Friday, 17 August 2012

An Epic Final

I think I must have got caught up in all the sporting euphoria. Here's another tale of fighting spirit from my rapidly fading memory. This was from my younger days when I was still interested in football. I think I was studying for my A Levels at the time.

The 1970 Cup Final was between Chelsea and Leeds United. These two teams were about as different in style as you can imagine. It would be like comparing ballerinas to clog-dancers. The florid South Londoners against the gritty Yorkshiremen.

The game took place on a Wembley pitch that had been shredded to pieces by an equestrian event the week before and was in no fit state to host a showpiece final. With no hope of putting on a display of flowing football on such a surface, both sides resorted to basic tactics. This suited the tough Northerners who dominated the game from start to finish. Such domination was epitomised by the battle on the touchline. Dave Webb, the Chelsea right-back, was turned inside out by his counterpart. Given the task of marking the Leeds wizard Eddie Gray, Webb was completely baffled by the winger's dazzling footwork. So mesmerised was he that I remember one critic claiming that he had spent more time stumbling backwards and sitting on his rear-end than on his feet. Despite their overwhelming superiority and twice going in front, Leeds were hauled back by two Chelsea equalisers and taken to extra time. With no further goals the game was scheduled to go to a replay at Old Trafford nearly three weeks later.

Chelsea must have been punch-drunk from that first encounter. It would have been equivalent to me going twelve rounds with Muhammed Ali and then being asked to do the same thing a few days later. Yet this game was a more bruising battle than the first. Some would call it brutal. Chelsea played better but once again were put under pressure by the Leeds terriers. In the first half Leeds went ahead after Bonetti, the Chelsea goalie, had been half crippled by a typical Leeds challenge. The Londoners looked dead and buried.

Then, ten minutes from the end, an equaliser was conjured out of nowhere by the Chelsea striker Peter Osgood, whose diving header flew out of the reach of Leeds keeper Gary Sprake. Once more scores were level after ninety minutes.

Almost at the end of the first period of extra time a long Chelsea throw-in reached the Leeds penalty area and skimmed off the top of Leeds centre-half Jackie Charlton's head.

And who was it that leapt above the Leeds defence to knock in the winning goal? Forgetting his previous humiliation and with less mud on his backside than in that first game it was Dave Webb who got his head to the ball and sent it rocketing into the Leeds net. This was the first time Chelsea had been in front in three and a half hours of play. They held on until the full-time whistle to celebrate a tremendous and unlikely victory.

The ethos of never giving up until the bitter end proved a winning strategy. This must have been one of the last football matches I ever watched. After that they all seemed a bit dull.

Sometimes I feel like Dave Webb. Floundering around in a literary quagmire while editors and agents humiliate me with their rejection letters. But I'll rise above them all and score a fabulous goal before the final whistle.

Blimey! I've gone all metaphorical.


  1. Turn humiliation into determination! Go for goal!

  2. That's what I keep telling myself, Joanne.

  3. What a terrific analogy! I'm sure if you keep using your head (to write, not to smash a ball) you'll score. After all, the only way to win the game is to keep on playing.

  4. I attribute much of my own success to dogged determination and pig headed persistence - they're a winning combination!

  5. I'll stick with thinking of you as doggedly determined, Patsy. It's sounds much nicer than pig-headed.

  6. I loved what you wrote 'But I'll rise above them all and score a fabulous goal before the final whistle.' That was very clever Dream it. :-)

  7. I thought it was a bit cheesy myself but I'll take any compliment! Thanks, Diane.