The latest in Steve Mitchell’s series of blogs for ‘Got, Not Got’….
During the 1970’s the UK witnessed some great escapades of daring do. In 1975, legendary stuntman Evel Knievel put himself closer to god in a failed attempt to jump over 14 London buses in front of a packed Wembley Stadium. Stan Bowles tried his best to shoot one of his toes off during an appearance on Superstars but luckily for him, a reinforced table prevented one of the great football mavericks from ending his career prematurely.
But 1976 was the year, the REAL year for death defying feats of bravery. So whereabouts and what was it? I hear you ask. Was it another madcap stunt from Knievel? Was it Kevin Keegan in THAT bike race at Bracknell? No, the unlikely setting was Leeds United’s Elland Road stadium and the start performer was none other than the clubs jack in the box goalscorer Duncan McKenzie.
Mckenzie had been at Leeds for a couple of seasons, indeed he was Brian Clough’s first signing during “Old Big ‘Ed’s” well documented 44 days at the helm of the West Yorkshire club. The five foot eight striker was quick and was renowned for his amazing aerial prowess despite his slight frame. He was a heavy smoker but did not touch a drop of alcohol.
At the beginning of May 1976, the club organised a Testimonial match for long serving full-back Paul Reaney against Newcastle United. A plan was hatched to provide the fans with some alternative pre-match entertainment when someone suggested that it would be a good idea to get McKenzie to jump over a Mini Cooper with a single leap!
With the British car industry’s propensity for strike action during the 70’s it was a miracle that the club got someone to deliver the said vehicle to the ground in the first place. But they did and in front of 30000 expectant supporters, McKenzie walked out on to the pitch sporting one the most iconic tracksuit tops of the 20th century and promptly did what was asked of him – incredible.
McKenzie’s talents didn’t stop there, shortly after the Mini episode the little man demonstrated his throwing strength by tossing a golf ball the length of a football pitch. It is unclear whether word of these amazing stunts ever reached “Team Knievel” back in the States but the great man (or lunatic depending on your point of view) must have feared the worst, especially when McKenzie moved to the US in the early 1980’s to play for the Tulsa Roughnecks then the Chicago Sting
It’s hard to imagine in footballs current climate players performing feats to match the one of McKenzie 37 years ago. So when Steven Gerrard has his Testimonial match in August, wouldn’t it be fantastic if Liverpool, prior to kick-off, got Luis Suarez to ride a motorcycle through a burning ring of fire wearing a t-shirt that had “I Hate Evra” adorned across the front of it.
For the record, just a few weeks after completing his daredevil antics, McKenzie was sold to Anderlecht.
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