Keegan v BremnerFA Pro Boxing
On August 10 1974, English league champions Leeds United met FA Cup winners Liverpool in the FA Charity Shield, the football season's 'curtain-raiser' at Wembley Stadium. It was the first time the FA Charity Shield had been held at Wembley. Ted Croker, the FA secretary, had the idea that from 1974 the league champions would play the FA Cup holders at the national stadium. What better advert for the English Football Association than bringing together the two best football teams in the land at the time, in the globally renowned home of English football.
As a fitting tribute, Liverpool FC were led out onto the pitch by their recently retired and legendary manager, Bill Shankly. He had retired in May of that year, making way for his 'Boot Room' understudy Bob Paisley. Leading out Leeds United on the day was the recently appointed and ferociously outspoken ex-Derby County boss Brian Clough. This was his first game in charge since replacing Don Revie as the manager of the Yorkshire side.
From the first whistle, it was evident that there was going to be no love lossed between the two teams. The football on show from the start was dominated by niggling fouls and heated arguments. Leeds and Liverpool had their fair share of battles down the years, but it is doubtful that there had ever been an angrier encounter than this one. The 'Anfield Iron' Tommy Smith described the incident succinctly: 'The players expected a battle, even if the FA didn't. We had players who could look after themselves, and so did Leeds'.
The second half started and continued in the same spirit as the first - an ill-tempered clash. Throughout the second half, Keegan had been persistently fouled, it was only a matter of time before a confrontation exploded. On the hour came the incident that would forever define the occasion. Liverpool's Kevin Keegan, furious that he had been blindsided, lashed out at his nearest opponent.
Unaware that Johnny Giles who had been the guilty party, he vented his anger at the Leeds captain, Billy Bremner, as the nearest and most likely culprit. Bremner was not one to shy away from a fight, a notoriously combative and confrontational Scot, he began trading blows with Keegan. It was not a feint hearted exchange and left the referee Bob Matthewson with no option but to dismiss both players. Furiously annoyed that they had both been sent off for fighting, the disgruntled pair threw their shirts to the ground and walked bare-chested from the pitch.
The game finished 1–1, with Liverpool eventually winning on penalties, but the day was a bitter disappointment for the FA. Croker made sure that Keegan and Bremner, the first British players to be sent off at Wembley, knew they had disgraced English football. They were each suspended for 11 games and fined £500, a huge sum in 1974.
'They'd been getting at Kevin all day, Johnny Giles in particular. It was at a corner, and Giles came up behind Keegan and whacked him. Kevin whirled round but Giles had disappeared and Billy was the nearest Leeds player so Kevin went for him. Okay, so Billy ended up throwing punches too, but it should have been Giles who got Kevin’s attention.'