England under Don Revie were a side of contrasting fortunes. Often they were dour and uninspired. Occasionally they were fluent but unfortunate. And then on very rare occasions they were vibrant and clinical. On this Saturday in May it was most definitely the latter as they destroyed Scotland in probably the finest display of the Revie era to clinch the Home International Championship and end the former Leeds boss’s first season in charge in a positive manner.
Alan Ball captained an England side which had changes from the draw with Wales the previous Wednesday. Kevin Beattie came in at left back to replace Ian Gillard, Colin Bell returned in place of Viljoen and most importantly Kevin Keegan returned after going AWOL in place of David Thomas.
Despite England being at home, Wembley was awash with Tartan and Lion Rampant flags with BBC’s David Coleman proclaiming there to be “60 or 70 thousand Scots in the crowd”. The bi-annual pilgrimage to London was at its height in these heady days for the Scottish national side, and they were probably the favourites going into the match. The TV audience at home, watching live on BBC & ITV, were about to see the Scottish team dismantled.
England were in front after just six minutes. The ball broke to Gerry Francis in midfield. The QPR man took a couple of strides before driving the ball home from 20 yards. “It’s there..He loves that” shouted Coleman before adding that “Kennedy in goal just waved it past him.”
Stewart Kennedy had been an ever-present in the Rangers side which had just won its first Scottish league title in 11 years, ending the dominance of Celtic’s 9 in a row team. However this game would be his final appearance for the national team, as he produced an abysmal performance at a stadium which had long been known as the graveyard of many a Scottish goalkeeper.
Kennedy may have been at fault for England’s opener, and he had no time to calm his nerves as England doubled their lead a minute later. Ball lofted a pass down the flank for Keegan, who showed his pace to burst away from the pursuing Scottish defence. He then hit a superb cross to the far side where Beattie had put in a lung busting run to be in position to head home. Although the header was good, questions had to be asked about the hapless Kennedy who seemed to lose the ball in flight before crashing into the goalpost as the ball flew past him. David Coleman was in no doubt that the keeper was at fault proclaiming: “Kennedy must have lost his geography surely because he should have had that beyond doubt.”
Scotland despite being shell-shocked began to show shoots of recovery and were unfortunate not to be given a lifeline when thy had a penalty claim turned down. Winger Arthur Duncan hit the ball in from the left hand side which clearly struck Ball on the arm, but the referee Rudi Gloeckner waved away the appeals with Coleman adjudicating that it was “hands but accidental” a phrase which seems to have become extinct in the modern game.
Scotland were unlucky again moments later as they hit England on the counter. Kenny Dalglish running from midfield fed Derek Parlane, the Rangers (and future Leeds United) striker, who hit a shot which beat Clemence in the England goal but came off the outside of the post. Then Alfie Conn went close as England only half cleared a corner, his shot from the edge of the area whizzing just past the post. “This is developing into a tremendous match” said Coleman as Scotland continued to press, with Bruce Rioch the next to fire just wide of the England goal.
Despite Scotland’s pressure, their failure to take a chance was punished five minutes before half time when England made it 3-0. Once again there was an element of fortune about the goal as Colin Bell lost control of the ball 20 yards away from goal but as the ball bobbled about he managed to drive a shot past Kennedy.
England, clinical in attack, were still a little clumsy in defence. The goals conceded against Wales had been down to shaky defending and the back four were once again at fault right on half time as they gifted Scotland a way back into the match. Dave Watson missed his kick on the edge of the area allowing Ted McDougall to gain possession. As he turned away from Colin Todd, the ball struck the Derby defender on the arm, and this time Herr Gloeckner pointed to the spot. Rioch stepped up and was “so composed he had time to stop and think about it” as he calmly slotted home to make it 3-1.
England came out with tails up at the start of the second half, Francis whistling a shot high and wide in the opening seconds, prompting Coleman to profess that he “could become the next Bobby Charlton with this kind of shooting.”
Defensive frailties were still apparent though and Scotland should have moved within a goal when Todd was short with a backpass. Duncan latched onto the ball and rounded Clemence but could only shoot into the side netting.
It was confirmed that luck was most definitely on England’s side when they went 4-1 up. Given a free kick 20 yards out on the left hand side of the area, England set up a planned set-piece. The ball was rolled by Bell between Ball’s legs for Francis to strike, but the referee stopped the move in its tracks as he had not blown his whistle as he was otherwise occupied in sorting out the Scottish wall. The Scots must have been paying absolutely no attention because when the free kick was finally allowed to be taken, England tried exactly the same move. Francis shot was struck firmly and took a deflection which saw it evade the reach of the pedestrian Kennedy between the posts.
Scotland’s defence was now at times laughable and England were allowed numerous chances to put the ball in the net in the incident which led to England’s final goal of the afternoon. A free kick from the right was headed by Keegan over Kennedy but against the crossbar. The ball fell invitingly to Watson who somehow failed to finish from two yards out, instead hitting the post. Fortunately for England the ball fell into the path of David Johnson who poked the ball home for his 3rd goal in just two appearances.
England could have had a sixth but Channon miskicked an effort goalwards from just six yards out, the weakness of the shot allowing the Scottish defence to hack the ball clear.
Scotland were denied a consolation near the end by a world-class save by Ray Clemence. Substitute Tommy Hutchinson struck the ball superbly from the edge of the box, only to see Clemence turn the ball over the bar at full stretch.
The final whistle brought an end to the first season of Don Revie’s reign as England manager. It had been a year which had seen a great deal of tinkering as Revie sought to find the blend which had bought him so much success in the club game. As the game ended David Coleman believed that the balance had been found, telling viewers that “Don Revie has produced a side, when it mattered most, to win the International Championship.” All that was left of the 1974/75 season was to see if the club that Revie built would achieve his ultimate ambition. Coleman and Revie would be side by side in Paris for the biggest night in Leeds United’s history, as they took on Bayern Munich in the European Cup Final.