From the Archives: Why goalkeeper David Stewart loved his time at Leeds United
Former Leeds United goalkeeper David Stewart died on Tuesday, aged 71.
The former Scotland international, who joined Don Revie’s Leeds from Ayr United in 1973, made 55 appearances for the Whites – the most notable being the infamous 1975 European Cup final.
A little over 10 years ago, Leon Wobschall spoke to the former Whites star, both about his time at Elland Road and how his life and career went after he moved on. The subsequent feature, printed below, originally appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post in November 24, 2008.
SAFE keeping of a different sort has been occupying the attentions of David Stewart since he hung up his goalkeeping gloves.
It’s fair to say the Scot – second fiddle to compatriot David Harvey for the lion’s share of his five-year stint in West Yorkshire – didn’t have much luck during his time south of the border with Leeds. And also with the teams he subsequently joined – West Brom and Swansea – for that matter.
Stewart – chiefly remembered by United fans for featuring in the side who infamously lost out in the 1975 European Cup final – works in a jewellers in Swansea, having resided in South Wales after calling time on his playing career which started at Kilsyth Rangers before moving onto Ayr.
That balmy spring night in Paris in the mid-70s should have represented the high point of Glasgow-born Stewart’s career, but unspeakably bad officiating and mayhem on the terraces tarnished the crowning glory for United’s golden generation.
Over 33 years on and Stewart, who joined Leeds in October 1973, admits the massively controversial 2-0 loss to Bayern Munich still rankles with him. That said, time has made him a great deal more philosophical about one of the most painful episodes in the club’s history.
With regard to that fateful evening, Stewart said: “It was a game we probably deserved to win. But the referee made some bad decisions. We were really angry at the time, but it’s one of those things.
“I actually watched the film of the match not so long ago, and I still can’t believe how bad the decisions were. But there’s not a lot you can do now, that’s football.
“It was an epic game and Bayern were a really good team at the time, but so were we and we did enough to win and obviously should have. But there you are...
“It would have been nice to have a winners’ medal on the mantelpiece, but it wasn’t to be I’m afraid.”
Stewart, thrust into the limelight during United’s run to the final of Europe’s blue riband competition, added: “David (Harvey) had a car accident and I played at Anderlecht and Barcelona, home and away.
“I couldn’t remember too much about the Anderlecht games, but remember playing at the Nou Camp, which was amazing. It was such a good night in front of such a big crowd.
“There was something like 100,000 there. We were 2-1 up from the first leg and then we scored early on through Peter (Lorimer). They equalised, but we managed to hang on thankfully and I played quite well.
“David was fit again, but I managed to play in the final, having played the majority of the (European) matches and I can still say I played in a European Cup final.”
That Parisian pinnacle was a rare moment on the centre stage for Stewart, with Harvey soon reclaiming his position between the posts the following season as the Glaswegian resumed bench duties.
Stewart ultimately switched to West Brom in November 1978, but despite his United career largely not getting out of second gear, he insists he thoroughly enjoyed his Elland Road stint, even though it was largely in the shadows.
Stewart – who started 74 games in just over five years, said: “You couldn’t beat it. At the end of the day, I was lucky enough to play for Leeds and enjoyed every minute of it.
“I always got on great with David and we were quite friendly. We went to the races together a few times and we got on okay.
“I remember first coming to Leeds. It was a big surprise, Leeds were a top side back then and I couldn’t believe it, to be honest.
“There were a few Scots there already, like Peter (Lorimer), Joe (Jordan) and Gordon (McQueen), so I suppose that made it a bit easier.
“I signed as cover, but I just thought ‘it’s Leeds United and we’ll see how it goes’.
“Gary (Sprake) had just gone to Birmingham and even though I was coming in as cover, Leeds were the best team in the country along with the likes of Liverpool and Man United as well. They were such a good side and every player was a household name.
“Signing for Leeds then was like signing for Man United now. You could hardly turn them down – if somebody said now ‘come and sign for Man U’, you’d be off!
“The problem was that Leeds were going so well in the league and had gone on that long run undefeated that I thought I don’t want to go in here and be the one who is chipped over by a striker and then the ball goes into the back of the net and we lose 2-0 or something!
“All I could do was bide my time. David was playing well at the time and I was playing in the reserves – and went with the first team a few times as well – and there wasn’t a lot I could do, except give it the best I could in the reserves and hope for a chance.
“I enjoyed it under Don (Revie), although I only came in the October and he was gone in the summer. Brian (Clough) came in and I was only a (first-team) pool player at the time and hardly spoke to him really. It was a bit bewildering in terms of what was going on at the time!”
After switching to the Hawthorns, Stewart endured a nightmare before heading to up-and-coming Swansea, where his luck belatedly changed for the better.
John Toshack’s Swans crop were rising up the divisions at a rate of knots with Stewart an ever-present in the club’s promotion to the top-flight promised land for the first time in their history in 1980-81.
Heady days at the Vetch were commonplace, but just when the party was getting in full swing, Stewart found himself on the sidelines again.
That summer, Toshack swooped to sign Welsh international Dai Davies and was handed the no.1 jersey for the Swans’ first-ever game in the top tier, ironically a 5-1 success over Leeds!
On life after leaving Leeds, Stewart – who made his lone appearance for Scotland against East Germany in 1978 when he saved a penalty, said: “I joined West Brom and it didn’t work out for me. I was there about 15 months and never played a game! I got a bad injury and Tony Godden was quite settled in the first team and I couldn’t get back in.
“It was very frustrating, Tony was playing well and that was it and I ended up going to Swansea. That’s where I finished playing and I’m settled here now.
“They were in the second division when I went and I played half a season and then a full season when Swansea got promoted to the first division. We were a good side, and had signed quite a few ex-Liverpool players and the like. But the club then signed Dai Davies when they were promoted and I was out.”
Stewart still follows the game on the periphery in rugby-mad South Wales, managing to get to the odd Swansea match when work commitments allow.
He added: “I had a couple of jobs when I finished playing. I was the manager of a carpet store for a number of years and then got a chance to do what I’m doing now. I took the chance and am still in the job 20 years on. I work most Saturdays and the only chance I get to watch football is on a Wednesday.
“I go to watch the Swans now and again. They’ve got a nice new stadium and are a good side with a good manager and they play football the right way.
“Rugby dominates to a certain extent. But there’s a big following for football as well with Cardiff and Swansea, who are playing at the end of this month and that will be another battle and they’ll be kicking lumps out of each other again.
“The game’s a lot quicker now and players are a lot fitter. There’s quite a lot more money now and the game’s moved on – I bet Stanley Matthews said that as well once!
“I was up in Leeds about two or three years ago. Paul Reaney rang me and said a few of the boys were meeting up and Leeds were playing Fulham. John Charles, Bobby Collins and Allan Clarke were there and a few other of the boys I played with. When I was there, I was quite friendly with Trevor Cherry and Paul (Reaney).
“I’m sorry to see the team are in the position they are in now. It’s awful, hopefully they’ll get back into the top (division), but I think it’s going to take a little bit longer yet.”