Jimmy Armfield: I wanted to win for the players

Jimmy Armfield: I wanted to win for the players

Former manager Jimmy Armfield on the 1975 European Cup Final

Thursday marked 45 years since that infamous European Cup Final against Bayern Munich, a game which saw penalty appeals mysteriously turned down and Peter Lorimer's superb volley ruled out.

The manager at the time, the late Jimmy Armfield had only taken over the position seven months earlier, replacing Brian Clough who had lasted only 44 days in the hotseat.

Read Jimmy's interview with magazine 'Leeds, Leeds, Leeds' from 1999, as he reflected on his time with the Whites, and his thoughts on that European Cup Final.

Jimmy Armfield

What were the circumstances when you took over at Elland Road?

I was manager of Bolton Wanderers in the old Second Division. I'd already turned down the chance to manage Everton. I didn't think I was ready for that job, but Leeds were persistent. Three of them came round to my house, and they offered me £15,000 a year, which was a lot in those days.

What was it like taking over from Brian Clough?

When I took over some of the older players were suspicious. I'd even played against a few of them. The younger ones were suspicious too, because after Don Revie, anyone else would've been second best. But the squad were, literally, United and it was that unification that got Cloughie out. He'd criticised them when he was at Derby, and tried to take them down roads they'd never been, and I think at their age it was very difficult.

Can you remember the first few games you were in charge for?

Two of the first were against Arsenal and Wolves. I went to meet the players in a park in Roundhay and [assistant/caretaker manager] Maurice Lindley was there, and I told him to select the team. (We were just off the bottom of the league having won it the previous season). And I said to them: "How can all these good players be down at the bottom of the table?" Well, they won the games, but then we lost at Chester, near top of the old Third Division, in the League Cup. So we had a good open talk among ourselves and then never looked back that season. It was a good idea but I didn't think so at the time.

What about the European Cup run that season?

We never lost a game, only the final. We beat Zurich, and then we played Ujpesti Dozsa home and away, then Anderlecht home and away and then Barcelona in the semi-final, and in the mean time we were still in the FA Cup. We had to play Ipswich, Leicester and then Barcelona in the same week. We just ran out of legs. We played more games then than they would today.

What do you feel now about losing that final to Bayern Munich?

We were a better side than Bayern Munich. We weren't beaten by a better side. We were beaten by a bad referee. I've never changed  my mind. Had there not been trouble on the terraces I would have absolutely castigated that referee publicly. It's the worst display of refereeing I've ever seen. If I told you what I really felt, I'd be had up for libel.

Jimmy Armfield

What decisions did he make that were wrong in your opinion?

We had two penalties turned down. We scored a perfectly good goal that was disallowed. And everything he gave seemed to be just against us all the time. I've always been considered a reasonably fair man, but I could see nothing very right in that man. After about an hour I turned to our physio at the time, Bob English, sat on the bench next to me and said, "I hope this game finishes nil-nil. He said, "Why do you say that?" And I said: "Well there's no way we're going to win it." I've never spoken to that referee and I'm led to believe he never refereed again.

What happened after the game?

We got banned from Europe for four years because of the rioting. I went to the board and asked them if I could take this on and appeal. They all  said, "Oh, waste of time". There would never have been an appeal but for me. Only the Daily Express came with me, but I got the ban halved, to two years. UEFA agreed the referee had not been all he should have been, but because we'd never complained they took that into consideration. And they also took into consideration the fact that they hadn't told  us they would take all the duty-free drink off our supporters beforehand. Our supporters got frustrated with the referee - that's what brought it all on in my opinion. I wanted to win for the players, not me to become the first English manager to win it. That group of footballers was good a group of players that England has had since the war. They deserved to win the European Cup. It was my lowest moment.

And your highest?

The 1-1 draw in Barcelona in the semi-final after Gordon McQueen had been sent off. I started with Peter Lorimer on the left wing and they played man for man marking at the back, because I'd watched them. I told Peter to switch over after ten minutes or so to the right and see if the marker went with him. And he did. Rinus Michaels was their coach, one of the best in the world, but they fell  for it. The ball went down the middle, Joe Jordan headed it on, their defender was caught out, and Peter Lorimer went on and scored, which gave us a 3-1 lead.

How do you look back on that season now?

Well, I could never understand why Don Revie left when he did. He had the chance to take the side into the European Cup but he chose England instead. After that season, of course, I had to break up that side.And maybe that's what Don didn't want to do. No one can call me indecisive. Think of the players who left in my time: Terry Cooper, Norman Hunter, Gordon McQueen, Paul Reaney, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Terry Yorath, Mick Bates, Joe Jordan... It's not easy getting rid of players like that. But the players I brought in did well: Tony  Currie, Ray Hankin, Brian Flynn and Arthur Graham.

Jimmy Armfield