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Terry Cooper: the left-back who put Leeds United on the map

The Revie era legend passed away yesterday at the age of 77.

Soccer - Football League Cup - Final - Leeds United v Arsenal
Terry Cooper lifts Leeds United’s first ever major trophy, after scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in 1968.
Photo by Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images

A lot has happened since Elland Road was last filled. History was written and a 16-year exile from the top flight of English football was ended by a newly crowned heroes, while legends from a bygone era passed away one by one.

Norman Hunter, Trevor Cherry, Jack Charlton, Peter Lorimer, Mick Bates and now Terry Cooper have all left us since last April, and not a single capacity crowd has been able to pay tribute to the players that made Leeds United what it is today.

Leeds United v Arsenal
Leeds United players wheel away after Terry Cooper smashed home the winner at Wembley.
Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

They were our record appearance makers and record goalscorers. And in Cooper’s case in particular, they were the legends that lifted Leeds from obscurity into eternal historical significance.

The golden era of the 1960s and 70s produced a team that few in English football have been able to match. They had their ups and their downs, and they inspired a generation of football fans who passed down their tales of Revie’s boys - tales that kept us going and proud during the darker periods of our club’s history.

When Revie joined Leeds United they had never won a major honour; when he left they had won seven. The first of those, the one that signified the start of something great, was won by Cooper.

Eddie Gray’s 20th-minute corner swung in and was cleared off the line by George Graham. An unmarked Cooper saw the ball falling to him, and in the moment he put his laces through it Leeds went from underdogs to champions.

They had been runners-up twice in the league and once in the FA Cup between 1965 and 1966, but with a swing of his boot Cooper ensured that Leeds were now the favourites to lift trophies. And they became easier to come by after that.

The fixture against Everton at home will, by magnitudes, be one of the most emotional in the club’s history. Any legend dying feels like a stab in the gut, but one struggles to find the words when six pass in quick succession. It can only be imagined what the likes of Gray are going through, having to write obituary after obituary about his teammates and friends.

But the visit of the Toffees will allow fans to find some closure, and to celebrate the lives of all those we have lost in the last two years. For all the success Leeds has enjoyed, from the 1992 First Division title to the 2020 Championship title, it is likely that none of it would have happened were it not for that goal.

The thoughts of everyone at Through It All Together are with Terry’s family at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Top Cat Cooper.