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Training Officer

Birmingham City Council

Employment History

  • Member of Team
  • Leeds United
Web References
Leeds United F.C. History [cached]
Gary Sprake
Sprake, who used to live near the great Welsh goalkeeper Jack Kelsey, won Welsh Schools caps and turned professional in May 1962.
The call to Sprake (who was still in Leeds) was so late that the club paid for a charter aircraft to fly him to the match, and the kick-off was delayed to allow the sixteen-year-old chance to get to the ground, change and warm up. He became Wales' youngest-ever goalkeeper, at eighteen years and seven months and seventeen days, when he played against Scotland in November 1963. He won thirty-seven Welsh caps, thirty-two of them as a Leeds player, and five at Under-Twenty-three level. An acrobatic player, although prone to lapses in concentration, Sprake became a regular as Leeds won the Second Division Championship in 1964, and then challenged for the Football League Division One Championship title and FA Cup double the following year. Sprake only missed one game in both competitions that season, but Leeds ended with nothing, missing the League title on goal difference to Manchester United, and losing the FA Cup final to Liverpool, after extra-time. The first of Sprake's notorious errors came in 1967 when Leeds played Liverpool in a League game at Anfield. After picking up a loose ball, Sprake was set to throw it to the Leeds left back Terry Cooper, only to abort his throw when he spotted Liverpool winger Ian Callaghan closing him down. Unfortunately, his action backfired as the ball slipped out of his hands behind him and ended up in the net. At half-time, the Liverpool DJ played 'Careless Hands', a record by Des O'Connor, in reference to Sprake's mistake, and during the second half Liverpool supporters sang the song repeatedly to Sprake. The nickname 'Careless Hands' from then on, somewhat unfairly, appeared to stick to Sprake. However, in the same season Sprake kept a clean sheet as Leeds beat Arsenal in the League Cup Final, and he performed heroics behind an overworked defence as Leeds won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the club's first European honour, in Budapest in drawing 0-0 to win on aggregate against Ferencvaros. In 1969, Sprake was again a regular as Leeds won the League championship clinching it in front of the Liverpool fans at Anfield, with Sprake giving an impeccable performance to keep a clean sheet. In 1970, Sprake and Leeds chased a treble of the League, the FA Cup and the European Cup, but ended up with nothing. The League title went to Everton on the last day of the season, and Leeds went out of the European Cup in the semi-finals to Celtic. The FA Cup Final provided the stage for the second of Sprake's most memorable errors.
Unfortunately, Sprake crouched down to catch the ball as it bounced, and somehow it slipped through his grasp and rolled into the net.
Leeds manager Don Revie dropped Sprake for the replay, but his replacement, David Harvey, was powerless to prevent Chelsea winning 2-1.
Sprake was still the first choice keeper for Leeds in the following two seasons, but was replaced by Harvey at the tail of both, including the 1972 FA Cup Final.
Sprake watched from the sidelines as Leeds defeated Arsenal 1-0 in 1972 with a goal from Allan Clarke and a superb performance by David Harvey at the other end.
In the same year, Sprake publicly criticised Revie for his treatment of him, and so his relationship with his Manager, team-mates and the Leeds supporters soured.
Sprake played over five hundred times for Leeds, keeping more than two hundred clean sheets, yet is best remembered for two errors and one argument. A back injury brought Sprake's career to a premature end at the age of thirty, which resulted in a near fatal blood clot in his back. He subsequently kept his profile low, returning to his native Wales. Sprake played sixteen League games, two FA Cup, four League Cup and two Texaco Cup games for the St Andrews' club.
Sprake has remained the only member of Revie's team who has been excluded completely by the club and those within it. However Eddie Gray tried to build bridges after the publishing of Sprake's biography. Currently he lives in Solihull and is a training officer with Birmingham City Council.
Wales captain Mike England (Tottenham ..., 1 Dec 2011 [cached]
Wales captain Mike England (Tottenham Hotspur) is followed by goalkeeper Gary Sprake (Leeds United) onto the Ninian Park pitch alongside Bobby Moore of England.
Peter Houseman (Chelsea) equalises with ..., 7 Mar 2009 [cached]
Peter Houseman (Chelsea) equalises with twenty-five yard strike which slips under goalkeeper Gary Sprake (Leeds), Chelsea vs Leeds United, 1970 FA Cup Final, Wembley, London
Score Draw - Wales 1968 Football Shirt, 3 July 2004 [cached]
Mike England of Tottenham Hotspur, followed by Gary Sprake of Leeds United, captains Wales onto the pitch alongside England´s Bobby Moore at Cardiff City´s Ninian Park.
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