Signed for £100,000 in 1972, the versatile Huddersfield-born future Leeds and England captain soon endeared himself to the team and fans. Leon Wobschall reports.
ASK TREVOR Cherry for his most vivid memory of his distinguished time at Leeds United and the answer you will receive is a surprising one.
For a man who made 476 appearances for United, captaining them with his customary class for a spell, he had plenty of golden moments to choose from.
Not least, the club’s imperious 1973-74 title campaign when their feats were the talk of football.
But he remembers one moment in Turkey after a Uefa Cup tie in Ankara in the autumn of 1972, not too long after signing, particularly warmly.
Cherry said: “In the early days, I remember playing in Turkey and we kicked bricks off each other and the game ended 0-0 in a nothing of a game.
“I remember going back to the airport and I think it was my third game and Les Cocker just said to me: ‘You will be alright with us, son.’
“That sort of thing gives you a load of confidence as you don’t know early on whether things are going alright. The warmth of the club and man management was brilliant.”
Huddersfield lad Cherry may have upset his father – an avid Huddersfield Town fan – in moving to Leeds for £100,000 in the summer of 1972, but he came around in time.
Cherry, then 24, turned down overtures from Tottenham Hotspur and Birmingham City to join Don Revie’s Leeds, even if he copped an early surprise when Revie earmarked him to play at left-back to fill in for the injured Terry Cooper before eventually becoming Norman Hunter’s long-term replacement at centre-back.
But he soon settled and fully embraced being part of the family feel which Revie cultivated in the dressing room at Leeds, with a kindred footballing spirit to Cherry in the late, great Billy Bremner quickly looking out for him.
Cherry, now 66, added: “Billy was tremendous with me. I was a young lad and green behind the ears walking into a dressing room full of internationals and just a kid from Huddersfield, but Billy took me under his wing from day one.
“I think maybe he liked my style of play as Billy also liked to get stuck in. Johnny (Giles)was also such a great player and could play with any team – and the architect of the team.”
The stylish defender went on realise his ambitions at United and on the international stage, albeit with one or two disappointments, such as the famous 1973 FA Cup final loss to Sunderland and not being chosen for the 1975 European Cup final in Paris after consummately man-marking Barcelona’s Johan Cruyff out of the game in the semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou.
But the good days massively outstripped the bad, although he believes that if the club had persisted with Brian Clough in the mid-seventies that they would have reminded at the forefront of English football.
Cherry added: “The 1973-74 was the peak of the great team and we played tremendous.
“I particularly remember the boss before the Manchester City away game when we had a lot of injuries. His team talk was brilliant and he just said: ‘Look lads, I am going to win the league this year; if you are not going to win it for me, I am going to buy players who are.’ And we went on and won it in style. But looking back, we could have definitely won more. The cup final with Sunderland was my lowest moment, really, as the lads had been there in the years before and got their winners’ medals and it was one of the few days when Leeds were outfought. Although if my header had gone in, we still could have won it.
“There was also the European Cup final. I had played in all the rounds and then Jimmy Armfield decided to pick the old team. Forty years on, you can understand it a bit more, but most managers pick the best teams.
“But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back to the time under Cloughie, he treated me great, personally, and if Leeds would have stuck with him, who knows?
“Because however great a player you are, once your legs have gone, they are gone and teams need changing. The board in hindsight should have let him do that. I think they panicked after a few results and comments and things.
“But overall, my time there was fantastic and I loved it. It is a great club and I am just very sad where it is now. My take is that we are bigger than Everton and Aston Villa and those sort of teams, but that we just need £50m just to get us up there again.”