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Arsenal League Cup final memories: ‘We had to lick our wounds’ in 1968 against Leeds United

PUBLISHED: 23:06 20 February 2018 | UPDATED: 23:15 20 February 2018

Arsenal fan Florrie Burgess, aged 69, who attended the first ever Arsenal game played at Highbury on September 6th 1913, gets behind her team during the 1967-68 season

Arsenal fan Florrie Burgess, aged 69, who attended the first ever Arsenal game played at Highbury on September 6th 1913, gets behind her team during the 1967-68 season

PA Archive/PA Images

In the week of the Carabao Cup final read the first in our series detailing previous Arsenal League Cup finals by talking to the people who were there. Kicking off is loyal long-term fan Martin Wengrow – who is in his 65th year of supporting the Gunners and has watched nearly 2,000 matches – as he recalls the 1968 Wembley showpiece against Leeds United.

The Arsenal first team squad pictured a few months after the defeat by Leeds, at the start of 1968-69: (back row, l-r) Bobby Gould, George Graham, Peter Simpson, Jon Sammels, Jim Furnell, Bob Wilson, David Jenkins, Peter Storey, George Armstrong; (front row, l-r) David Court, Pat Rice, Terry Neill, John Radford, Ian Ure, Frank McLintock, Bob McNab The Arsenal first team squad pictured a few months after the defeat by Leeds, at the start of 1968-69: (back row, l-r) Bobby Gould, George Graham, Peter Simpson, Jon Sammels, Jim Furnell, Bob Wilson, David Jenkins, Peter Storey, George Armstrong; (front row, l-r) David Court, Pat Rice, Terry Neill, John Radford, Ian Ure, Frank McLintock, Bob McNab

The 1968 Football League Cup Final between Arsenal and Leeds United took place on March 2, 1968 at Wembley Stadium. It was the eighth final and the second to be played at Wembley.

Leeds were to lift the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup at the start of the 1968-69 season in a two legged victory over Hungarians Ferencevaros 1-0 on aggregate, while Arsenal had finished seventh the previous year but were a far cry from their great teams of the 1930s and late 1940s and early 1950s.

The match was their first Wembley appearance since the 1952 FA Cup Final and for both sides it was their first League Cup Final.

Leeds had conceded three goals in six matches on their run to the final and the match proved to be a drab affair with Terry Cooper grabbing the only goal of the game for the Yorkshiremen after a long range strike on 20 minutes to clinch the trophy.

Billy Bremner, captain of Leeds United, holds the 1968 League Cup aloft to the cheers of supporters after Leeds beat Arsenal 1-0. Billy Bremner, captain of Leeds United, holds the 1968 League Cup aloft to the cheers of supporters after Leeds beat Arsenal 1-0.

Martin Wengrow was at the match and has shared his memories of the time with Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif.

He recalls: “The League Cup did not become significant until it was moved to Wembley in 1967. I attended this game which resulted in a great win for QPR in front of a full house at the old stadium.

“Suddenly the competition was becoming a big prize and after it was designated the winners would be invited into the Fairs City Cup it was more appealing.

“The real excitement for Arsenal fans was in reaching Wembley, especially for those of my generation.

Billy Bremner, captain of Leeds United, holds the cup aloft to the cheers of supporters as they clinched the 1968 League Cup final by beating Arsenal 1-0. Billy Bremner, captain of Leeds United, holds the cup aloft to the cheers of supporters as they clinched the 1968 League Cup final by beating Arsenal 1-0.

“Not only had Arsenal not reached a Wembley final for 16 years, but they had not got remotely close to it.”

Tickets were relatively easy to come by as they were made available directly from Wembley as well as from Arsenal, and Martin was able to attend with a large group of friends all of whom were hoping to witness their first taste of Arsenal glory. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Martin added: “Arsenal and Leeds had already built up a fierce rivalry over recent seasons as the Arsenal players under Bertie Mee and Don Howe had learned to ‘look after themselves’ after having to contend with some seriously dangerous play from Revie’s thugs.

“The Arsenal players – who I knew personally – were determined to make their own history with the club, being fully aware that although still a great club, Arsenal for many years had for many years massively underachieved and they had had the glory days under Chapman and Whittaker rammed down their throats.”

Leeds United F.C. (1968/9 Champions) Back Row: Maddeley, O'Grady, Harvey, Sprake, Charlton, Hunter Centre Row: Johenneson, Belfitt, Jones, Hibbitt, Gray, Lorimer Front Row: Reaney, Cooper, Giles, Bremner, Greenhoff, Bates Leeds United F.C. (1968/9 Champions) Back Row: Maddeley, O'Grady, Harvey, Sprake, Charlton, Hunter Centre Row: Johenneson, Belfitt, Jones, Hibbitt, Gray, Lorimer Front Row: Reaney, Cooper, Giles, Bremner, Greenhoff, Bates

Martin says the match was a massive disappointment as the loss still rankles to this day.

He said of the match 50 years ago: “Leeds took an early lead from Cooper after the Arsenal keeper Jim Furnell had been physically assaulted from a Leeds corner kick. “How the goal was allowed to stand still beggars belief, even to this day.

“Leeds, who were outstanding defensively, shut up shop, and for the rest of the game both teams cancelled each other out with barely any chances being registered.

“The Arsenal fans and players had to lick their wounds, but slowly the team that was to achieve legendary status, was coming together. But not before more despair.”

The trophy was the first major trophy of Don Revie’s reign at Elland Road and kick-started the most successful spell in the club’s history.

Arsenal were to reach the League Cup Final the following year, only to lose again, this time to Swindon Town, but went on to win both domestic and European trophies in the following seasons.

Follow loyal Arsenal fan Martin on Twitter @MartinWengrow.

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