LEEDS United took a moment this morning to mark the 55th anniversary of legendary manager Don Revie taking charge of the club.
A Facebook post from the club immediately went viral, with thousands of likes and shares.
But the Leeds of 1961 was a very different city, as The Yorkshire Post’s Richard Sutcliffe, Revie’s authorised biographer, recalled.
The city’s sporting affections were dominated not by football but rugby league and cricket. The sale of John Charles to Juventus four years earlier had robbed Leeds United of its one true sporting icon, the only man capable of competing with the crowd-pulling charisma of Lewis Jones at Headingley during the winter months or Fred Trueman in the summer.
So disaffected had supporters become that the last two games at Elland Road of Jack Taylor’s managerial reign attracted a combined attendance of slightly more than 20,000. Six weeks after Revie had taken charge, the final home game of the season against Scunthorpe United was watched by a paltry 6,975.
It was not just the battle for the Leeds public’s affection that was being lost at Elland Road, either, but also the fight for sporting supremacy in the city. A crowd of 52,177 had watched the Loiners be crowned the kings of rugby league in the 1961 championship final at Bradford’s Odsal Stadium.
The Middlesborough-born manager brought in some radical changes to the club, most notably changing the kit colour from yellow and blue to an all-white strip in the style of Real Madrid. He also instilled a family atmosphere at Elland Road going out of his way to take an interest in the lives of his players and staff and ensuring that there were no big egos at the club.
What followed over the next 13 years was the golden period for the club and Leeds United would become a dominant force in English football. Having never previously won a major trophy, the club would go on to win the Second Division title in 1964, two First Division titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Charity Shield. Leeds also came runners-up in the First Division five times, reached three more FA Cup finals and European Cup Winners’ Cup final all under Revie’s management.
Revie’s son Duncan was seven years old when his father was appointed manager. He recalls: “Dad said one of the first things he did after taking over at Leeds was to ring Matt Busby at Manchester United and ask if he could spare an hour of his time one afternoon. Matt invited him across one day and was so helpful that dad ended up spending the whole day there.
“Dad always said the advice he got that day was priceless and he never forgot what Matt Busby did for him. It meant in later days when young managers such as Alex Ferguson and Lawrie McMenemy rang up, he would always spare time for them just as Matt had done for him. He would invite them over to Leeds or to the England camp.”
To say that Revie’s team was unpopular during this period among the neutral fanbase would be a huge understatement. People simply did not like them, and the team were dubbed “Dirty Leeds”, a tag which still angers people today. They tackled hard and did anything and everything in their power to win. The most famous example of this, of course, was during the 1970 FA
Cup final versus Chelsea, a game more famous for Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris kicking Eddie Gray out of the match than the end result.
A youth policy was developed by Revie, as Eddie Gray, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer and Paul Reaney all broke into the side, lining up alon side the likes of Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner.
Revie remained in charge at Elland Road until 1974 when he took over the England national team. Brian Clough, who was very vocal about his dislike of Revie, took charge. Clough’s reign would last an infamously short 44 days as dramatised
in the film The Damned United.
The England job would prove to be a thankless task for Revie, as the team would fail to qualify for the 1976 European Championship and the 1978 World Cup. Revie left the job in messy circumstances when it was announced he wished to cancel his contract with the FA to pursue work in the Middle East.
Don Revie died on May 26, 1989, aged 61, of motor neurone disease. But his legacy is still being felt to this day. A statue of the great man was unveiled in 2012 outside Elland Road to celebrate his tenure and Leeds’ FA Cup victory in 1970.