There was thirteen of the original fifteen man side there present; the only absences were Brian Murrell and Phil Cookson, with Syd Hynes still in Australia. In addition, there was Paul Fletcher and Dave 'Flipper' Heron there, who were in the Leeds junior ranks at the time of the game in May '77. |
The night was well put together by Barrie McDermott under his new role at the club and he has to take great credit for the success of the evening, not least the fact that he's a great host, but by also allowing some of the players on the day to chat on stage and to tell us some of the stories of the lead up to the game and during the match.
Although it does do the rounds on bootlegs, as far as I know, the 1977 Challenge Cup Final is not commercially available on something like DVD and this is perhaps something the club should look to rectify. Nevertheless, there was around 20 minutes of highlights from each half to a more than ample flavour to the game. Indeed, it was 'classic' Eddie Waring commentary. Eddie was a much maligned figure in the game, but after listening to him call that game, it merely re-confirmed that he was streets ahead of what we have to put up with these days on the BBC.
Back in 1977, Leeds had not broken too many pots in their league form running up to the final and their finishing place in the division was no better than mid-table. However, the cup run was something different.....
At Wembley, they met Widnes and a team that were on form and on top of their game. They had players like Stuart Wright and Mel Aspey in the backs, with fearsome forwards like Douggie Laughton, Billy Ramsey, Jim Mills and Keith Elwell. A team that could take anyone on during their day.
Of course, the game was not without an additional edge and this was tinged with the sadness of the death (during a game) of Chris Sanderson in the lead up to the final. It was also the 30th Anniversary of his passing in recent weeks and something that was mentioned both on this site and the club's official website. The passing of Chris Sanderson was something that was spoken about on more than one occasion and it is another poignant time to stop and remember him.
From adversity came a sprightly 'tashed 19 year old Loiner hero in Kevin Dick, who stood himself up and was counted in the final. Dick's try, a huge dummy to go in under the posts must live on in the memory as one of the best ever Leeds tries. Steve Pitchford reckons to this day that Dick should have won the Lance Todd instead of him.
In my era of Loiner watching, some of the Class of '77 were still around. Players like Neil Hague, David Ward, Kevin Dick and the majestic John Holmes. Sadly, during my early era in blue & amber, the opportunity to meet players were few and far between and many of them had left the scene before events like last night were conceived. So, this was my first chance to see many of them and meet them for the first time.
It is also worth considering that those players from that era would be what would be described as semi-pro and many of them played alongside their regular '9-5' jobs. Indeed, the journalistic parlance of the day suggested that big Steve Pitchford made tanks during the day and drove through opposition defences like one at the weekend. Also, there was none of this 'show pony' Sunday - Friday fixture lists and in those days from March to May often saw players playing two and three times a week to squeeze fixtures in after a hard winter.
One guy in particular of a mention was John Holmes, someone who played over 620 times for our club (as Barrie put it, the average of 28 games a season over his 22 year career, which spanned from the 60s to the 90s). I was lucky to see him even towards the end of his career, at time when perhaps what he'd lost in a yard of pace was more than made up for with the footballing brain he was blessed with. The chances are, with summer seasons and freedom of contract, his appearance record will never be beaten and he has pretty much done everything in the game. A more magnanimous and humble man towards his abilities and talents, you couldn't meet. A pleasure and a privilege, especially since he is not keen on the limelight nor on 'public speaking’....
I understand the club did something smiliar with the 1957 team last weekend, something that I was unaware of and perhaps it would have been good to comemorate their efforts too. Ten of that side survive 50 years on. However, I understand it is something that the club are looking in to for organising of events for both the 1978 and 1968 Cup winning teams too, both of which would have 'milestones' next year.
I guess that some of the people that post on here may be only aware of the efforts of the '77 team from books and from what they have been told. I'm sorry to admit that I remember the '77 Final (but I won't tell you how old I was), but there they all were again. Some looking a bit older, some looking that they could put their boots on again tomorrow and some looking a bit greyer ! For those fans in their late 20s or younger, they will have never seen this side take the field, but one thing must be remembered. This club we all follow and support has a great, rich vein of history running through it and times like last night game us an opportunity to cherish and behold it.
This article originally appeared on the message board, thanks to the Admiral for allowing it's use on here