By Mike Courtney
It's that time of year again when fans all around the country begin to dream of cup glory and a trip down Wembley Way come next May. It's no different for Leeds fans as we begin our quest at home to Birmingham. We haven't got a great cup tradition if I'm honest and it has been a while since we went on a good cup run to get the juices flowing. But on 3rd round day all that is incidental as the journey always begins with hope for the 64 clubs left in the mix.
In recent years we have had tough 3rd round draws having played Arsenal for the last 2 seasons, losing 1-0 to Thierry Henry last year and a reply defeat the year before after nearly hanging on for a famous victory only to concede a late penalty. Our most recent proudest moment has to be the magical win at Old Trafford in 2010 when as a League One team we went to their manor and fully deserved our 1-0 win thanks to Jermaine's first half finish from a brilliant Howson pass, some outstanding defending and goalkeeping by our own Great Dane Ankergren.
I'm hard pressed to think of any other great cup runs or victories in the noughties, and the nineties were no better. I do remember a replayed cup defeat at Spurs in the late nineties due to the fact that I was there and witnessed wonder strikes by Ginola and Anderton in a 2-0 defeat. When we were battling for the title with Scumchester in '92 they did manage to beat us in the early rounds of the cup, but since we claimed the League title that April that loss was insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
We have to go back to '87 for our last great cup run when we lost out 3-2 in extra time to eventual winners Coventry. We were, as we are now, in the 2nd tier and on the push for promotion under King Billy. We had some memorable wins that year the most noteworthy was a win against QPR at a packed Elland Road when, if memory serves Brendan Ormsby smashed home an unstoppable header late on to claim victory. We lost out dramatically in a promotion playoff against Charlton that year also. So close and yet so far for Billy and his excellent side which contained Ian Snodin, John Sheridan, Ian Baird, Andy Ritchie, Keith Edwards, John Stiles, Mervyn Day and the aforementioned Ormsby.
But it was the Revies side that gave us the most joy and heartbreak when it came to the FA Cup. It all began before my lifetime with a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the final in '65, Bremner getting our goal and ended with a 2-1 semi final defeat to Man U in '77. Revie was gone by then and so were most of his infamous players though some still remained with Sniffer getting our goal from the spot. In between all that and particularly from when I began supporting Leeds in 1970 we had our fair share of heartbreak with just one moment of elation and unbelievable joy. Who can ever forget our replay defeat to Chelsea in the 1970 final at of all places Old Trafford. By all accounts, and I'm only going from my Leeds United the Glory Years Video as I was only 4 at the time, we battered Chelsea in both games with Eddie Gray giving a virtuoso performance of wing play but some slack defending and poor goalkeeping from the much maligned Gary Sprake cost us dearly and our wait for FA Cup Glory had to wait.
It wasn't long though before we were back at Wembley in another final in '72, having lost out to lowly Colchester 3-2 in '71 in one of the greatest cup shocks in history (We were 3-0 down and nearly snatched the draw). The 72 final against Arsenal remains our only success in the most Famous Cup. It was the days before wall to wall live TV and back then the only live games we got in Ireland was the FA Cup Final. I'll never forget as long as I live Sniffers diving header from Mick Jones's cross and the many hours I tried to re-live it in the back garden with my older brother after the game finished. This moment in time is the reason Sniffer is my all time favourite Leeds player, as he was my first Leeds United hero. Years later I was lucky enough to acquire a mint condition copy of the programme from that game and it is my most prized possession.
We all know what happened in '73 as Leeds were overwhelming favourites to beat 2nd Divison Sunderland to retain the cup. An early Bob Stokoe goal and a wonder double save from Jim Montgomorie kept Leeds at bay and though we dominated the game, it remains one of the greatest cup final shocks in FA Cup history. The look of shock on dismay on Lorimor's face as he realised Montgomorie somehow stopped his follow up to Trevor Cherry's header is one the stays with me to this day. Between 74 and 76 we didn't have a great cup record and the only game I can recall is luckily beating non-league Wimbledon. I think that was '75 but my memory at my age is a bit watery.
So as we set out today to Elland Road with hopes of Cup glory and a decent cup run lets not get too downhearted if it doesn't materialise. After all we are not a noted cup side and realistically in this day and age the chances of a team from outside the topflight winning the cup is remote. I know Millwall and Cardiff have made it to finals in recent years, but the days of a 2nd tier team like Sunderland and Southampton were in the '70's winning the cup are as remote as Ken Bates being given the Freedom of Leeds. So lets be realistic, keep our dreams in check and though I do hope we win today and move into the next round our real hope and dream is getting promotion and if like in '92 we go out of the cup early that will pale in to insignificance if we are a Premier League side at the start of next season.
Enjoy the magic of the cup... MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds
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