather front was resumed.
The roars which greeted the
final whistle must have shaken the Twin Towers at Wembley
itself. United had finally won an FA Cup Tie
for the first time in ten years and Elland
Road’s biggest crowd for four years was there to salute their new heroes. Don Revie’s team-building had captured the imagination of the Leeds public but his plans were put on
ice by the bitter winter which had wiped out football for two and a half
months. This Third Round Tie had been postponed on no less than twelve
occasions and it proved thirteenth time lucky for United in their first Cup Tie
played entirely under floodlights.
Football starved fans
flocked to Elland Road confident that the new-look United
would exorcize their FA Cup ghost. Revie had bought
veteran Scottish International Bobby Collins from Everton in the previous March
and had built the team around him as the leader and playmaker. Under his wing
were fresh young talent like goalkeeper Gary Sprake,
Full Back Paul Reaney and tough-tackling Wing Half
Norman Hunter, who were fast emerging from the Junior
ranks. The young trio all made their FA Cup debuts against Stoke and each went
on to become household names.
It was the astute passing
of Collins that constantly caught the eye as he pulled Stoke’s
defence out of position time after time. After twelve
minutes, Collins took Hunter’s pass and fired in from twenty yards off a post.
Confident United went 2-0 up after twenty minutes as Paul Reaney
collected from a short corner and fired a strong shot through a crowd of
players and hit Bill Asprey’s outstretched leg on the
line before finally going into the net.
Stoke, who chose not to
play the ever-green Stanley Matthews because of the heavy pitch, put up a good
fight and had a John Ritchie ‘goal’ disallowed for offside. With twenty minutes
left Stoke clawed their way back into the tie when Don Ratcliffe’s
shot bounced off Gary Sprake’s chest and Keith Bebbington stabbed the ball into the net. Any fears of
another Cup calamity were allayed five minutes later with a rare goal from
acting Captain Grenville Hair, who squeezed a shot
between Irish International keeper Jimmy O’Neill and the near post. A delighted
Hair said, “It was my gladdest moment in football. It’s only the second goal I’ve
scored and I don’t suppose I will score another now, but I have had my moment.”
For United and their fans there were Cup moments to savour at long last.
Braziers in use to battle the
elements to get the Elland Road
Leeds United 1962-63:
Back Row: Grenville
Hair (3), Paul Reaney (2), Gary Sprake
(1), Jack Charlton (5),
Willie Bell (4), Norman Hunter (6).
Front Row: Willie Henderson (7), Albert Johanneson (11), Jim Storrie (9),
Bobby Collins (10),
Billy Bremner (8).
Inspirational Captain Bobby Collins scored Both
Full-Backs, Paul Reaney and Grenville Hair, were on the score-sheet
Billy Bremner was
looking forward to meeting his
boyhood hero Stanley Matthews