THE man widely considered as the greatest ever player to come from the British Isles knew plenty about the overwhelming victor of our vote to find Leeds United’s best ever right-back, for sure.
Belfast’s finest, George Best, may have tortured many a full-back during his decorated career at Old Trafford, but one player was most definitely his master – as United fans have delighted in saying over the years.
Step forward Paul Reaney, our top man on the right-hand side of the defence after scooping 53 per cent of the votes – to join No.1 Nigel Martyn in our YEP United dream team, which is now taking shape.
A veteran of well over 700 games in a 17-year association with the Whites, encompassing all the glory years under the legendary Don Revie, Reaney had the measure of most opposing wingers, particularly the feted Best and the Whites droves have been quick to put that point in the floods of e-mails they have sent to us.
Alongside the fact that the consummately-skilled defender, who had few peers in his playing days, should have been awarded a load more England caps after incredibly picking up a derisory three.
Echoing a common theme, billyboy4 e-mailed: “Has to be Paul Reaney. Not given enough recognition at international level, but was one of the few players to keep George Best under wraps when they met. Speedy Reaney could cross a ball and had pace to match any winger, he was strong and could tackle a bus. Case closed!”
Carmel Garland was another who revelled in the prowess of Reaney, stating: “George Best could NEVER get past him, a joy to watch,” while George Southern said: “I never saw Jimmy Dunn or Willis Edwards, but it has to be Paul Reaney. He was such an ever-present, dependable player, his performances could be taken for granted, I suppose. His pace was surprising, his overlapping runs exciting, but my main Reaney memory is the number of goalline clearances he made. All good right-backs, though, it’s a good list!”
Several other of our right-back candidates were not without admirers, with Gary Kelly, Danny Mills and Mel Sterland mentioned in dispatches, along with a classy player who featured all across the back line in the 1970s – not to mention in the midfield on occasions – in the shape of former skipper Trevor Cherry.
While yellandroar’s vote went to Reaney, a mention of perhaps not the biggest household name on our list in Neil Aspin, underlined by the fact that the Elland Road faithful remember commitment when they see it, particularly during a dark time when Whites players truly had to earn their crust – in the fraught years of the early to mid-1980s.
Yellandroar e-mailed: “Voted for Paul Reaney, ahead of Cherry, with Sterland and Kelly up there too. But I have to say that none of them played with the bravery, intensity, commitment and passion for Leeds United that Neil Aspin showed in the dark days of the 1980s.
“He was the definitive run-through-a-brick-wall full-back.
But, in the words of billyboy4, the “case is closed” with Reaney, who picked up every honour in the game with United except a European Cup winner’s medal, simply the best.
An e-mail from originalkoppite perhaps best summed up the feelings of many, saying: “I saw Paul Reaney from the time he made his debut to his retirement and he was head and shoulders the best right-back that has ever played for United and he might be the best that ever played for England.”
HOW YOU VOTED
Paul Reaney 53%, Gary Kelly 26%, Mel Sterland 8%, Jimmy Dunn 6%, Trevor Cherry 4%, Danny Mills 2%, Willis Edwards 1%, Neil Aspin 0%.