Everton v Leeds United: return of historic fixture

8 May 2000: Harry Kewell of Leeds United takes on the Everton defence during the FA Carling Premiership match at Elland Road in Leeds, England. The match was drawn 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport
8 May 2000: Harry Kewell of Leeds United takes on the Everton defence during the FA Carling Premiership match at Elland Road in Leeds, England. The match was drawn 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport /

This afternoon Everton take on Leeds United at Goodison Park and a historic fixture returns after a sixteen year absence.

It was in 2004 that Everton last took on Leeds United in a league match and the return today of this historic game is good to see.

Leeds are a team with a proud history and like the Blues have enjoyed some great success in the past before falling on harder times in recent years.

The Toffees have managed to maintain their incredible record of having only spent four seasons outside the top flight since being founder members of the Football League in 1888 and have not been relegated from the top flight since 1951, although they’ve come very close a few times!

Leeds have had more time outside the top flight including this current run of fifteen years in the second tier of English football before their return at the end of last season.

Back in the sixties both clubs had outstanding teams. Everton, under a shrewd and long-serving but often overlooked manager Harry Caterick, won the league championship in 1962-63 and again in 1969-70 and claimed the FA Cup in 1966, finishing runners-up at Wembley two years later.

There was one notorious game between the two teams early on in the Don Revie era. The sides met in a game during the 1963-64 season when Leeds were just emerging as a force and this match was such a combustible match that the referee took both teams off the pitch to cool down!

Leeds between 1965 and 1975 enjoyed a ten year period of almost constant success. Under their greatest manager Revie the Lillywhites won two league championships, two European trophies and the FA cup as well.

They were a team who strongly divided opinion. Many purists didn’t like the robust and physically aggressive approach they often took to win matches, especially early on in the evolution of the team. One of their sternest critics was another great manager of that era, Brian Clough.

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Leeds though also lost a number of finals including most controversially the European Cup final in 1975 and were championship runners-up in that era so often that it seemed they were almost jinxed. One of the times they finished second was in 1970 when the Toffees claimed their seventh title.

That young Blues team was packed full of talent with England international defenders Brain Labone and Tommy Wright, the outstanding midfield trio of Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and Alan Ball and a powerful young centre-forward Joe Royle who looked like he could go on to become another great Everton number nine.

Much was expected of that team and there was hope they would certainly go onto great things in the seventies. For some unknown reason it never happened and that side quickly broke up, leaving Everton to endure a long barren period while even worse, Liverpool went on to replace Leeds as the next footballing dynasty.

As for Leeds, once Revie left the club things gradually fell apart and they were eventually relegated in the eighties just before the Toffees went on to enjoy their greatest period of success in the middle of the decade.

Then Leeds rebuilt and came back to win the last league championship before the formation of the Premier League in the 1991-92 season. They nearly won the Premiership as it was then called and the Champions League in the early ‘noughties’ before overspending on transfers and financial problems caused a fire sale of players and a decline that led to relegation in 2004.

Now Leeds are back and it’s good to see a club with that rich history once more in the top flight. But of course having said all that I still want to see Everton beat them this afternoon!