One night in Paris which broke Leeds United: 40 years since Bayern Munich loss

Champions league cup

It is 40 years since Leeds United lost the European Cup Final to Bayern Munich in controversial circumstances and in some ways the club has never recovered.

It was meant to be the perfect swansong for Don Revie's ageing side. With 'the gaffer' having already departed Elland Road for the England manager's job and Jimmy Armfield bringing order to the chaos of the 44-day Brian Clough reign, the famous Leeds United side was breaking up, but Paris on May 28th, 1975 was quite a way to bow out.

A 10-year period had seen Leeds win the league title twice, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup twice, the League Cup, FA Cup and Charity Shield. They were one of the most feared teams in Europe, and while they were the bridesmaids rather than the bride on far too many occasions, the European Cup Final was to be the ultimate recognition for the team that were never lauded by the national press and had few friends outside LS11.

Winning the European Cup was also seen as a springboard to building a new side to gradually replace Revie's slick and mean machine. The attraction of playing for the European champions was expected to take the club to a new level that even Revie hadn't dreamed of when he took over a struggling Division Two side in 1961, which had seen nothing but mediocrity in its history.

Instead, Paris in 1975 ended in confusion, anger, disbelief and mayhem.

Armfield chose to disregard some of the players that had contributed heavily during Leeds' run to the final, such as Duncan McKenzie and Trevor Cherry, and restored some of Revie's famous team for a final encore. In truth, it was a ploy that partly worked, as Leeds tore into Bayern Munich from the start and dominated the game from start to finish.

Throughout a season most fans can point to maybe a dozen games where they feel hard done by. Points are lost in games where they dominated possession, or had the best chances, or were victims of bad decisions. Leeds United's defeat to Bayern Munich in 1975 goes far beyond that, and the underlying belief that evil forces were at play has been revisited countless times over the last 40 years.

Even Bayern's players still acknowledge that they were fortunate to win, and neutral observers label the game as the occasion that the phrase "we woz robbed" was invented for. 

That Leeds dominated possession and chances is not worth disputing, that Leeds were denied two of the most obvious penalties you are ever likely to see on a football pitch is also widely accepted. Leeds players also still tell of how Bayern and West Germany (as was) captain Franz Beckenbauer 'ran' the referee - French official Michel Kitabdjian - and appeared to have a controlling influence on countless decisions.

This was most evident in the 66th minute when Peter Lorimer volleyed Leeds ahead. The crowd erupted, the referee signalled for a goal and the Bayern players walked back to the centre spot. Apart from Beckenbauer, who rushed to the linesman and complained of an offside that nobody else had seen. The linesman then spoke to the referee who disallowed the goal.

Leeds were enraged and lost their heads. Bayern countered and scored two quick-fire goals from their only two attempts on goal all night. From a position of domination Leeds had lost the game and their seemingly rightful place at Europe's top table.

The sense of injustice prompted Leeds fans to shower seats and coins onto the Parc des Princes pitch and signalled a 40-year sense of defiance, which sees them self-proclaim the club as 'Champions of Europe' to this day. The French referee never officiated a major game again and question marks remain over the validity of the result.

But it doesn't change the fact that Revie's Leeds United never got the official seal of approval and the club disintegrated quickly from an efficient, well-drilled outfit into a disjointed mess. The chip on the shoulder and the distrust of much of English and European football was fuelled from that night in Paris, and has dominated Leeds fans' character ever since. Occasional highs have been experienced in the intervening 40 years, but far more lows. Paris was the night that broke Leeds United and changed its DNA forever. 

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