It’s not often that a pre-season friendly throws up one of the most historic moments in footballing history, but that’s just what happened on August 5th 1970 when the first ever penalty shoot-out in England took place between Manchester United and Hull City.
What’s more, the incident occurred in the first ever tournament in the country to be sponsored as the highest scorers in the land across all four divisions went head-to-head in the mid-summer heat.
Watney Mann, a London brewery which produced the popular bitter, Watney's Red Barrel paid £82,000 for an eight-team, eight-day tournament, with the final on the same afternoon as the Charity Shield was to be contested between Chelsea and Everton.
The eight clubs involved were the top two scorers in each of the four divisions the previous season, excluding the clubs competing in Europe from the top-flight and the promoted clubs in the other three leagues.
This meant that Manchester United, who had won the European Cup at Wembley just two years before and had finished eighth at the end of the 1969/70 and Derby County would represent Division One with 66 and 64 goals respectively.
Sheffield United and Hull City were the Second Division’s representatives while from the Third Division came Reading and Fulham and, from the Fourth, Peterborough and Aldershot with each receiving £4,000 from Watney's with the remaining £50,000 to be shared between the Football League and FA.
Surprisingly, though not unusual at the time, Manchester United played the big guns in their opening fixture of the tournament against Reading at Elm Park as George Best, Denis Law, Willie Morgan, Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton - playing his first match since England’s defeat to West Germany at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico - eventually defeated the Third Division Side 3-2.
The win secured a semi-final showdown at Boothferry Park the following Friday against Hull City who had demolished Peterborough 4-0 in their first game in a competition which saw 23 goals scored in the opening four matches.
Over 34,000 were in attendance that night to see Hull and Manchester United play-out an entertaining 1-1 and after extra-time the two still could not be separated, meaning for the first time ever an English football game would be decided by a penalty shootout after UEFA and FIFA had sanctioned the idea earlier that year.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, George Best thrived under the pressure and stepped-up to slot home the first ever penalty in such a competition before Hull’s Terry Neill levelled the scores and with the two locked at 3-3 Denis Law earned the dubious honour of becoming the first player to miss a spot-kick in a penalty contest as his shot was saved by Hull ‘keeper Ian McKechnie, who duly missed himself with the very next kick.
As a result Willie Morgan was given the opportunity to secure a place in the final against Derby County and duly converted in a competition which The Daily Mail's Brian Taylor described as: “One of the most exciting and dramatic features I have ever seen on a soccer field.”
But United were not so fortunate in the final, eventually going down 4-1 to Derby County with skipper Dave Mackay being presented with the huge trophy on the pitch at the Baseball Ground by FIFA President Stanley Rous.
The Watney Cup proved so popular that it hung around for another four years as Colchester United caused a huge upset when they beat West Brom, also on penalties, the following season while, in 1972, another penalty shootout saw Third Division Bristol Rovers overcome First Division Sheffield United.
But Stoke City’s victory in 1973 would be the last act in this short-lived summertime spectacular as the Watney Cup, rather like the Anglo-Scottish Cup and the Screen Sports Super Cup, was consigned to the dustbin of history - perhaps remembered best for being the tournament which spawned the country’s first ever penalty shoot-out.