The story of Leeds' FA Cup exit in 1920

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The relationship with Leeds United and the FA Cup has been a rocky one to say the least. If the two sat in a mediation session, there would be smiles and tales of occasional happier times. However, for every Billy Bremner winning goal in the Semi-Final against Manchester United, there's an Ian Porterfield. For every Trevor Cherry winner against Manchester City in 1977, there's a Ray Crawford. For every Brendon Ormsby, almost hurdling the fence in front of the Gelderd after heading the winner past David Seaman ten years later, there's a Jimmy Hasselbaink missed penalty against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and for every Jermaine Beckford at the Stretford End, there's a rainy day in Histon to spoil the parties.

In reality, other than May 1972, when Allan Clarke threw himself forward to head Mick Jones' cross into the Arsenal net, Leeds United and the FA Cup have always gone to bed on an argument.

Looking back, the writing was on the wall. The guardians of the fantastic looking trophy, the Football Association, have never really got on well with Leeds United and even the first couple of dates in 1920 ended in tears.

In 1919, Leeds United rose from the ashes of Leeds City and joined the Midland League, playing the first league game on 22nd November. There was no participation in the FA Cup that year as the competition was already underway.

Patience paid off and Leeds United finally met the FA Cup in September 1920, at the 'Extra Preliminary Round' stage. The draw paired Leeds with Boothtown, a team from the Halifax area, at Elland Road on 11th September. 

However, there was a problem, United were already scheduled to play that day in a Second Division match away at Leicester City. As we all know, none of us can be in two places at once, so Leeds got around the problem by sending the second string out to face Boothtown. All appeared well as the home side triumphed 5-2 with Len Armitage bagging a brace and Eugene O'Doherty becoming the first Leeds player to score a hat-trick.

Soon after, the Elland Road Directors were informed that the club would be required to attend a meeting of the Divisional Committee of the Football Association, under the Presidency of Mr A Hine, from Nottingham to answer to the fact that Boothtown had reported United for failing to play a full strength team.

At the meeting, in Sheffield on 22nd September, the Committee decided that Leeds had failed to comply with the competition rules and hit them with a £50 fine. Whilst dishing out the financial penalty, they informed Arthur Fairclough, who was Leeds' representative at the meeting, that the arrangements to play Leeds Steelworks, who had ceded home advantage, in the First Qualifying Round three days later, would remain in place. 

However, there was a problem, United were already scheduled to play that day in a Second Division match away at Blackpool. As we all know, none of us can be in two places at once....

Remarkably, the Committee granted Leeds permission to field an under strength team and duly the reserves took to the field against the Steelworks, knowing that the winners would play Harrogate in the next round of qualifiers. Leeds comfortably won 7-0 courtesy of a Walter Butler hat-trick and further goals from Robert Thompson, Ernie Hart, Eugene O'Doherty and Fred Waterhouse.

As far as the Cup was concerned and despite two victories from two games, that was the end of the road for Leeds. Still aggrieved by the fine handed to them, the club knew that having to face another tie in the qualifying round would present the same issue in that a league game was already scheduled and it would be almost impossible to give the cup priority and play the first team to avoid further punishment. As a result, the decision had been taken, prior to the Steelworks tie, to withdraw from the tournament in hope that the following season, they would enter at First Round proper stage. In the event of the decision, Harrogate were given a bye.

So, an unhappy start to a relationship that is still toxic one hundred years later. We live in hope that the two can patch things up and share another day that mirrors 6th May 1972.