Blue was the colour
On Saturday, Chelsea host Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup, with both sides currently enduring a difficult season. It is a long time since they were both in the ascendancy, but in 1970, they shared England's major honours as Everton claimed the league title and Chelsea won the FA Cup.
The final league champions of the 1960s were Don Revie's Leeds United, a team that would become tarred by accusations of being dirty but at that juncture were embarking on a golden period for the Yorkshire club. Indeed, at the start of the 1969-70 season, it was debated whether they could become the first side to achieve the mythical Treble of League Championship, FA Cup and European Cup.
However, as it transpired Revie would be frustrated on all fronts. His vanquishers in the First Division were Harry Catterick's richly-talented Everton side, boasting their 'Holy Trinity' in midfield - Alan Ball, Colin 'The White Pele' Harvey and Howard Kendall. In the FA Cup, meanwhile, Leeds would be undone in the final following a brutal replay against Peter Osgood's Chelsea. Ambitions had been frustrated in Yorkshire, but in the blue enclaves of Merseyside and West London, it was a vintage year.
Everton's league success was attributed to their multi-talented midfield, so much so that defender Brian Labone ironically hailed his club as "the only three-man team to win the championship". In truth, it was of course a collective effort, with Labone imperious in defence and Joe Royle prolific in attack.
At the heart of their triumph was their manager, Catterick. Though he failed to court support amongst members of the press due to his refusal to offer a pithy sound bite - "I am not a man who expresses feelings a great deal", he said - Catterick was beloved of Everton supporters thanks to his success on Merseyside. His refusal to employ an assistant as he didn't want anyone "holding his hand" marked him out as one of a dying breed - especially at a time when Peter Taylor was demonstrating the value of the role alongside Brian Clough at Derby County - but Catterick's singular leadership worked for Everton.
The man who once complained he "did not have two pennies to rub together" when managing Rochdale was given the keys to Goodison in 1961, winning the title in 1963 and the FA Cup in 1966. A British record fee of £110,00 brought World Cup winner Alan Ball to the club following England's triumph over West Germany at Wembley, before the midfielder suffered disappointment in 1968 when Everton lost the FA Cup final to West Brom. However, Ball's union with Harvey and Kendall in midfield hinted at a brighter future.
That duly arrived at the start of the 1969-70 season, but not before Catterick had heard Revie remark that Everton would win the title, "unless Leeds beat them to it". It took until September for Everton to strike the first telling blow when they ended Leeds' 34-game unbeaten league run with a 3-2 victory. Despite the lead swinging one way and then the other, a run of 20 points from 12 games at the conclusion of the season saw Everton crowned champions, and in some style.
It was not for nothing that The Guardian described their achievement with the following glowing praise: "Rich in resources, prolific in talent and ambition, Everton made it clear from the start that they meant to win something. They were an exceptional team ... above all, perhaps, they have confirmed the belief that money can buy success although that statement on its own fails to take into account the work put in to make such success possible."
A reputation for physical, defensive play that had been established a decade previously was forgotten as Everton dominated the First Division. Sadly, the FA Cup final of that year would not be remembered in such favourable terms.
Revie's Leeds or Dave Sexton's Chelsea could hardly be blamed for the fact that the first game, brought forward a month due to the 1970 World Cup finals and finishing in a 2-2 draw at Wembley, was not much of a spectacle; after all, the match had been preceded by the Horse of the Year show, ensuring the Wembley turf was an agricultural mess. According to Chelsea midfielder John Hollins: "It was appalling. Whenever you tackled someone, you took up three or four feet of turf. After each tackle you had to pull the grass back into place like a carpet. It poured with rain during the match, which made the ground even heavier. Nowadays, the referee would have called it off".
With Wembley failing to provide a surface fit for purpose, the first FA Cup replay since 1912 would be held at Old Trafford, and a record 28 million viewers tuned in on television to watch an unremittingly brutal encounter.
Chelsea were missing their local teenage talent Alan Hudson - a player described as resembling a "young Robert Mitchum" by The Guardian, and who had won praise for his mature performances in midfield - but were still blessed with entertainers such as Scottish winger Charlie Cooke. Of course, chief amongst them was a striker named Peter Osgood, who would later become known as the 'King of Stamford Bridge' and attract attention for his flamboyant behaviour. He would finish the 1969-70 season with 23 goals in the First Division, but only belatedly worked his way into the England set-up having earlier unwisely declared: "I am too lazy for the [Alf] Ramsey style of play".
He was certainly no slouch in the FA Cup that season, scoring in every round, including the final as he replied to Mick Jones' opener for Leeds. However, Osgood's goal was the spark that ignited an explosion of violence. Hollins later admitted that the two teams "had a reputation for 'knowing each other'", and old rivalries were exposed in brutal fashion. Eddie McCreadie nearly decapitated Billy Bremner with a ludicrously high kung-fu tackle in the box, Jack Charlton butted Osgood, Ron 'Chopper' Harris nailed Eddie Gray and Norman Hunter and Ian Hutchinson exchanged blows. But referee Eric Jennings kept it to 11-a-side, leading Hugh McIlvanney to write in The Observer: "At times it appeared that Mr Jennings would give a free kick only on production of a death certificate".
In extra time, David Webb scored the winning goal after Charlton inadvertently flicked on a long throw from Hutchinson, but the vicious nature of some of the incidents that marked the contest dominated the headlines, one of which described Chelsea's victory as 'Robbery with violence'. Indeed, some years later, referee David Elleray studied a tape of the game and concluded he would have given six red cards and 20 yellows had he been officiating.
There was no time for studied introspection on the day though, as Chelsea enthusiastically celebrated their first FA Cup triumph, though not in the expected fashion. As John Hollins explained: "At the time the FA Cup was sponsored by the milk board and we were in the bath drinking pints of milk and I was thinking, 'milk?' while David Webb was sat in the bath, with a cigarette, saying, 'We've won it,' while drinking milk. It was quite surreal."
No doubt a few harder drinks were later consumed to toast what had been a champagne season, for both Everton and Chelsea.
What happened next? Catterick was unable to replicate his success in following seasons, and suffered a heart attack in January 1972, going on to become a non-executive director of the club. Of the 'Holy Trinity', Kendall cemented his Everton status when later winning the league, FA Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup as Toffees manager. Harvey also managed the club for a spell but Ball would join Arsenal in 1971 to cut his ties. For Chelsea, who won the Cup Winners' Cup the following season, Osgood became an all-time great after scoring 105 goals in 289 games, while Sexton went on to manage Manchester United and coach England Under-21s.