FIFTY years ago today, Don Revie was appointed Leeds United manager and the Yorkshire club was about to be changed forever.
He was only 31 at the time and the task of breathing life into a Second Division club that had become the very epitome of ‘moribund’ was a tough one.
Leeds was a rugby league city where not only were the Loiners at Headingley considered superior to United, but also Hunslet and Bramley.
Revie, however, was not without ambition – as underlined by his changing of the team colours to all-white in an attempt to instil a Real Madrid-style ethos into his players.
But he also realised it would take time, and the development of a youth policy that would provide a conveyor belt of talent into the first team, to transform United into winners.
The Leeds board, led by Harry Reynolds, were prepared to be patient and their support was rewarded a little over three years after Revie’s appointment when Leeds were back in the big time courtesy of winning the Second Division title.
The next decade brought unprecedented success to Elland Road as United carved their place in English football folklore.
Two league titles, two European trophies, an FA Cup and a League Cup were won by Leeds under Revie before his success at Elland Road prompted the Football Association to come calling with an offer to manage England.
Here, Richard Sutcliffe, Yorkshire Post chief football writer and author of the book ‘Revie: Revered and Reviled’, looks back at the ‘Magnificent Seven’ high-points of Revie’s memorable 13-year reign at Leeds in the company of some of United’s former players.
• Appointed: March 16, 1961.
• Resigned (to become England manager): July 3, 1974.
* Division One: Champions 1969, 1974. Runners-up 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1972.
* Division Two: Champions 1964.
• FA Cup: Winners 1972. Runners-up 1965, 1970, 1973.
• League Cup: Winners 1968.
• Inter-City Fairs Cup: Winners 1968, 1971. Runners-up 1967.
• European Cup Winners’ Cup: Runners-up 1973.
MIKE O’GRADY: DIVISION ONE, 1969
Liverpool 0 Leeds United 0, April 28, 1969
“Don was the most thorough manager I played under. Before I signed for Leeds in 1965, he found out my family were Catholic and arranged for the Bishop’s secretary to come round our house. He was a little Irish fella and I remember him knocking on the door one day. He said, ‘Don Revie is very interested in you and wants me to pass on his best wishes’.
“My Dad was very impressed, though I doubt the Football Association would have been as I was a Huddersfield Town player at the time and it could have been considered to be an illegal approach.
“Later, we also had a visit from two councillors and a reporter (and former Leeds player) called Tom Holly who said Don wanted to sign me. It was all part of Don’s bid to sign me. The thoroughness he showed then was evident throughout the season we won the league. Don made sure we were the best prepared team in the First Division.
“Mind, there was one day when his tunnel vision about winning the title that season almost proved fatal. We were playing at Nottingham Forest when smoke started coming out of the main stand as the half-time whistle blew. We got back to the dressing room and Don started his team-talk. We’d been there five minutes when someone opened the door to go to the toilet. There was black smoke everywhere.
“We went out into the corridor and Don just said, ‘We need to find a quiet spot’. He only wanted to carry on the team-talk. We looked at each other but followed him to what was the secretary’s office. It was only when a burning bit of stand fell off that Don agreed we should get out of there. By the time we got outside, the stand was completely ablaze. We could have all been killed but it just showed how focused he was on winning the title.
“I went on to have a really good season when Leeds won the league. I played in 38 out of 42 games, mostly on the right wing. We only lost twice, 3-1 at Manchester City and 5-1 at Burnley. And the last of those was in October.
“We won the title at Anfield with a goalless draw. It was the penultimate game and Liverpool were the only side who could go past us, so Bill Shankly had been waiting for us. As we arrived, he said, ‘You may as well go home as you’ll get nothing here’. But, after we had clinched the title, the Kop chanted ‘Champions, Champions...’ to us. It was a special moment and great sportsmanship on the part of the Liverpool fans.”
ALLAN CLARKE; FA CUP, 1972
Leeds United 1 Arsenal 0, May 6, 1972
“I REMEMBER having a fitness test on the morning of the Cup final. I’d been troubled by this injury for a few weeks but the gaffer wanted me to play.
“There was no way I was going to miss the game if I could help it. But Don still wanted to make sure I realised how desperate he was for me to play. He said, ‘I’d rather have you playing on one leg than anyone else with two’.
“It was Don’s way of making me feel special, as if I was the most important player in the world. Man-management was a big strength of his and he used that trick on quite a few of the lads down the years.
“I’d signed for Leeds in 1969. The gaffer saw me as the final piece of the jigsaw and showed a tremendous amount of faith to pay Leicester £165,000 for me, which at the time was a British record. It wouldn’t be a week’s wage to a top player now but, back then, it was a lot of money.
“I always felt I owed the gaffer for the faith he showed in me. I went on to have nine wonderful years at Leeds United and played in three FA Cup finals. Of course, we lost to Chelsea after a replay in 1970 and Sunderland three years later. But, I always say that we won the one that mattered – the Centenary Cup final.
“The Queen was there to present the trophy and that hasn’t happened too many times. Before the 1972 Cup final, I honestly didn’t care who scored – I just wanted us to beat Arsenal. But, obviously, the fact it was my header in the 53rd minute that won the game 1-0 does make me feel very, very proud.
“The flipside of winning the Cup, however, is what happened next in that we were forced to play our final league game at Wolverhampton Wanderers just 48 hours later. The league title rested on the result as we needed a point to be crowned champions so it was ridiculous that the FA made us play so soon after the final. It wouldn’t have happened to Liverpool or Manchester United, I am certain about that.
“It meant we had to travel to Wolves directly from Wembley so were unable to celebrate. It also meant we had a lot of injuries. Mick Jones had dislocated his shoulder in the closing stages of the final so was out. If there had been nothing at stake against Wolves then Johnny Giles, Eddie Gray and myself wouldn’t have played. But, because we were going for the title, we played at Molineux and lost 2-1.
“Missing out on the double like that was awful and it does, in a way, tarnish the memory of winning the FA Cup.”
EDDIE GRAY: LEAGUE CUP, 1968
Leeds United 1 Arsenal 0, March 2, 1968
“The thing I remember about the League Cup win was the euphoria in the dressing room afterwards.
“I was only a youngster in those days but the experienced lads and Don knew exactly what it meant to win our first major trophy.
“We’d gone close in the league and finished as runners-up a couple of times. We had also lost the 1965 FA Cup final to Liverpool so beating Arsenal to win the League Cup, which back then was a big trophy, was an important step. The game itself wasn’t a classic, by any means. Neither side played their best football and I doubt it was a great game for any neutrals at Wembley.
“Our goal was worthy of winning any game, though. I swung in a corner and Big Jack (Charlton) was in his usual position, making a nuisance of himself inside the six-yard box. Arsenal could only clear the ball as far as Terry Cooper, who struck a sweet volley into the net. After that, we defended for our lives and it was a big relief when the final whistle blew .”
PETER LORIMER: INTER-CITY FAIRS, 1971
Juventus 2 Leeds United 2, May 28, 1971. Leeds United 1 Juventus 1, June 2, 1971 (Leeds win on away goals)
“We’d missed out on the league and been knocked out of the FA Cup by Colchester United. So, this was our last chance of a trophy.
“The first leg was in Turin but torrential rain caused the game to be abandoned in the second half. It was rearranged for three days later and Don wanted us to return to the team hotel in the hills above the city. The lads wanted to stick to the original plan of spending time with our wives and families.
“Don got his way, though only after a few of the lads had had their say.
“I think it was the first time he felt the lads were growing away from him. We weren’t, we just didn’t agree at having to stay away from our families.
“We drew 2-2 out there and then 1-1 at Elland Road to win the Fairs Cup. Fabio Capello was in the Juventus team and it was a great feeling of achievement when the final whistle blew.”
TREVOR CHERRY: DIVISION ONE, 1974
Liverpool 0 Arsenal 1, April 24, 1974
“Before the season started, Don got us all together and said that our target was not just to win the league but remain unbeaten all season.
“We started really well and won nine of our first 12 games. But, we had drawn two of the last three, and Don wasn’t happy. We played Manchester City next. Don sat us all down in the dressing room and said, ‘I want to go unbeaten and win the league, but if you lads are not going to do it for me, I’ll go out and get some lads who will’. We just looked at each other, stunned. But we stepped up our efforts and kept the run going until February when we lost 3-2 at Stoke. It was a disappointment but we went on to win the league with a game to spare.
“We weren’t even playing on the night we became champions when Liverpool lost to Arsenal at Anfield. That title was for Don, he had driven us on all season. If I had to compare Don to anyone in the modern game it would be Sir Alex Ferguson as he had amazing drive and determination.”
ALAN PEACOCK: DIVISION TWO, 1964
Swansea 0 Leeds United 3, April 11, 1964
“I joined Leeds in the February, when I could have gone to Spurs.
“Bill Shankly also enquired about me but Don was very persuasive. Don was originally from Middlesbrough and I’d got to know him socially at golf days, when the Leeds lads would also take part.
“The first thing he did when trying to persuade me to join Leeds was to outline his dream of turning the club into Real Madrid. He had changed the club shirts to white and now he wanted to change the team.
“Promotion was the first step. It was quite tight but Don’s belief kept us going.
“I scored a few goals (eight in 14 appearances by the end of the season) and we went to Swansea knowing a win at Vetch Field would be enough.
“In the end, we managed it quite comfortably. I scored a couple of goals and then Johnny Giles added a third before half-time. It was all over and Leeds were on their way to becoming one of English football’s greatest teams.”
JIMMY GREENHOFF: INTER-CITY FAIRS, 1968
Leeds United 1 Ferencvaros 0, August 7, 1968. Ferencvaros 0 Leeds United 0, September 11, 1968 (Leeds win 1-0 on aggregate)
“We had got through to the final by beating Dundee the previous May, which meant there wasn’t enough time to get the two legs in before the summer.
“So, they were arranged for the start of the following season. I’d played in all 10 games but was on the bench for the first leg. We won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Mick Jones and I came on for Johnny Giles. There was then a five-week gap until the second leg in Budapest but, by then, I’d been sold to Birmingham City.
“It meant I became the subject of a question that I have been told has been asked in countless pub quizzes ever since – Which player was transferred halfway through a Cup final?’“).
“I did find Don’s decision to let me go a bit strange and, to be honest, I can’t remember now whether I even got my winners’ medal or not. But, at least, I knew I’d played my part when Leeds got a goalless draw in the second leg to win the club’s first European trophy.”