In the 1960s and 70s, Leeds United was one of the most formidable teams in English football, but did they rule English football? Under manager Don Revie, they rose from the Second Division to claim multiple league titles, FA Cups and cement themselves as a European giant. Their committed, physical style made them both respected and feared opponents during their ascendancy.

Gaining Promotion in the Early 60s

Leeds United first reached the First Division in 1964 after gaining promotion under manager Don Revie. When Revie took over in 1961, Leeds were struggling near the bottom of Division Two. He immediately implemented a new youth policy and instilled a ruthless, disciplined approach. Revie recruited promising young players like Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton, then honed them into hardened competitors through intense training.

His efforts paid off – Leeds gained promotion to the First Division in 1964 on the final day of the season. A 1-0 win against Charlton Athletic sealed their return to the top flight after a decade absence. Revie had molded Leeds into promotion contenders by imposing his demanding style.

First League Title in 1969

After finishing as league runners-up in 1965 and 1966, Leeds finally claimed their first league title in 1969. Under Revie’s stewardship, Leeds had continued strengthening, adding the likes of Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray to form a stable spine of young talent. Their fast, possession-based playing style combined well with their growing physical power.

With veterans like Charlton anchoring the defence and Bremner marshalling the midfield, Leeds went on a 12-match unbeaten run as they surged to the top of the 1968-69 table. A 0-0 draw away at title rivals Liverpool in April set up a final-day showdown for the championship. Needing a win, Leeds dismantled Nottingham Forest 5-1 while Liverpool dropped points. This sealed Leeds’ maiden First Division title, announcing them as a rising force.

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Battling for Trophies in the Early 70s

The early 1970s saw Leeds engaged in intense rivalry with clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and Derby County as they battled for trophies. Revie added Mick Jones up front to complete Leeds’ spine of young stars bought up through the club. This cohort powered Leeds to greater glory as they entered their prime years together under Revie’s shrewd leadership.

In 1972, Leeds won their first FA Cup with a gritty 1-0 victory over Arsenal in the final, courtesy of a second-half Allan Clarke strike. They out-muscled a talented Arsenal side, epitomizing their physical determination.

Leeds secured their second league title in 1973-74, as they held off Liverpool to finish top of the table. Billy Bremner, made captain by Revie in ’69, drove Leeds to glory with 11 goals. He proved the heart of the side alongside playmaker Johnny Giles and tough tackling Norman Hunter. Leeds also won the Charity Shield that year to cement their dominance.

European Success

In the late 1960s and 70s, Leeds became a powerhouse in European competitions as well. After the 1966 World Cup triumph, English clubs had been banned from Europe, but Leeds helped restore respect when they were allowed back in.

In the 1968-69 campaign, Leeds battled past Rangers, Standard Liege and Dynamo Dresden to reach the European Cup final. They faced mighty AC Milan, but resiliently held them to a 2-2 draw after extra time. However, Leeds ultimately lost the replay 2-1 at the San Siro.

Leeds gained European redemption by winning the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971. In ’71, they trounced Juventus 6-3 on aggregate in a bad-tempered final. Leeds cemented themselves as England’s top continental side of the era.

They reached the 1973 Cup Winners Cup final too, but infamously lost 1-0 to AC Milan in controversial circumstances in Thessaloniki. Leeds felt robbed by the referee and the game was dubbed “The Night of the Long Knives.”

Decline After Revie’s Departure

Don Revie’s shock departure in 1974 to manage England began Leeds’ decline from the pinnacle of English football. Revie exited after a 13-year reign that had transformed Leeds from also-rans to one of Europe’s premier clubs.

His successor Brian Clough lasted just 44 days after alienating the squad with his abrasive style. Player-boss Billy Bremner stabilized the club, but ageing stars and boardroom unrest eroded Leeds’ powers.

Leeds won two more league titles in 1974 and 1992, along with other domestic cup wins. But by the 1980s, they were fading from their fearsome 60s/70s heights.

After being relegated in 1982, Leeds struggled to challenge for honours again. The board’s controversial decision to sack Howard Wilkinson after he guided them to the 1992 title summed up Leeds’ dysfunction.

Still, Revie’s 1960s and 70s side remain English football folklore. Built from his youth setup and playing with power and panache, that Leeds cohort topped the domestic game and went toe-to-toe with Europe’s best. Their dominance was short-lived but scintillating at its peak.


“Leeds United: A Complete Record 1919-2019” by Andrew Dalton – Provides comprehensive history and stats on Leeds. Good for details on matches, squad members, trophies won.

“Leeds United: The Biography” by David Saffer – Another in-depth history covering Don Revie’s management era and tactics.

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