Two Leeds United legends went head-to-head when Sheffield Wednesday visited Ashton Gate for the first leg of a League Cup second round tie on Monday, October 4, 1982. 

Between them, Bristol City player-manager Terry Cooper and Wednesday boss Jack Charlton had made 879 League appearances for Leeds, many of them in Don Revie’s all-conquering side of the 1970s. 

Now they were in charge of teams experiencing distinctly contrasting fortunes. While Charlton’s men had just missed out on promotion to the First Division the previous May, Cooper had two months later been appointed to resurrect City from rock bottom.

The year had seen the sacrifice of the ‘Ashton Gate Eight’ keep the club in existence. But a third successive relegation meant Fourth Division football and a team made up largely of rookies. 

By early December, City would be propping up the entire Football League in 92 position. Even drawing a big club like Wednesday in what was then called the Milk Cup did little to boost finances as the attendance at Ashton Gare was just 4,486, less that half expected number. 

Cooper devoted the first four paragraphs of his programme notes to his former Leeds team-mate and World Cup winner, who sadly passed away this summer at the age of 85. 

He wrote: “The first thing I will do when I see my old mate Jack Charlton at the ground tonight is check to see what he has got in his top pocket. 

“For all my many memories of Big Jack, the one that really sticks out is the toothbrush in his top pocket. 

“Throughout our travels all over the world with Leeds and England, I never knew Jack to carry much more than that brush. He always travelled light – and I can’t believe management has changed him one little bit.

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“As a player, he was quite simply a class apart. The best centre half I have ever seen and I am delighted that he has proved such an outstanding manager.” 

City went into the game on the back of four successive League defeats, beginning with the infamous 7-1 thrashing on Northampton Town on a sombre Sunday in September. 

But Cooper’s young guns had managed to knock out West Country rivals Swindon Town in the first round of the Milk Cup, winning 2-0 at Ashton Gate after a 2-1 first leg defeat in which midfielder Russell Musker suffered a broken leg.

The team for the Wednesday game boasted just four experienced players in the shape of goalkeeper John Shaw, a survivor from the First Division glory days, centre-back Terry Boyle, a Wales international, and two early Cooper signings, Glyn Riley and Alan Crawford. 

But, with another summer recruit, returning hero Tom Ritchie, surprisingly left out, the rest of the side was packed with fresh-faced youngsters. 

Rob Newman, Jon Economou and Wayne Bray had all made their debuts the previous February in the home match against Fulham, which followed immediately after the departure of the ‘Ashton Eight’.

The matchday programme

Alongside Newman and Boyle at the back were Devonian Alan Nicholls and Gary Williams, son of former City favourite Alan Williams. 

Steve Thompson, later to play for and manage Yeovil Town, lined up with Bray, Economou and Crawford in midfield. Up front, Riley was partnered by Bristolian Ricky Chandler. 

Wednesday’s midfield included Gary Megson, son of former Bristol Rovers manager Don Megson, and Gary Shelton, later to join City and be part of their 1989-90 promotion team under Joe Jordan. 

Cooper concluded his programme notes by writing: “I have always said we can play better against teams prepared to play good football and this tie over two legs provides a perfect opportunity to prove it.”

Little could he have guessed that two appalling defensive blunders in the opening six minutes at Ashton Gate would gift Wednesday a 2-0 lead. 

First Williams mishit an attempted second minute back-pass to Shaw, giving Kevin Taylor all the time and space he needed to net with a low drive. 

Then Nicholls, playing despite a niggling back problem, badly mistimed a tackle, allowing Tony Simmons to sprint clear on the right and cross for Taylor to volley his second from eight yards. 

Memories of the Northampton debacle must have crossed the minds of City players and fans. But his time the team battened down the hatches and avoided further mishap until half time.

How the Evening Post covered City v Sheffield Wednesday in 1982

The second half was a different story. Thompson sent 20-yard shot flashing just wide and Crawford showed up well in some promising attacks. 

It was no more than City deserved when 12 minutes from time, Newman crowned an eye-catching individual display by thumping home an unstoppable right-footed shot after Wednesday goalkeeper Bob Bolder had been penalised for taking too many steps before releasing the ball. 

A page in the programme had been headlined ‘Introducing… Robert Newman’, revealing among other things that the versatile youngster hailed from Bradford-on-Avon, drove an Austin Allegro and enjoyed Cannon and Ball and Russ Abbot on TV.

Rob would go on to make nearly 400 League appearances for City and was awarded a testimonial year by the club before moving to Norwich City for £600,000 in the summer of 1991. 

Despite the apparently creditable 1-2 final score, Cooper was less than impressed. “Just as at Peterborough on Saturday, we only started playing when two goals down. How do you explain it?” was his post-match verdict. 

The second leg at Hillsborough ended in a 1-1 draw in front of nearly 8,000 fans, Chandler’s goal for City proving insufficient to prevent an exit from the competition. 

But the campaign as a whole proved a turning point, Cooper’s men recovering from bottom of the table to finish 14 before clinching promotion the following season. 

Bristol City: Shaw; Newman, Boyle, Nicholls, Williams; Thompson, Bray, Economou, Crawford; Riley, Chandler (Panes 85). 

Sheffield Wednesday: Bolder; Starland, Lyons, Smith, Bailey; Megson (Pickering 65), Taylor, Shelton, Owen; Simmons Bannister. 

Referee: David Hedges (Oxford)