Back Up Where We Belong

Back Up Where We Belong

Written by John White for Manchester United Did You Know That

“The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day”

The first three lines from the song “Up Where We Belong” sung by Joe Cocker and
Jennifer Warnes.

In season 1974-75, United found themselves in the English Second Division after
being relegated at the end of the previous season. They had not played in the second
tier of English football since season 1937-38 when they finished runners-up to Aston
Villa and won promotion back into the top flight where they had remained until the
ignominy of relegation in season 1973-74.

Gone were away trips to Anfield (Liverpool), Arsenal Stadium (Arsenal), Elland Road
(Leeds United), Goodison Park (Everton), Maine Road (Manchester City), St James’
Park (Newcastle United), Stamford Bridge (Chelsea) and White Hart Lane
(Tottenham Hotspur). These were replaced with road trips to play Blackpool at
Bloomfield Road, Bristol Rovers at Eastville Stadium, Hull City at Boothferry Park,
Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road, Millwall at The Den, Notts County at Meadow Lane,
Oxford United at Manor Ground and York City at Bootham Crescent.

The road back to the First Division was going to be a long one for United, they had
several mountains to climb but they had to take things game by game and let the
players express themselves. The Board of Directors at Old Trafford did not panic and
sack Tommy Docherty when United were relegated. They kept faith in The Doc
winning promotion at the first time of asking and Docherty knew his job was on the
line if he did not deliver First Division football for season 1975-76. Following
United’s relegation he bought a player who would help propel United back into the
First Division with his goals and his menace in front of goal. In May 1974, Docherty
purchased Stuart Pearson from Hull City for £200,000 with Paul Fletcher, a Reserve
Team player at United, also forming part of the transfer as he went in the opposite
direction. It proved to be not only money well spent but an inspired signing. The 24-
year old Pearson, no relation to previous United players with the same surname,
Mark and Stan, played for The Tigers (Hull City’s nickname) from 1968-74 and
scored 44 goals in 129 League games, all in the Second Division. He was Hull City’s
top League goal scorer in seasons 1971-72 (15 goals) and 1972-73 (17 goals) and joint-
top goal scorer in his final season at Boothferry Park with Roy Greenwood on 12
goals. Pearson was a player accustomed to the hustle and bustle of a 42 game
campaign in the Second Division.

On the opening day of the 1974-75 season, United travelled to East London to play
Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road on 17 August 1974. The Three Degrees had just gone
to No.1 that very same day in the UK Singles Charts with their song “When Will I See
You Again.” The United fans who made the four hour coach trip to the game must
have been thinking when they were going to see the First Division again.

United won the game 2-0 with goals from Willie Morgan, United’s first goal in the
Second Division for 36 years (William McKay scored in a 2-0 win over Bury at Old
Trafford on 7 May 1938) and Stuart Houston. Stuart “Pancho” Pearson made his debut in the game. The game brought about an unusual occurrence when one of the
linesmen got injured with only four minutes of the game remaining and could not
carry on running the line. At the time there was no fourth official and in order for
the game to continue, a replacement linesman with the correct credentials was
required. Luckily a man stepped out from the crowd who was a qualified referee and
he had to borrow the black tracksuit top of Tommy Cavanagh, Docherty’s assistant

After the opening day victory, United won their next three League games beating
Milwall 4-0 at home (scorers: Daly 3 including a penalty and Pearson’s first goal for
United), Portsmouth 2-1 at Old Trafford (scorers: Daly penalty & Sammy McIlroy)
and a 1-0 victory over Cardiff City at Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales on 31 August 1974,
with yet another successful conversion from the penalty spot from the super cool
Republic of Ireland international midfielder, Daly. United went to the top of the
table after their victory in the Principality and were never displaced from topping the
Division thereafter.

On 5 April 1975, the table topping Reds visited The Dell to play Southampton in their
39th League game of the season. Lou Macari scored the only goal of the game on the
South Coast meaning United’s 1-0 win had secured promotion back into the big
flight, the First Division. The Doc repaid the trust Louis Edwards, the Chairman of
Manchester United, and Edward’s fellow club Directors had placed in him. United
then beat Fulham 1-0 at Old Trafford with Daly scoring his 11th League goal of the
campaign and when United drew 2-2 away to Notts County in their penultimate
game of the season on 19 April 1975, they clinched the Second Division
Championship title. Houston and Brian Greenhoff were the goal scorers who sent
the travelling Red Army away from Meadow Lane in celebratory mood.

Manchester United’s free flowing style of football attracted big crowds wherever they
played. They created a buzz of excitement with their attacking brand of football, a
throwback to the glory years of Matt Busby’s three great United sides who basically
said: “Let’s see how many you score and we will better that.” A kind of arrogance
perhaps but it was an attitude the United faithful loved. The average home
attendance for United games in season 1974-75, was 47,781 compared to the 42,721
the previous season. The Doc’s prescription worked and it worked well.

United were beaten in the FA Cup Third Round by Walsall, a 0-0 draw at Old
Trafford was followed by a 3-2 (scorers: Daly penalty, McIlroy) loss in the replay at
Bescott Stadium, Walsall. Docherty’s Tartan Army almost reached the League Cup
final in 1975. In Round 2, they beat Third Division Charlton Athletic 5-1 at Old
Trafford (scorers: Macari 2, McIlroy, Houston & Bowman o.g.) and Round 3
produced a Manchester derby at Old Trafford. On 9 October 1975, a crowd of 55,129
made their way to Old Trafford to see just how good Docherty’s young side were
against First Division opposition. Former United Legend, Denis Law, was no longer
with City. He played his last competitive game for them on 10 August 1974, a 2-1
victory against Oldham Athletic at Maine Road and 16 days later he retired. But the
visitors were not short of talent on the night, captained by Mike Doyle with Glyn
Pardoe, Mike Summerbee, Colin Bell, Asa Hartford, Dennis Tueart and the
flamboyant Rodney Marsh. Pardoe was lucky to be playing after breaking his leg in a
tackle with George Best in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on 12 December
1970. He suffered a horrific double fracture and at one point the doctors thought he might have to have his leg amputated but within two years he was back playing. City
won the First Division encounter 4-1 (scorer: Brian Kidd). But United’s young side
beat the more experienced visitors 1-0 in the League Cup Third Round with Mr
Reliable, Gerry Daly, scoring a penalty. Arthur Albiston made his United debut in
the game.

Round 4 of the competition brought another home tie, against Lancashire rivals and
fellow Second Division opponents, Burnley. United won the tie 3-2 with two Scots
grabbing the goals, Macari scored twice and Morgan also scored. Middlesbrough
were the opposition in the quarter-finals, a club which was enjoying life in the First
Division after winning the Second Division title the previous season. Managed by
Jack Charlton, they finished seventh in the League in 1974-75 but Docherty’s side
blew them away at Old Trafford, a comfortable 3-0 win (scorers: Pearson, Sammy
McIlroy & Macari) before a crowd of 49,501. The draw for the semi-finals saw the
names of fellow Second Division rivals for promotion Aston Villa and Norwich City in
the bag along with Fourth Division outfit Chester City. Villa, who finished runners-
up to United in the League that season, beat Chester City 5-4 on aggregate over two
legs. United and Norwich City, who finished third in the League behind Villa, drew
2-2 at Old Trafford in the first leg with Macari netting both before 58,010 fans. Ex-
United striker, Ted MacDougall (1972-73), scored for the visitors. In the second leg
United lost 1-0 at Carrow Road to exit the competition 3-2 on aggregate.

On 26 April 1975, Derby County ran out at their Baseball Ground for their last game
of the season having already been crowned First Division Champions before a crowd
of 36,882 fans who witnessed them lift the First Division trophy following a 0-0 draw
versus Carlisle United. That same day Tommy Docherty sent his Champions out at
Old Trafford to face Blackpool in the last game of the season, and regardless of the
result against The Seasiders, Martin Buchan would be holding aloft the Second
Division Championship trophy before 58,769 fans. Despite playing Second Division
football in 1974-75, United’s average home attendance of 47,781 was still the highest
in the country that season and the second highest ever for the Second Division. In
season 1947-48 Newcastle United attracted an average attendance of 56,473 at St
James’ Park (they finished runners-up to Birmingham City).

Docherty’s selection for the game was:
Alex Stepney, Alex Forsyth, Stewart Houston, Steve James, Martin Buchan (Capt),
Brian Greenhoff, Sammy McIlroy, Gerry Daly, Steve Coppell, Lou Macari, Stuart

United entertained the crowd with an emphatic 4-0 victory with goals from Pearson
2, who finished the season as United’s leading goal scorer in the League with 17,
Macari & Greenhoff. United were back among the Big Boys. The loudspeakers inside
Old Trafford belted out the No.1 song at the time, but alas “We Are The Champions”
by Queen was another two years away. The No.1 hit that day was fittingly a song by a
Scottish band, The Bay City Rollers, entitled “Bye Bye Baby,” the Edinburgh group’s
first No.1 hit. The song was the best-selling single in 1975. The Bay City Rollers were
famous for wearing their tartan clad outfits and on the terraces of Old Trafford the
United fans wore tartan scarves. United had definitely waved goodbye to Second
Division football.
But, despite United’s superb performances on the pitch, things of it were not so good.
In the early 1970s football hooliganism was rife, it was part and parcel of a matchday
experience. A number of clubs had sets of hooligan fans who formed themselves into
“Firms.” A football Firm is the term associated with a group of football hooligans
who travel to games together, very often with only one thing in their minds, violence
and mayhem with the fans of the opposing team. The best well known Firms during
the decade were: Arsenal (The Edecaws, The Gooners, The Herd), Aston Villa (C-
Crew, Steamers, Villa Hardcore, Villa Youth), Birmingham City (Zulus, Zulu’s
Warriors, Zulu’s Army, The Zulu), Blackpool (Rammy Arms Crew, The Muckers),
Bolton Wanderers (Bolton Service Youth, Cuckoo Boys), Burnley (Suicide Squad),
Bury (Interchange Riot Squad), Carlisle United (Border City Firm), Charlton
Athletic (Cockney Firestarters), Chelsea (Headhunters), Coventry City (The Legion),
Crystal Palace (Dirty 30), Derby County (Derby Lunatic Fringe), Everton (County
Road Cutters), Hull City (Hull City Psychos), Ipswich Town (Ipswich Punishment
Squad), Leicester City (Baby Squad), Liverpool (The Urchins),
Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough Frontline), Millwall (Bushwackers, F-Troop),
Newcastle United (Newcastle Gremlins, Newcastle Mainline Express
NME), Norwich City (Norwich Hit Squad), Nottingham Forest (Forest Executive
Crew),Portsmouth (6.57 Crew), Sheffield United (Blades Business Crew), Sheffield
Wednesday (Owls Crime Squad, Is That It?), Shrewsbury Town (E.B.F – English
Border Front), Stoke City (Naughty Forty), Sunderland (Seaburn Casuals),
Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs N17, Yid Army), West Ham United (Inter City Firm),
Wolverhampton Wanderers (Subway Army) and York City (York Nomad Society).

Two of the most notorious hooligan firms in Britain were the Leeds United Service
Crew and the Manchester United Red Army. When United met Leeds in the League
or in a domestic cup competition both sides wanted to come out victorious in the
battle. But for the Leeds United Service Crew and the Manchester United Red Army,
there was only one thing on their minds apart from the result of the game and that
was war. Two incidents involving rival fans occurred in 1974 which would change the
future of watching football matches in England. On 24 August 1974, a 17-year old
Blackpool fan was stabbed to death behind the Spion Kop at Bloomfield Road,
Blackpool during an English Second Division game. Kevin Olsson was the first fan to
be murdered inside an English football ground. At the end of the 1973-74 season
Manchester United were relegated to the English Second Division and throughout
the 1974-75 season the Red Army caused bedlam at football grounds the up and
down the length and breadth of England. Blackpool introduced segregation for fans
on their Kop and fenced them in which was quickly followed by many other clubs
including Manchester United.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and
convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” (Martin
Luther King Jnr). In season 1974-75. United met these demands.
Did You Know That?
Manchester United’s English Second Division Championship winning squad
included 8 Scottish players from a pool of 24: Arthur Albiston, Martin Buchan
(Capt), Alex Forsyth, Jim Holton, Stewart Houston, Lou Macari, Jim McCalliog and
Willie Morgan.


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