The League Cup Run of 1967/68

The League Cup Run of 1967/68

Derby travel to Boundary Park on Tuesday to play Oldham Athletic in the first round of the Carabao Cup. In this article, Steve McGhee looks back at the Rams’ first real success in this competition.

Under its various sponsored guises, the Football League Cup is now a well-established feature of any season but, back in 1960, when it was first played for, the brainwave of then Football League secretary Alan Hardaker was met by a tide of apathy and concern over potential fixture congestion. Indeed, in season 1962/63 only 80 of the 92 league clubs even bothered to enter it.

Hardaker, however, saw the competition as a way of aligning midweek competitive football (growing ever more popular since the introduction of the European club tournaments) with the fact that the vast majority of clubs now had floodlights at their ground. Interest in the tournament was often limited in comparison to the FA Cup, however the introduction of a Final at Wembley in season 1966/67 and the subsequent victory in that initial Wembley final by then Third Division QPR was the catalyst for the tournament to finally say it “had arrived”.

Derby had, up until 1967, had a rather mediocre record in the tournament, having reached no further than the third round in any year, as well as suffering a number of defeats at the hands of lower-ranked clubs such as Chester and Reading. Season 1967/68 however, Clough & Taylor’s first in charge of the club, would see a marked change in these Cup fortunes.

Round Two

Exempt from the 1st round, the 2nd round draw pitted the Rams with a tie against, of all clubs, Hartlepools United who had only recently lost their up-and-coming managerial team to…Derby County! ‘Pools had defeated their 4th Division compatriots Bradford City 1-0 in the 1st round and headed to the Baseball Ground in good form, lying 5th in the table. The match was scheduled for September 13th with a 7.30pm kick-off and Derby issued a standard 16 page programme, costing 6d, complete with the newly-redesigned front cover.

Team line-ups were, as ever, in the centre pages along with the current league tables. Reading material was limited to an introduction to Hartlepools (including the observation that “there was considerable disappointment when Mr. Clough moved to Derby”), a brief summary of the previous week’s 1-0 victory at Loftus Road and indication that the cost of the programme would rise to 9d (a 50% rise!) as of the next home game, though that would include the latest “Football League Review” magazine. Other than that, the rest of the space was taken up by advertisements for the likes of Fryer Homes, Derwent Press, Don Amott Caravans, Notsa Engineering and Alvaston Motors as well as many other local firms.

The match itself, watched by 17,310 spectators, resulted in a fairly comfortable 4-0 victory for the Rams, a hat-trick from John O’Hare and a single Billy Hodgson strike enough to see off the visitors – who included one for the future in their side, a certain John McGovern. As a final point of note, this game was also Ian Buxton’s last for the club before his transfer to Luton Town.

Rams team: Matthews; Richardson, Hopkinson: Webster, Saxton, Buxton; Hughes, Durban, O’Hare, Hector, Hodgson. Sub: Cleevely

Round Three

And so to the third round and the draw gave the Rams another home tie, this time against fellow 2nd Division outfit Birmingham City. The Blues had beaten Plymouth 2-0 in the previous round and, by the time the match came round, on October 11th, were lying 7th in the league table, two places behind Derby. A tough tie, with Birmingham including their new signing, former England international Fred Pickering, at centre-forward alongside another capped striker, Barry Bridges. By now, Billy Hodgson had left Derby to join Rotherham, so, with Alan Hinton cup-tied, left-back Mick Hopkinson was asked to play further upfield in a more attacking role. Bobby Saxton continued to deputise for the cup-tied Roy McFarland.

A standard 16 page programme, now costing 9d, was issued which included a rather belated “welcome” to new signing John O’Hare as well as a potted biography of the career of Kenneth Turner, now in his 6th year on the Rams board of directors. Mr. Turner still possessed his father’s season ticket from 70 years previous – which cost all of 6/6d! I wonder where that ticket is now!

A very healthy crowd of 24,827 were in attendance to see a, perhaps, surprisingly comprehensive 3-1 victory for the home side, with goals from Kevin Hector, Mick Hopkinson and John O’Hare, Bridges replying late on for the visitors.

Rams team: Matthews; Daniel, Richardson; Webster, Saxton, Waller; Hughes, Durban, O’Hare, Hector, Hopkinson. Sub: Cleevely

Round Four

The draw for the fourth round gave the Rams yet another home game – this time against 4th Division Lincoln City who, although sitting in 11th place in the table had already eliminated Mansfield, Torquay and, most notably, Newcastle from the tournament. Brian Clough must have been concerned, as he had the Imps watched no less than three times prior to the 4th round tie, scheduled for November 1st.

The line-up, rather different to the one appearing in league games due to the cup-tied players, included Richie Barker in an unaccustomed appearance on the left wing and Mick Hopkinson returning to left back.

Once again, a 16 page programme costing 9d was issued. Clough’s “manager’s notes” was an intermittent feature of the programme at this stage and these were not included here. Pen pictures of 18 Lincoln players were, however, so perhaps there was some doubt about their likely line-up. The ongoing feature spotlighting the club’s directors (as opposed to the players!) continues with a full page article on chairman Sam Longson, complete with photograph of him standing next to his Rolls Royce (reg plate 1 SMU). No double yellow lines outside the Baseball Ground in those days!

As for the match itself, well, Clough’s wariness of the opposition proved well-founded, 25,079 spectators (including a sizeable travelling support) witnessing a 1-1 draw, Richie Barker netting for Derby, Roger Holmes for Lincoln.

Rams team: Matthews; Daniel, Hopkinson; Webster, Saxton, Waller; Hughes, Durban, O’Hare, Hector, Barker. Sub: Rhodes

The replay was scheduled for 7 days later and, if match attendance is any indication of cup fever, then the city of Lincoln was at fever pitch. A record Sincil Bank crowd of 23,196 shoehorned their way into the old ground (also paying record receipts) to see which team would go through to the quarter-finals to play Darlington. Clough tried yet another player in the problem #11 shirt, this time moving Alan Durban out wide and giving Barry Butlin his Rams debut at inside-right.

Lincoln issued a 16 page programme for the historic tie, costing 6d, but for this the reader got very little in the way of reading material, just a few excitable notes on how much the cup run meant to the club, the city and, perhaps written with tongue-in-cheek (?), the “businessmen of the city”. A nod, perhaps, to the local publicans?

Advertising makes up much of the content, though, as ever, these can be illuminating to look back on many years later. Here, local suppliers of everything from coal to portable typewriters, paper bags to printers are represented. And not a multinational corporation in sight!

The match itself, on a rather boggy pitch, proved a disappointment for the majority of the crowd, with the Rams easing home 3-0, goals from John O’Hare (with two) and Kevin Hector earning that home tie in the quarter-finals against another giant-killer, Darlington.

Rams team: Matthews; Daniel, Hopkinson; Webster, Saxton, Waller; Hughes, Butlin, O’Hare, Hector, Durban. Sub: Rhodes (for Hector)

Round Five

There was a short gap of two weeks before the visit of Darlington. In the meantime, the Rams had slipped down to 12th place in the table following successive defeats to Bristol City, Carlisle and Hull. Darlington, on the other hand, were on a run of only 1 defeat in 6, propelling them up to 18th in the 4th Division. Their own cup run had commenced in the 1st round and, to date, they had beaten York, Southend, Portsmouth and Millwall to reach this stage. Potentially tricky opponents, then, and the 23,631 fans who turned up that evening were in for a real treat.

The usual 16 page programme costing 9d was issued, much of which was the standard advertising as described in the Hartlepools issue, although now included is an advert for “Frank Upton’s Upperdale Service Station” on Derby’s Upper Dale Road and I’m guessing that this was the same Frank Upton who played 272 games for the Rams. The director put under the spotlight in this issue was the club President himself, Sir Robertson King K.B.E. who had watched his first Rams game way back in 1912. Also included is a small piece on Kevin Hector which notes that, apart from being Derby’s club record signing, he enjoys cricket and made 70 not out in his debut for his local XI.

The match itself was quite cagey in the first half, the visitors content to sit back and defend. However, with virtually the last kick of the half, Darlington took the lead with a breakaway goal from their outside-left Les O’Neill. Whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time must have goaded the Rams into action as they launched a whole series of attacks, finally equalising through Richie Barker. Perhaps the wind was blowing fumes from the brewery behind the popular side terracing but, whatever the reason was, at this point both sides simply forgot how to defend. Goal after goal went in, the final one coming in the 89th minute (an own goal) and, when the dust had settled, the final score read Derby County 5 Darlington 4. For the Rams, the scorers were Richie Barker, Alan Durban (twice), Gordon Hughes and poor old Les O’Neill who scored at both ends. Other than O’Neill, the Quakers goals came from Bobby Cummings, Joe Jacques and Don Ratcliffe.

So Derby County were through to their first major cup semi-final in almost 20 years – but who would they get in the draw?

Rams team: Matthews; Daniel, Richardson; Webster, Saxton, Waller; Hughes, Barker, O’Hare, Hector, Durban. Sub: Hopkinson


Along with the Rams, the other semi-finalists were 2nd Division Huddersfield and 1st Division giants Arsenal and Leeds United. Ironically, given that they were to meet one another in the 3rd round of the FA Cup on January 27th, the draw paired the Rams with Don Revie’s Leeds, the first leg of the tie to be played at the Baseball Ground on January 17th, the second leg at Elland Road on February 7th. Three games in three weeks would allow Clough and Revie to get to know one another quite well! Clough had already spoken to the Yorkshire Post in early January about how much he admired the professionalism of Leeds. And without a hint of irony!  Leeds themselves had disposed of Luton, Bury, Sunderland and Stoke to reach the last four.

By the time the first leg came round, the Rams were on a run of only 1 win in 12 league games and had dropped to 15th in the table. Leeds, on the other hand, were in second place, just behind Manchester United, and on a run of 5 straight wins.

Once again, a 16 page programme costing 9d was issued although, on this occasion, there is a “With the Manager” feature on page 3 where Clough expresses his awe for not just Leeds’ playing record but also, once again, their “professionalism”. Indeed, “enviable” is the word he uses when alluding to this. An interesting insight into the mindset of the 32-year-old manager given future events? By now there were no more directors to feature, so the space is given over to notices detailing arrangements for those Derby fans wishing to attend Elland Road for the FA Cup tie as well as a more hopeful notice detailing arrangements for the League Cup Final at Wembley on March 2nd, should the Rams get there.

Clough was, by now, using new signing Arthur Stewart at left-half and his was the only change from the line-up which defeated Darlington. The match itself was a rather torrid affair for the 31,904 present, Leeds quite content to play a counter-attacking game as well as using all their much-vaunted “professionalism” to ensure Derby’s chances were limited to a couple of Kevin Hector efforts. As such, it looked like the only way there would be a breakthrough would be from a set-piece and so it proved to be, Johnny Giles converting a debatable second-half penalty to give them a one goal advantage going into the second leg.

Rams team: Matthews; Daniel, Richardson; Webster, Saxton, Stewart; Hughes, Barker, O’Hare, Hector, Durban. Sub: Hopkinson.

Ten days after this game, Leeds had also won the FA Cup tie between the two teams, Jack Charlton and Peter Lorimer’s second-half goals the difference in front of 39,753 at Elland Road but the Leeds programme notes for the second leg of the semi-final warned against complacency stating that “we are naturally confident without being cocky that we can beat them a third time” though “we can expect Clough’s boys to fight to the last ditch”. Interesting use of verbs there!

The programme itself is a logistically awkward affair, 16 pages costing one shilling but with the “Football League Review” inserted into the programme in such a manner as the two could not be extricated. The editorial deals with the suggestion that “Leeds MUST win something this season” by expressing certainty that, in Don Revie, the club have the man in place to do just that. The pen-pictures of the Rams players are extensive in that they cover 20 of the squad, including players such as David Wiggington and Richard James who would never make a first team appearance.

Other than that, the programme is mainly advertising, much of it industrial, thus reflecting the area’s economy though hidden away on page 12 is a nod towards modernity with an advert for The Continental Casino, who promise “a French casino atmosphere complete with all hand games as well as roulette”.

As Bobby Saxton had moved to Plymouth a few days earlier, there was a return at centre-half for Phil Waller. Other than that, the team remained unchanged from the first leg. The game itself was a much more open affair than the first leg and the Rams gave the travelling support amongst the crowd of 29,367 hope when Kevin Hector’s 12th minute header levelled the aggregate score. Virtually straight from the restart, however, Leeds won a free kick on the edge of the area and Rod Belfitt was first to Peter Lorimer’s deflected shot to turn it past Reg Matthews. With a minute of the first half left, Eddie Gray set off on a run from the halfway line and, beating three challenges, shot home from 20 yards out. Down but not out, the Rams continued to attack in the second half but were beginning to be more susceptible to Leeds’ counterattacks.  On the hour mark, Leeds were awarded a penalty. Giles missed it but within 10 minutes, Belfitt had scored again to make the aggregate score 4-1. To their credit, Derby never gave up and, in the 89th minute, Arthur Stewart netted a late consolation.

Rams team: Matthews; Daniel, Richardson; Webster, Waller, Stewart; Hughes, Barker, O’Hare, Hector, Durban. Sub: Robson

But that was that and the end of the Rams’ most memorable cup run since reaching the FA Cup quarter finals in 1950. The League Cup itself was eventually won by Leeds, a single Terry Cooper goal enough to beat Arsenal in front of 97,877 at Wembley. As for Derby, well, season 68/9 approached and with it, not just the 2nd Division title but also another marathon League Cup run!

This article was first printed in issues 1 and 2 of Derby County Memories (June and September 2013). If you enjoyed reading it, why not buy a copy of the magazine? See the About section for further details.

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