Dave Stewart, the former Leeds United goalkeeper who has died at the age of 71, was between the posts on what should have been the greatest night in the club’s history.
The Glaswegian played second fiddle at Elland Road, signed when Gary Sprake left in 1973 and taken on as cover for fellow Scot David Harvey, but circumstances thrust him to the fore during Leeds’ run to the European Cup final two years later.
Brought in from Ayr United, where he played almost 200 times, Stewart saw only the closing months of Don Revie’s reign as manager and gave his most notable service to Jimmy Armfield while the 1974-75 season was at its height.
Injuries sustained by Harvey in a car crash in February of 1975 brought Stewart in Armfield’s line-up for the business end of a European Cup campaign which ended in controversial and violent circumstances in Paris.
He saw Leeds through a quarter-final against Anderlecht and an epic semi-final against Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona, a tie United shaded brilliantly by holding on for a 1-1 draw in the second leg at a packed Camp Nou. Stewart had overcome a groin strain to start in Catalonia.
“We were 2-1 up from the first leg and we scored early on through Peter (Lorimer),” Stewart recalled in an interview with the YEP in 2008. “They equalised but we managed to hang on, thankfully, and I played quite well.”
Like all of Armfield’s players and like Armfield himself, Stewart never forgot the events and the injustice of the final against Bayern Munich in Paris. Leeds were denied a clear penalty in the first half and saw a Lorimer strike disallowed for offside in the second before being picked off late on by a Bayern side who benefited from a highly controversial refereeing performance.
“It was a game we probably deserved to win,” Stewart said, reflecting on a painful 2-0 defeat. “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.”
Either side of that run in the first team, Stewart spent most of his time as a substitute. Revie had made it clear at the outset that he was joining United as deputy to Harvey. “I remember first coming to Leeds,” Stewart said. “It was a big surprise. Leeds were a top side back then and I couldn't believe it to be honest.
“I signed as cover but I thought 'it's Leeds United so we'll see how it goes.’ They were such a good team and every player was a household name.”
In 1978 Stewart faced up to his lack of game time and accepted an offer from Ron Atkinson’s West Bromwich Albion. Injury and the form of Tony Godden saw to it that he failed to play once. Swansea City took him on the following year and Stewart signed off his professional career in England 1981 by winning promotion to Division One at the end of an ever-present campaign. His final two years as a footballer played out in Hong Kong.
He returned to Swansea and worked at a jewellers before moving back to his native Scotland in the years before his death, which was announced by Swansea this afternoon. His only international cap came in 1977 in a 1-0 defeat to East Germany. Stewart saved a penalty.
Inducted into Ayr United’s Hall of Fame in 2008, he rarely dwelt on his footballing career as life moved on in Wales. “It just doesn't come up,” Stewart once told the Daily Record. “It was all a long time ago. And they’re all rugby-minded down here.”