Don Revie's Leeds United legends react to Freedom of the City honour, celebrations tinged with sadness

Don Revie would have been ‘overwhelmed’ to see the team he put together honoured by the city they put on the footballing map.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 9:21 am
Updated Thursday, 5th December 2019, 9:43 am

The Revie Boys, who brought success after success to Leeds United between 1967 and 1974, were given the Freedom of the City in a ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall.

City councillors queued up to pay personal tributes to the United heroes and recollect the moments that made them fall in love with the football club.

Amid the standing ovations, toasts and a guard of honour, formed by city leaders, the nostalgia was tinged with sadness because some of those responsible for the club’s greatest era were not present.

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“It’s quite sad there are people like the gaffer, who would have loved today, unfortunately not here,” said Norman Hunter, who made 540 Football League appearances for the Whites.

The World Cup winner said the honour bestowed upon his team-mates was a deserved one.

“To be honest I didn’t know much about the Freedom of the City but I looked it up it’s about people who have done good for the community and that applies to Leeds United and what we achieved for this city and for Yorkshire,” he said.

“To be part of that great team, it was absolutely awesome.

Norman Hunter and, far left, Eddie Gray, celebrating the Freedom of the City award

“I could never wait to get up every day, come down and train, meet the lads and play football. What a life.”

What made that life so fulfilling and what made Leeds so successful was the ability and collective team spirit of the players who made the white shirts so famous across the world.

“There is a bond among these players that will never, ever be broken, after everything we’ve been through,” said Hunter.

“You go into European competitions, play in front of a hostile crowd against a very physical team, with some dubious refereeing and then you get a result and you put your finger up and say Leeds, we will see you at Leeds.

“We could defend but we could attack and score goals. We were a great team in Europe.

“That spirit, it’s here. It’s lovely to see.”

Allan Clarke wished that the man he still calls ‘Gaffer’ out of respect was there to join the celebrations, along with captain Billy Bremner and Paul Madeley.

“It’s a great honour, there’s not many people have got the freedom of a big city like Leeds,” said Clarke.

“The only sad thing about it, I think, is that it would have been nice if we had got this honour when the Gaffer, Billy and Paul Madeley were still with us, so I feel for them.

“He would be overwhelmed.

“When I joined Leeds I could see he had created this team spirit, this family.

“Everybody at the club, there was nobody more important than anybody else. We were a family.

“I knew we were a great side and to be a great side, if the gaffer was stood here now, he would say he was a great manager through that lot because without players you can’t do it.

“What a great man and a great manager.”

The city of Leeds has never before bestowed its highest civic honour, the Freedom of the City, on a group of people.

It feels fitting that a full 50 years after winning Leeds United’s first ever top flight title, Don Revie’s United are still making history.

And they are still a family.