HOWARD WILKINSON has paid tribute to Leslie Silver, the former Leeds United chairman who has died at the age of 89, describing him as a man “of great humility, of great modesty and enormous integrity”.
And Bill Fotherby, who took over as chairman in 1996, was taken aback by the news, saying: ““The news is a shock to everybody. It is only a few weeks ago that I was out to dinner with him and he was fine.”
Silver was chairman at Elland Road for just over 13 years, the 1992 title success coming two years after United had been promoted from the Second Division as champions to end an eight-year exile from the top flight.
Wilkinson, who moved to Elland Road from Sheffield Wednesday in 1988 and managed Leeds to the Second Division title in 1990 and the First Division crown in 1992, said: “Leeds will miss Leslie Silver. He did so much for the city, both in terms of the football club and also the education side.
“He was a guy of great humility, of great modesty and enormous integrity. But, along with those more gentle virtues, he had a strong spine and balls of steel.”
Fotherby and Silver enjoyed some heady days at Leeds in the late eighties and early nineties, taking the club back to the top table of English football.
Fotherby helped rebuild Leeds in tandem with Silver after some dark days in the early to mid-eighties, with the appointment of Wilkinson as manager in the autumn of 1988 representing the catalyst to the club’s rise to prominence again.
A £3m spending spree ahead of the 1989-90 season, which saw the likes of Vinnie Jones, John Hendrie and Chris Fairclough join – allied to the earlier signing of talisman Gordon Strachan in March 1989 – helped take Leeds to the Second Division championship in 1989-90.
On the passing of Silver, who served as chairman from 1983 to 1996, Fotherby told the YEP: “The news is a shock to everybody. It is only a few weeks ago that I was out to dinner with him and he was fine.
“He was an absolute gentleman and a nice man. He was a Leeds United supporter, absolutely.
“We had eight years with Howard Wilkinson and nobody seems to talk about that era. They talk about (Peter) Ridsdale era, but we won the championship and got into Europe.
“Howard did a magnificent job with the chairman and we left the club with money in the bank and did well. It was a great time and I am only sorry Leeds United aren’t doing well.
“Like a football team, you get a good manager and need a good team behind you. And we had a good team, right from the chairman and me downwards. That is why we were successful.”
“Leslie was a great chairman. He left me have the chequebook and that was it!”
On his personal relationship with Silver, he added: “We had a great relationship and worked together and talked. I used to report everything that happened with Howard and the players.
“We were very close and we went on holiday together with his first wife Anita and then Sheila (Silver’s second wife). We couldn’t have been closer.
“We started in the 100 Club and joined the board on the same day.”
Wilkinson added: “We had some great times together but he was never one to claim the credit for himself. Others might have done so in a similar position, but not Leslie. It wasn’t his style.”
Silver served as an RAF bomber commander during the Second World War. Last year, he was awarded the ‘Bomber Command Clasp’ in recognition of the 40-plus operations he took part in over Europe and a further 20 in the Far East.
The club’s official Twitter account tweeted a message saying: “We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing away of former chairman Leslie Silver today. Our thoughts are with his family & friends