This Life: Eddie Gray

Eddie Gray was one of the most talented footballers ever to play for Leeds United. He spent two decades playing for the club and managed the team in the 1980s. He lives in Kirkby Overblow with wife Linda.

It's true that Brian Clough said that if I had been a horse I would have been shot long ago. He was talking about my injury record. Even I thought it was quite funny. I got a thigh injury when I was 16 and it troubled me all my career, it curtailed what I thought I could have achieved. I didn't do too badly though.

I think The Damned United is a great film, I went to see it twice. It wasn't completely like that, but there were elements of truth in it. The truth is we didn't really get to know Brian Clough.

My first job was cleaning the toilets and sweeping the stands at Leeds United but I have never really worked in my life – that's how I look at my life. I have just done something I have enjoyed, you couldn't call it work. I know I have been lucky. I can't take any credit for being good at football, it's no reflection on me, it is just something I could do. All I had to do was keep myself fit.

Don Revie told me I would be leaving school that day and then he went into my headmaster's office and told him. Then he drove me down to Leeds. I was 15 and I hadn't even taken my exams – it's a good job it worked out. He did great things for the club and the prestige helped the city. He looked after all the young players very well too, he said we could always go to him with problems and we knew he meant it. A statue of Don Revie in Leeds would make sense.

I'm sometimes called a gentleman player but it wasn't really that, I just never argued with a referee's decision so I never got booked. I didn't see the point, I was brought up with a reasonable amount of common sense – so I knew they weren't going to change their minds.

I grew up in Glasgow on the Castlemilk estate, the biggest council estate in Europe. My mum still lives there in the house I grew up in, she has never wanted to move. When I moved down to Leeds I lived in digs all over the place, but basically I was making my own decisions from being very young.

I was in the Leeds United first team when I was 17 but I didn't have a car until I was 22. I used to catch two buses from Elland Road to my house. I liked catching buses, I still do.

The best advice I ever received was from Don Revie who told me always to remember the three Cs – courage, confidence and concentration. As a young player you are a threat to older players in your own team – they have mortgages to worry about and they want to keep you out. So you have to have courage in your own team as well as against the opposition. As you get older the situation is reversed – the younger players are a threat to you.

I had a happy childhood, all I did was play football. I just loved it. It was a working class upbringing, my dad was from the Gorbals, he was a welder and he died of lung cancer when he was 51. My mum was one of 13 children.

I had a good career – but my proudest moment was watching my son Stuart play for Celtc against Rangers. I was a Celtic fan as a boy.

I relax by playing golf, and going to the races, though I don't bet much, I'm no gambler. I'm good at relaxing, I don't worry much. People say being a manager is so stressful, but when I managed Leeds I even enjoyed the stress.

My wife Linda was my first girlfriend and my first love. I met her at the Mecca in Leeds when I was 17 – it was in an arcade where Harvey Nichols is now – and we married when I was 20. We have been married for 41 years. We never sat down and decided that we wanted a big family, that's just the way it happened. We have six children, the oldest is 30 and the youngest is 23 and they all live locally. I have 12 grandchildren too.

My eldest daughter Fiona was 21 and two weeks away from marrying her fiance when he was killed. So you just don't know what is going to happen. My philosophy of life is just to enjoy it, while you can. I really believe that. And also to treat other people with respect.

The last time I cried was probably when one of my grandchildren was making their first communion. That brought a tear to my eye. I wouldn't ever be ashamed of crying.

I would love t o meet Muhammad Ali – I was interested in boxing when I was younger and he would be fascinating.

I knew I was part of something special in the Leeds United team in the 1970s. Basically, the same 14 players played together for years. You couldn't get that now because players can move around more, it wasn't possible then.

I got used to being kicked, you just expected it, the game was rougher then, but I never wore shin pads, I just couldn't get used to them, and I used to roll my socks down. I would just keep playing the ball, and then it became a battle of wills between you and the other team.

The street culture of playing football is dying out – so there aren't as many talented young players showing up.

It might surprise people to know that I am obsessed with cleaning my shoes. I have about 20 pairs and I rotate them, but I've probably had the oldest pair for about 20 years. They always have to be really clean. I remember Jack Charlton telling me you can always tell a man by his shoes – but then I looked at his and they were really scruffy.


Favourite food: Steak

Favourite television: Football

Favourite Book: Any sports biography

Favourite FILM: It's A Wonderful Life

Star sign: Capricorn