James Lawton: A view from the dugout on the day Leeds became FA Cup's slain giants

Venables told his players: "Take this day for yourselves, make it something you have always"
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Malcolm Allison didn't say a word in the Crystal Palace dressing room at half-time. He just stood in the corner with a small, slightly beatific smile on his face as the man he had handpicked as his coaching protégé, Terry Venables, delivered a series of one-on-one brainstorming sessions with each player.

Venables, who had swallowed hard a year or so earlier when Allison called him into his office at Selhurst Park and told him he could no longer do it as a player and it was time for him to re-cast his ambitions to coaching.

Allison softened the pain somewhat when he added: "You're the brightest young football man I've ever encountered and I don't think there's anything you can't achieve."

Many of Venables' warmest admirers feared then, as they would through so much of his career, that if he had a weakness, it was that for all his wit and vision, he might not be quite single-minded enough to make one of the great football careers. He had, after all, variously seen himself as an entrepreneur, a novelist, and even a crooner.

But then anyone who was around him that day at Elland Road when his Third Division Palace beat a Leeds United who less than a year earlier had lost, unjustly, many will always swear, to Bayern Munich in the 1975 European Cup final in Paris, could vouch easily enough for the assessment of Allison.

It was a day when each of Venables' players responded perfectly to his promptings. If they had any illusions that there was an easy route to their great triumph when they came in at half-time leading 1-0 they were stripped down in a 10-minute blitzkrieg of both analysis and exhortation.

The Venables tour-de-force was impossible to cast aside at the weekend when a trick of football history saw Leeds, an aspiring Leeds now attempting to fight their way out of the third tier of English football, as Palace were back on a biting cold day in West Yorkshire, ultimately outplay Manchester United in another FA Cup tie.

This was so because it is not often you see a young manager get hold of his team so brilliantly and draw from them all their strengths, all their hopes and all their self-belief. Simon Grayson did at Old Trafford on Sunday. Terry Venables did it at Elland Road in 1976.

I had a pretty good vantage point, sitting in the dugout alongside Venables and noting that as the pressure seemed to be building impossibly on his young players, as Billy Bremner ransacked his memory for all those moves that for a decade had been demoralising rival teams, before being replaced by Norman Hunter, the young Palace coach was becoming progressively relaxed.

Before the game he had told his players: "Take this day for yourselves, make it something you can have always. Don't leave that field thinking you could have done anything more."

It was, we know now, the command of Grayson at Old Trafford, and we also know, certainly, it is the directive Barcelona's Pep Guardiola regularly delivers to his all-winning, virtuoso team.

On the train up from King's Cross on the eve of the game, Allison and Venables had moved among their players with the calm demeanour of men who knew that the vital work had been done and the right level of confidence, and anticipation, had been established.

It was an outrageous belief when you considered quite what Palace would face. Young players like Jim Cannon and David Swindlehurst had already caught the eye and Peter Taylor was a winger of pace and trickery whose upward mobility was already assured, but this didn't make the challenge at Elland Road any less awesome.

John Giles had left at the end of the previous season, but Leeds still had Bremner and Peter Lorimer, Eddie Gray and Allan Clarke, Paul Reaney and the Rolls-Royce of utility play, Paul Madeley, a team that had stretched Franz Beckenbauer's Bayern to their limits at the Parc des Princes.

Allison's main contribution, as it was so often beneath the panache of his fedora, was tactical. From his Manchester City days duelling with Don Revie, he knew the Leeds mentality of thorough preparation, how Jimmy Bloomfield and his assistant Don Howe had absorbed such thinking in their own regime and that the dossier on the young Palace team would be wide and deep.

So Allison threw everything up in the air, sending out a formation of 5-2-3, with then revolutionary wing backs, Peter Wall and Cannon, and Stuart Jump, a pro old beyond his years, sweeping.

It also helped hugely that Taylor refused to be separated from the ball, however ferocious the attention he received from Reaney, whose greatest honour in the game was that he was reputed to play George Best better than anyone alive.

Venables merely smiled and murmured "nice one" when Taylor picked himself up from one collision, in the 24th minute, sent in a perfect cross for the formidably strong Swindlehurst to head home. There was pandemonium in the neighbouring dugout. Bloomfield gnawed on his pipe and Howe came to the touchline, bellowing revised instructions.

Leeds cranked up the pressure, inevitably, but Palace were equal to it. "Enjoy it boys," yelled Venables, "you've got 'em."

In the last minutes, the eerily composed Jump looked over to the dugout and pointed a finger to his wrist. He wanted to know how much time was left. Venables outstretched both hands, signalling 10 minutes. There was scarcely two but he didn't want premature celebration. Jump sent back instant re-assurance. Nonchalantly, he mimed the smoking of one of Allison's Havana cigars.

There was plenty of the real thing rolling back to King's Cross, but of course the Palace revolution didn't happen. They lost in the semi-final to Southampton, critically losing Taylor in a cynical tackle.

Venables made his fortune and his reputation in other places and Allison, the genius coach, the big football man who never hurt anyone so much as himself, next appeared in the dugout of Turkish club Galatasaray. There would be other dramas, other surges of hope and excitement, but that, essentially, was a day which would be required to stand on its own – a diamond that would never lose its lustre.

Whatever else football brings him, Simon Grayson will also always own such a day.

Fans not fooled by Coyle refusal to face music

Burnley manager Owen Coyle is clearly a football man with a future. Passionate, single-minded, some even say he may be a chip off the old Bill Shankly block.

However, there may be a need for him to acquire a little style when he steps back from the touchline and the dug-out.

His decision to send his assistant to face a national TV audience after Burnley's win at Milton Keynes, amid growing speculation that he was about to defect to Bolton, was put into an even dimmer light with the explanation that he was rushing back to join his family for a delayed celebration of Hogmanay.

Fans, as Shankly would have been the first to tell him, are not fools. For most of the time they live in the real world. They would probably have understood if he had faced them and said that he had an important decision to make about his future, a right of any man. What they didn't need, in the circumstances, was an insult to their intelligence.

Tour glory rests on Pietersen beating demons

In another day of compelling Test action it was not so easy to weigh the continued inconsequence of Kevin Pietersen.

We always knew he was facing a fierce examination when he returned to his homeland with an obligation to remake his standing as one of cricket's outstanding performers, a player whose sheer talent demanded that he again became something more than the highest valued act in cabaret cricket.

For the moment it is simply not happening. His soft dismissal yesterday, at a time when England's batting cried out for the authority that can only be bestowed by a performer of the highest quality, again left him bemused, perhaps even tortured.

How he responds in the second innings could well shape the series. At the very least, it will provide the most haunting theatre.

Ferguson's fury is the sign of a born winner

Some may have thought it was inconceivable that the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would again bang on about the paltry amount of stoppage time granted to his team when they sought to salvage a match which, he agreed, was won by the better side.

But of course it was as inevitable as the sunrise. You don't get to be 68 and still the most ferocious competitor in all of football if you behave consistently as a well-balanced, fully matured knight of the realm.

Of course he will continue to see everything through the prism of self-interest. It's a not-so-funny thing about pure winners.

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