AS LEEDS UNITED celebrates its 100th birthday today, thoughts of many will turn to the club’s most venerated figure of all, the late, great Don Revie.
It was Revie’s 13-year managerial spell that transformed Leeds from a club in the shadow of the North West’s footballing powerhouses to the one of the feared teams in Europe, let alone England.
Read more ‘Give me a game’
He was a man who touched countless people’s lives in the West Yorkshire city and inspired fierce devotion among his players and an innate sense of belonging, with their togetherness being as strong as family .
Someone who can vouch for that is former Leeds captain Trevor Cherry.
A ‘green behind the ears’ young defender who moved across the A62 from boyhood club Huddersfield Town in the summer of 1972, Cherry was assimilated into one of the strongest and talented dressing rooms that has ever existed in English football.
In times of strife on the pitch during the ‘Super Leeds’ era, Revie’s boys closed ranks and looked out for their own.
In tough times off it, problems were sorted in-house and nothing was too much trouble. And nothing missed the observational radar of Revie. The genius of Revie.
Cherry, who played 476 times for Leeds and was capped 27 times by England during his decade-long spell at Elland Road, said: “His man-management of players was special. He would do anything for your family.
“I remember I had only been there six months or so and used to go in early to do my fitness things. Les Cocker said to me: ‘What is up with you, you seem a bit down?’
“I had agreed to sell my house and move into a new one in Mirfield and there was a gas strike on. Les said: ‘Go and see the gaffer.’
“There was a national gas strike and nothing I could do. Because I was new, I didn’t go. But the next morning, I came in and said: ‘Morning Les’ and he said: ‘Morning, get down to see him now.’
“He just said: ‘Give me this bloke’s number’. So I did and he rang my house and said to my wife: ‘I cannot get there this weekend, but I can put a pipe in on Monday.’
“There were so many houses on this estate but we had the one and only gas pipe.
“When I got to know Revie and had a drink with him with England, I asked: ‘How did you do that?’ and he said: ‘Simple, I rang the bloke up and said: ‘Do you like your football? I will give you four tickets for Elland Road and two for the (1973) FA Cup semi-final at Maine Road and two for the final. All I want is a gas pipe’.
“It sounds quite easy when you say it, but most managers would not take that on.”
Cherry was an integral part of Leeds’s greatest season of all time – that momentous 1973-74 campaign when their feats were the talk of football.
It was a nine months when Leeds spectacularly cast aside their reputation as ‘nearly men’ – between 1964-65 and 1972-73, Leeds had won five trophies and finished runners-up in 10.
Revie’s side won their first seven Division One games and boasted a seven-point lead at Christmas; of course at a time when it was two points for a win.
They famously went unbeaten until a 3-2 loss in their 29th game at Stoke City on February 23, 1974.
It was a temporary hitch en route to one of the most stellar top-flight title processions ever in English football in a season which proved to be Revie’s last at Elland Road before England called. What a way to bow out.
It was a success forged on some deep-seated disappointments from the previous season in particular and how Leeds – a side blessed with an abundance of talent and surfeit of ‘bad losers’ in Cherry’s words – secured choice payback.
Cherry, 71, who would later captain Leeds in a transitional time in the second half of the Seventies, recalled: “Everybody wanted to beat Leeds.
“I remember in my first season when we lost to Sunderland (FA Cup final) and AC Milan (Cup Winners’ Cup final). It was worse for me as I was the only one without a winner’s medal!
“The gaffer set his stall out and said: ‘We are going to win the league, full stop.’ And that was the aim.
“I remember one of his team-talks at Manchester City. We had won about seven or eight and drawn two or three. The team-talk went something like: ‘I am going to win this league. If you are not going to do it for me, I will buy players who are.’
“It was a special time. We had a good team spirit, but the boss was either lucky or clever in that he had seven or eight of the lads who were really bad losers.
“We had great players, but were not a team who laid down. If we went 2-0 down, we found another gear.
“I was a bad loser, I hold my hand up. But Norman (Hunter), Billy (Bremner) and Gilesy (Johnny Giles) took it very badly. It was not one of them where you said: ‘Oh, we have lost, let’s go and have a beer and forget about it. We did not like losing.
“We thrived on it and when you are winning, teams do not like you. I think we got an unjust name. Leeds could compete with anybody physically, but we were a smashing footballing side. Johnny used to say: ‘If you want to play football, we’ll play football’ and ‘if you want to kick, we’ll kick.’ We were good at both.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Billy; he was brilliant as a skipper. He just lived life to the full and took the mickey.
“He took me under his wing early doors and treated me great and I learned a lot from him.”