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Carabao Cup

The League Cup: 1970-1979

Our decade-by-decade review of the competition continues, and next up it's the '70s!

25 February 2020

Stoke City's biggest triumph, an epic between Aston Villa and Everton and Nottingham Forest going back-to-back. The 1970s certainly delivered when it comes to the League Cup!


Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison remain one of football’s great management teams, and guided Manchester City to glory at the expense of West Brom in 1970.

Allison: “When we played in the League Cup Final, when extra-time came, I had a chat with Franny Lee who said ‘tell them to give the ball to me and I’ll win the game’. That was his attitude, and he was playing brilliantly at the time.”

Having beaten rivals Manchester United in the Semi-Final, City came from behind to win 2-1 in the Final.


Tottenham were double winners in the League Cup’s first season, and became the first club to complete a League Cup double, winning it in ’71 and ’73. Their first victims were Aston Villa, who were bidding to extend the Third Division’s incredible but brief history in the competition.


Five Clubs with trophy-winning traditions dominated the decade, each winning the competition twice. They were: Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest.

The exception were Stoke City who, in winning the competition in 1972, achieved the biggest triumph in their history to date. They almost didn’t make it to Wembley, though, with their Semi-Final against West Ham one of the best in League Cup history.

Three games couldn’t separate them – it took two dramatic penalty shoot-outs to do so. If the world’s top keeper, Gordon Banks, was the hero of the second game at Upton Park, the world’s top defender, Bobby Moore, almost upstaged him in the fourth. Playing as a goalkeeper following injury to Hammers number one Bobby Ferguson, he saved a penalty in the decider at Old Trafford (only for the rebound to be turned in).

In a run stretching back 100 years, Stoke had never been to Wembley, and never won a trophy, but that all changed and they seemed destined to go on to beat Chelsea. George Eastham, in his 36th year, was called out of retirement from South Africa and scored what proved to be the winner as the Potters won 2-1. “The old man has done it!” exclaimed Brian Moore on commentary.


Ralph Coates had had an unsuccessful time at Spurs following an expensive move from Burnley, but scored the only goal of the ’73 Final as they beat Norwich. In the space of a dozen years, Tottenham had won five cup finals at Wembley.


The beaten Norwich manager in ’73 was Ron Saunders, and he was back in the Final a year later, with Manchester City. It was to be defeat again though, as Wolves ran out 2-1 winners.


Saunders returned for a third consecutive year in ’75, and with a third different club. Beaten with Norwich and City, he was hoping it would be third time lucky with Aston Villa. Villa had just about got through a Semi-Final against Fourth Division side Chester, who were bidding to emulate Rochdale’s heroics of 1962.

Saunders’ luck finally changed this time, as Villa won 1-0.


Having lifted the trophy as Manchester City skipper in 1970, Tony Book returned as manager, and took on Newcastle United in the Final. Nineteen-year-old Peter Barnes scored to put City ahead before Newcastle equalised, and it would be the only Geordie on the pitch who would win the game for City. Dennis Tueart’s incredible overhead kick remains one of the great League Cup Final goals.

Tueart: “It’s not the best overhead kick I’ve ever scored in my life… the most important, but not the best. I couldn’t see where it went, but when I turned around and saw where it had ended up, I’d still be running around the stadium now if they hadn’t caught me!”


The Final that refused to end - 330 minutes of football in three different stadiums.

Villa and Saunders were back at Wembley once again in 1977, and this time it was against a club that he had played for, Everton, who were managed by former Villa player Gordon Lee.

The two played out a first-ever League Cup stalemate at Wembley, and the highlight of the game was referee Gordon Kew calling all 22 players together to find a pair of bandsmen’s spurs which had been lost during half-time.

The replay took place at Hillsborough on a Wednesday evening four days later but, after another draw, a second replay was needed. It would not take place for another four weeks and, for the first time ever in an English cup final, the match was to be decided on penalties if no winner emerged.

Aston Villa had played three games in eight days, whilst Everton had played four in eleven, but it wasn’t until late in extra-time that Villa eventually won, becoming the first club to win the League Cup three times and the first to win the trophy in three different cities.


In 1978, two more Geordies led out the two finalists, Nottingham Forest and Liverpool. Brian Clough and Bob Paisley were two of the most well known names in the game, but a relatively unknown teenager, Forest goalkeeper Chris Woods, upstaged everyone on the day.

“I thought I’d be a bit nervous, or more than I was, but when I got out there with the other players around me, it was a tremendous feeling.”

His defiance continued throughout a controversial Old Trafford replay, one which Forest eventually won 1-0. The League Cup was again a huge talking point.


Forest retained the trophy – becoming the first club to do so - at Southampton’s expense in 1979. It was the best Final since the heroics of QPR and Swindon in the 60s.

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