Graffiti, laundry and heroes: 1968/69 in 16 unmissable pictures

Shankly, Busby, Revie, players in towels ands the woman who washes Northampton’s kit: Peter Robinson’s camera snapped them all in a classic season

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1. Leeds into battle

Ready for battle? Don Revie addresses his assembled Leeds United players ahead of the new season. Since their 1964 promotion as Division Two champions, Leeds had twice finished second in the top flight, as well as losing the 1965 FA Cup final to Liverpool and the 1967 Fairs Cup final to Dinamo Zagreb.

However, victory over Arsenal in the 1968 League Cup final had secured the club’s first senior silverware and evidently boosted self-belief. Leeds soon added the 1967/68 Fairs Cup by beating Ferencvaros, recording clean sheets in both legs of the final for a 1-0 victory – just like the League Cup one over Arsenal.

But after a 66-game season chasing four trophies in 1967/68, Revie had a single aim in mind. As Johnny Giles recalls, "Revie called us all together after a pre-season training session and proclaimed: 'You’re going to win the championship this time, lads, and what's more you’re going to do so without losing a single league match!' We knew the boss was serious, and honestly believed we were quite capable of achieving such a feat."

2. Toddo

Graffiti on a wall in Sunderland acclaims the local club’s boy wonder, Colin Todd. Born in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, Todd chose Sunderland over Newcastle and Middlesbrough because the Mackems had a tradition of producing good young players – a decision justified when they won the 1967 FA Youth Cup with a side led by Todd and managed by Brian Clough.

By that time Todd was already a first-team regular at barely 18, a silky centre-back who was calm under pressure and creative in possession. The Black Cats struggled to avoid relegation, though, finally dropping in 1970; the following February, Todd was bought by Derby manager Clough for £175,000 – a British record for a defender. Again, the decision was justified as Todd became a full England international, won the First Division in 1972 and 1975, and was named PFA Player of the Year.

3. Laundry day

October 1968, and the Northampton Town kit is hung out to dry by one of those behind-the-scenes heroes every club needs. The Cobblers had an up-and-down 1960s – literally: they started the decade in Division Four, rose all the way to the top flight and then all the way back down again.

Promoted under Dave Bowen in 1961, 1963 and 1965, they spent just the one season in the First Division; despite memorable wins over foes like West Ham, Aston Villa, Leeds and Newcastle, they were instantly relegated and fell straight through Division Two, too – at which point Bowen left.

Having avoided relegation to the bottom tier in 1967/68, they had hoped to arrest the slide, but 1968/69 duly delivered a third relegation in four seasons and the Cobblers were once more in the basement.

4. Form a wall

Looking back from an age when graffiti is largely the mindless repetition of tags along railway lines, it’s almost nice to see someone take such care over their daubings. What makes this vandalism interesting – beside the fracturing of the 3-2-5 formation into something resembling a midfield diamond – is that it took place in Manchester: notice the advert for the Omar Sharif tearjerker Mayerling at the Deansgate ABC, while the Odeon went for the R-rated shocker Baby Love. Judging by those films’ release dates, this picture was taken in the dying months of 1968.

Maybe it was put there by a Londoner killing time before the return train from Piccadilly – Spurs lost 3-1 at Old Trafford on 28 August and 4-0 at Maine Road on 12 October, before returning in March for a 1-0 sixth round defeat by eventual FA Cup winners City. Or maybe it was a local who’d decided to support Tottenham – not exactly glory-hunting, considering City were league champions and United European champions.

Either way, it’s a line-up that’s both ephemeral and eternal. Martin Chivers, who would be Spurs’ top scorer for five successive seasons from 1969/70, only moved from Southampton in January 1968; by July, Dave Mackay had been tempted to Derby by Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, while Cliff Jones moved to Fulham in October 1968. But of these 11 players, all bar Chivers and Terry Venables represented Spurs for at least eight seasons – Jennings managed 13.

Next: Clear as mud