Mick Bates: Leeds United’s camaraderie still as strong today

MIck Bates, left, with United's 1972 FA Cup winners

MIck Bates, left, with United's 1972 FA Cup winners

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A valuable squad player during the Super Leeds era, midfielder Mick Bates looks back on a golden period for himself and the Elland Road club. Leon Wobschall reports.

THE Leeds United family has a special resonance for Mick Bates.

A valued squad member of that Super Leeds era under the incomparable Don Revie, Bates may have many esteemed memories of those halcyon days, but it is the friendship and camaraderie he enjoyed – and still does with his ex team mates – that has provided him with his biggest thrill.

Doncaster lad Bates, now 67, did not just line up with playing colleagues in his 125 league appearances during his 13-year association at Elland Road, but made lifelong friends.

It was all made possible thanks to Revie, who did more than anyone to turn Leeds into one big family during those intoxicating days.

Revie may have been the polar opposite to Brian Clough, but when it came to recruiting players, both employed the same tactics by putting in the leg work to meet their families and put them at ease and make them feel a million dollars.

Bates said: “I was there with Don Revie all the way. I remember him coming to Armthorpe; he came to see everybody. He talked to Pete (Lorimer) and Eddie (Gray) and all these lads and knocked on the front door in these little villages along with Maurice Lindley.

“Somehow he generated this team spirit there and then. I could have gone to Sheffield Wednesday who were in the first division, but as soon as he left, I thought that’s the place. I look at Eddie and Pete as well; they could have gone anywhere.

“Why would we go to a second division side? It was Don Revie and the magic he portrayed. As soon as he went out, I said to my mum and dad: ‘I am signing for Leeds’ because I liked him. He spoke nicely and that was good for me as I’d never been away from home before much at 15 years old.

“We all later said: ‘Why did we sign for Leeds?’ And it was all the same message because of the manager, who was just brilliant, fantastic.

“I have nothing but fantastic memories. We have just had a reunion at Eddie’s. Jack (Charlton), Johnny (Giles), Pete and Mick (Jones) and all the lads were there. All the grandkids were also there and it was a totally new generation as we are all in our middle sixties and seventies now.

“But that team spirit is still there and what we had was magical and I enjoyed every second of it.

“These are our oldest and best friends still from 15 years old up to Johnny, who is 72. We are just so lucky. It is not just football, but an absolute lifetime.

“We see each other and play golf and Norman and I take Pete and Eddie on and it’s Scotland versus England on the course.

“Don Revie changed all our lives and we are still here enjoying each other’s company.”

Knee injuries may have blighted Bates’ Whites career, including an unfortunate one against QPR at Elland Road in the memorable 1973-74 season, but equally he remains grateful for what he sampled in a true world-class side.

Personal highs did arrive including a vital away goal in the Stadio Communale against Italian giants Juventus in a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the final of old Inter Cities Fairs Cup in May 1971, with Leeds winning the competition on away goals.

He recalls: “That original Juventus game was called off due to rain and June was pregnant at the time and had to go home and missed the rescheduled game.

“I didn’t score many goals and couldn’t believe I’d actually scored against Juventus. I remember thinking that as we kicked off again.

“Fabio Capello played for them and Haller and Bettega – what names they were. Anastasi was a centre-forward and he was absolute greased lightning. They were world-class players and I was thinking: ‘What am I doing here?’ But in the end, I was fine.

“We were just normal kids from villages. I also remember walking out at Wembley behind Jack against Chelsea and Arsenal as he always wanted to be last and that was a bit hair-rising.

“You don’t get a lad from a pit village in Armthorpe walking out at Wembley; it was mind-boggling.

“I also remember my league debut against Burnley (in September 1966) as if it was yesterday. I remember playing against (Gordon) Harris, who was playing for England at the time and played really well and never gave him a kick.

“I actually can’t remember my debut against Hartlepools in some silly little cup!

“I remember my next league game where I was marking Jim Baxter. They said to me: ‘Jim doesn’t run anywhere, you will be fine – not a problem.’

“But Jim was the total opposite to Harris and was fantastic.

“I think I have been nutmegged once in my life and it was by Jim. And I still don’t know how he did it to this day!

“They used to say Eddie was the next Jim Baxter and I remember Eddie saying: ‘Mick, don’t worry about that nutmeg as he is just unbelievable.’ He was world-class.”

On his injuries, Bates added: “I missed two seasons through injury and had three cartilages out. Looking back, my knees must have been dodgy as I had ligament trouble and then three cartilages went. I remember jumping up off the settee actually watching a game when we were in Hamburg pre-season training and I thought: ‘What’s that?’

“Their doctor said it was a cartilage straightaway. Looking at it, I don’t think anyone goes through a career not getting injured, but I missed two seasons with my cartilage; good seasons at 23 and 24. But I was still part of it, that’s football.”