The mythical classic Leeds line-up

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the only time that the classic Leeds United line-up ever played together. It was in an FA Cup tie against Mansfield Town on 7 February 1970. Though I was not there, I am delighted to own a match programme from the historic game.

Some football fans know this statistic as a bizarre piece of trivia, without knowing why and how it happened.

I can still recite in an instant the classic line-up from my childhood: Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Terry Cooper, Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Allan Clarke, Mick Jones, Johnny Giles, and Eddie Gray.

But that deeply embedded memory is unfair on Paul Madeley, who played in nearly every Leeds game, in some position or other, while the classic eleven were together at the club.

The classic eleven were only at the club from the start of 1969/70 when Allan Clarke joined, to the end of 1972/73 when Jack Charlton left. And during that time, a number of players were regularly or seriously injured.

In 1969/70, Terry Cooper, Jack Charlton, Allan Clarke, Mick Jones, Johnny Giles, and Eddie Gray each missed ten or more league games, and Paul Reaney broke his leg near the end of the season.

In 1970/71, Paul Reaney missed most of the first half of the season, Eddie Gray missed most of the second half, and Billy Bremner missed over a third of all league games.

In 1971/72, Eddie Gray and Mick Jones each missed nearly half of all league games, and Terry Cooper broke his leg near the end of the season.

In 1972/73, Terry Cooper missed all of the season, Mick Jones missed most of the first half, Eddie Gray missed most of the second half, David Harvey replaced Gary Sprake in goal, and Jack Charlton played less than half of all league games.

In 1973/74, Jack Charlton was managing Middlesbrough, so the classic eleven were no longer all at the club.

During the four seasons that all eleven were there, Paul Madeley played:

39 league games, and 59 games in all, in 1969/70
41 league games, and 58 games in all, in 1970/71
42 league games, and 52 games in all, in 1971/72
34 league games, and 52 games in all, in 1972/73

That is why the classic Leeds eleven only played together once. And even for that game, it looks like it was a late change. The match reports have the classic line-up, and describe Eddie Gray as playing, but the match programme lists Paul Madeley as number 11.

We should really redefine the classic line-up as: Paul Madeley plus any ten from Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles, Gray.

Programme Cover Leeds v Mansfield 7 February 1970
Programme line-ups Leeds v Mansfield, Paul Madeley listed as no 11
The mythical classic Leeds line-up

8 thoughts on “The mythical classic Leeds line-up

  1. Although I understand the logic of this article, what I don’t understand is why Madeley isn’t considered part of the classic eleven in the first place, especially since he played 725 times for Leeds.

  2. A team full of internationals, backed up with great replacements Mike O’Grady. Albert Johanneson, Rod Belfit, Terry Hibbitt then Jimmy Greenhoff, Terry Yorath and the splendid Micky Bates.

  3. That is a remarkable piece of trivia. Today Jack Charlton died. How many times was the Bremner, Charlton, Hunter line up on the sheet I wonder. Probably less than I think now

  4. was at that game, i didn’t realise that that would be the only time that great line-up would play as the starting eleven, Quite an amazing stat, here is the photo of my matchday programme from that day along with the pic of your comments. Thanks for posting this and the information.

  5. That’s great research. It’s astonishing if that classic 1 to 11 formation started a match together only once.

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