Today it is half-a-century since Chelsea vanquished Leeds United at the second time of asking to lift the oldest club competition trophy for the first time in our history. To mark the anniversary and ahead of the game being shown in full on The 5th Stand app later today, club historian Rick Glanvill looks forward to the game in the style of our modern day Pre-Match Briefing previews…

So, let battle recommence (at last). Eighteen long days have passed since the draw at Wembley because both teams had to cram in three games. Leeds included their deeply disappointing European Cup semi-final trip to Celtic. The final Division One table left Chelsea in third place and Leeds, leaders until a month ago, in second. To this evening’s victor, then, will go the last spoils of the season.

The harmony of a joint lap of honour after the medal ceremony at Wembley, instigated by Eddie McCreadie, was swiftly forgotten. Typically, Don Revie complained, ‘we must be the unluckiest side in the world’ after the stalemate. ‘The way we fought back to draw must have really sickened Leeds,’ smiled skipper Ron Harris in response.

In truth, the gruelling 120 minutes on the Wembley mud helped neither side. Thank heavens for Chelsea’s unquenchable spirit and the two Hs – Houseman and Hutch. Thanks to them, the Blues came from behind twice to secure the first cup final draw since 1912, and one so dramatic that ‘Shoot’ magazine dubbed it ‘the greatest final ever’.

Such has been the interest in this north-south heavyweight rematch, it is likely to secure the biggest television audience ever for a game of club football.The full match will be shown live in colour on BBC’s ‘Cup Final Grandstand’ show, and ITV have shunted ‘Coronation Street’ to an earlier slot to accommodate their coverage (‘Callan’ will follow afterwards).

And so to Old Trafford, where our fans will occupy the famous Stretford End. Come on, Chelsea!

Showpiece surface failed the nation

Sadly, the ‘ploughed field’ rumours about the national stadium proved all too real, especially after heavy showers the previous day. ‘You needed hoofs to play on the Wembley pitch,’ claimed Leeds’ Terry Cooper. Hmm, lucky horseshoes… now there’s something else for the notoriously superstitious Don Revie to ponder.

There is already a story doing the rounds that the Horse of the Year Show was staged recently at Wembley, causing all the problems. Not true. Those with longer memories know the trouble stems from two Royal International Horse Shows staged there, the most recent a full nine months ago (it has since hoofed it to Hickstead in Sussex).

Reseeding proved insufficient, and an expensively relaid pitch failed to take after another long, cold, wet winter – the state of it had the League Cup finalists cursing only last month. One hundred tons of sand strewn across it only served to make things worse, and 100,000 spectators present had contributed £128,000 to watch. They, the players, and the global audience, deserved a better playing surface.

Thankfully, there will be no shock on the faces of players as they take their traditional pre-match stroll on the turf tomorrow evening at Old Trafford. Despite Manchester’s reputation as the country’s best umbrella salesman, United’s playing field has held up well. It is hardly a bowling green but a true, hard and fast surface, and we won 2-0 there in December thanks to a brace from Ian Hutchinson.

One member of the Chelsea family is especially delighted with the selection of this stadium for the replay – last used for a final when the Pensioners played there in 1915. Dave Sexton’s father, Archie, had his proudest moment as a boxer at Belle Vue, Manchester, in 1933, when he took on local favourite Jock McAvoy for the British middleweight crown. Sadly, Sexton senior was stopped in the 10th round. Here is hoping it is his son who lands the knockout blow there 37 years later.

Making the matches count

Will fatigue play a part at Old Trafford tonight? This will be the 63rd match of the season for Don Revie’s Yorkshiremen, and ‘only’ number 54 for the Blues of Dave Sexton. Only last month, remember, Leeds fielded an entire team of reserves against Derby – on club doctor’s advice – and were fined £5,000 by the Football League.

Drama at Wembley

Eighteen days ago the ITV computer’s pre-match prediction of Chelsea 2 Leeds 3 after extra-time almost came to pass, but thankfully the Blues had the final say, despite the additional 30 minutes.

As enthralling a spectacle as Wembley provided, two of the four goals resulted from errors induced by the state of the pitch. Jack Charlton’s opening header lost so much power when it bounced that it stayed low and went under the flailing boots of Eddie McCreadie and Ron Harris (claims of a foul on Peter Bonetti were waved away).Four minutes before half-time, after Ian Hutchinson again beat Norman Hunter in the air, Peter Houseman’s reply looked similarly compromised, and slipped under Gary Sprake’s clasp. Bonetti did well just to lay a glove on Mick Jones’ powerful late strike, but the goal of the game was Hutch’s typically brave and decisive header.

Both sides came close to further goals – the bar denied the Yorkshiremen three times – but it was not to be. And so Ron Harris wearily climbed the steps to become the first captain to lead his players up to the royal box without then raising the trophy itself.

Hudson back in the frame?

Sexton is keeping faith with the 13-man squad he originally selected for the final, with Alan Hudson suddenly in the frame again after a hard workout on Monday at Mitcham. The 18-year-old prodigy remains a big doubt, however. Second Wembley goalscorer Ian Hutchinson had to visit the dentist yesterday but will play, though Chelsea’s shrewd tactician may make a few tweaks.

Poor Dave Webb groaned, ‘They made Eddie Grey “man of the match” – what does that make me?’ and it is true he endured a difficult 120 minutes against the Scottish winger 18 days ago. Film and theatre star Michael Crawford, a big Blues fan, was among those who consoled the versatile defender after the draw, but Webby was having none of it – even when someone pointed out his brilliant goal-line clearance in extra-time kept the hopes of London football alive. ‘Now all I want is the chance to redeem myself,’ he said before this evening’s game. Stranger things have happened…

There are suggestions from the training ground that Ron Harris, one of the best tacklers in the game, will swap places to pay closer attention to the tricky Leeds left-winger. Chopper has made the switch from centre- to full-back several times before, and has man-marked the likes of George Best out of the game.

At Wembley Marvin Hinton became the first Chelsea substitute to be used in an FA Cup final when half-fit Harris was spent at the end of normal time. Suave Marv is expected to be handed the 12 shirt again tonight, though Sexton is not announcing his team beforehand this time.

Doubts over Bremner and Sprake

Renowned bingo player Revie may be forced to recheck his ticket tonight, with several first-choice players unavailable. Wales international goalkeeper Gary Sprake, whose error at Wembley allowed Houseman to net the Blues’ first equaliser, was injured in the European Cup against Celtic.

If he does not recover, the less-experienced David Harvey is expected to retain the gloves. The Whites’ manager is also sweating on the fitness of influential skipper and recently crowned Footballer of the Year, Billy Bremner, who has been playing despite a groin strain. Usual substitute Mick Bates, or reserve team regular Terry Yorath, 20, could be drafted in.

Lucky charms

It is quite well known that Revie is a highly superstitious chap: he thinks birds are unlucky, dislikes ornamental elephants, and has worn the same ‘lucky’ blue lounge suit on matchdays for years. It was reported he felt one of the factors in Leeds failing to hold onto their lead at Wembley was that Princess Margaret, who was presented to the teams before kick-off, was wearing green – a colour that to him signifies ill-fortune.

Some Chelsea men are equally irrationally. Dave Sexton carries a bundle of wishbones in his pockets for good luck and has had the top button missing from his official blazer throughout the season – he noticed it after the Blues had won a match and decided not to repair it.

Another for his rituals is physiotherapist Harry Medhurst. He carries a substitute tracksuit with him to every game, has worn the same old pullover, and has refused to have his hair cut all through this cup run.

The Blues’ league success

The two points from the 2-1 beating of Liverpool 11 days ago completed an immensely satisfying league campaign by the Blues. Third place equalled our second highest ever position in the top flight, previously achieved in 1919/20 and 1964/65, and we finished with a points total of 55, only topped once before in the club’s history, again in 1964/65 – the ‘phantom treble’ season under Sexton’s predecessor, Tommy Docherty.

This was especially gratifying considering the tremendous number of injuries that have marred the whole season. The 21 home matches were watched by an incredible 2,107,806 spectators. Thank you, as ever, for your splendid support. In return, we hope to initiate a wonderful celebration this evening in Manchester and tomorrow in west London.

Come one, come all (providing we win)

The Chelsea party will travel back by train to Euston tomorrow, and it will be one hell of a party in west London should they have the FA Cup added to their luggage.

In that eventuality, an open-topped bus that has been hired will drive Sexton and the players through the streets around Stamford Bridge, culminating in a reception at Fulham Town Hall, so that all our supporters can come and show their approval. It could be the biggest street party since VE Day in 1945.

The bus will have come up from Brighton, where Sexton lives, and he is threatening to catch a lift back home alone in it after the celebrations, rather than take the train. ‘It will be a lot slower,’ he said, ‘but I will have plenty of time to savour our achievements.’

FA Cup final replay regulations

Should the scores be level after 90 minutes, the match will enter a period of extra-time. A draw after the final whistle will mean a further replay at Highfield Road, and a windfall of estimated £6,500 into the coffers of Coventry FC. Had Leeds not lost their European Cup semi-final to Celtic, there would be no space in the calendar for a third game. Instead the FA were considering Chelsea and Leeds either sharing the trophy, or tossing a coin to determine the winners. Thankfully the Bhoys won that ‘Battle of Britain’.In a slight change from the first match, tonight Chelsea will wear the second choice blue and gold strip, with Leeds in traditional usual all-white.

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Europe here we come…

Are we ready for a few continental jaunts later this year? If the result goes the right way tonight the Blues will enter an official UEFA competition for the first time in our history next season: the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Chelsea (third) and Leeds (second) have both already qualified for the lesser Inter-Cities Fairs Cup so, whoever wins today, the fourth merit place will be spare, and pass further down the league.

Under normal circumstances that would mean Derby (fourth), Liverpool (fifth) plus Coventry (sixth) joining tonight’s losers. However, Brian Clough’s Derby men are banned from the Fairs Cup after making an illegal payment to skipper Dave Mackay, so seventh-placed Newcastle will be the replacements.

Among the potential opponents confirmed for the 1970/71 Cup Winners’ Cup are Aberdeen, and League Cup-winners Manchester City – who, incidentally, will contest the 1970 final with Gornik Zabrze in Vienna this evening.

Watch the game on The 5th Stand tonight from 7.30pm (UK time) with the video available on demand after that.