Football: Lorimer's parallels with Leeds' success of '68

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The Independent Online
DAVID O'LEARY insisted before Leeds United's 3-1 defeat of Partizan Belgrade in the Netherlands that his youthful side could not win the Uefa Cup. It is only half-time in the tie, as football folk are wont to say, but Peter Lorimer begs to differ.

"I see Leeds as potential winners of the tournament," said Lorimer. "But it's going to be very difficult, with some strong clubs coming in later from the Champions' League."

Now 52, Lorimer is Leeds' record scorer in Europe and scored in both legs when they beat Partizan on the way to lifting the old Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968. The Scot with the 90mph shot was struck by the parallels between O'Leary's Leeds and Don Revie's team.

"Leeds were much the stronger and superior side, and when they went behind they rolled up their sleeves to get back into it," he said. "The first priority is to give yourself a chance in the second leg, preferably with an away goal. They did more than that on both counts.

"Like in our heyday, under Don, they powered forward when they could but also showed a bit of caution to keep Partizan away from their goal. It was perfect tactically, exactly the way we were encouraged to play in Europe.

"We never sat back and invited the opposition into our area, but if we got in front we protected what we had. Danny Mills, for instance, did not cross the half-way line once in the second half after working the right flank so well with Gary Kelly before half-time.

Lorimer was 19 when a young Leeds team reached the Fairs Cup semi-finals in the club's first European campaign. He detected "the same exuberance and togetherness" in Wednesday's side, which contained only four players over 25.

"It was a terrifically mature performance, and that's going to develop as the season goes on," said Lorimer before stressing the continuing need for a powerful front runner. "I still think losing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was a blow which will show eventually."

For the moment, however, Leeds are scoring freely. Lorimer argued that Lee Bowyer - more goals against Partizan - deserves an England cap. He also praised the contribution of David Batty, who is creating goals and relishing his role as father figure.

O'Leary, who said he would be making his players "practice volleys lying on their backsides" after Lucas Radebe's rare and bizarre goal, warned that Partizan had proved talented opponents who must not be allowed to score first in the second leg on 30 September.

The match, the first between British and Serbian clubs since the Nato bombing campaign, passed off without crowd trouble. A few Partizan fans berated the English media, convinced they were Leeds officials who had conspired with Uefa to switch the game from Belgrade. Police intervened just as reporters were asking where Norman Hunter was when they needed him.