Leeds United, Huddersfield Town and Bradford City legend Trevor Cherry transcended Yorkshire rivalries and county border
The outpouring of grief from the football world proves that Leeds United legend Trevor Cherry transcended his home county’s rivalries and its border.
It is a rare thing indeed for a player to be held in such high esteem at three Yorkshire football institutions.
But Cherry, a classy and versatile defender who cost Leeds £100,000 in 1972 and helped bring a First Division title to Elland Road, was beloved further afield, too.
England greats Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence were quick to pay homage to their fellow former international, a man who wore the shirt of his country 27 times.
It was wonderfully poignant that Don Revie, the man who shocked Cherry with interest that led to a step into the elite level of club football, was also the man to bestow the honour of international football on the Huddersfield native.
Cherry might have disappointed many in his home town by moving to near neighbours and rivals Leeds – even his Huddersfield-mad father wasn’t best pleased – but he continued to enjoy the respect of Terriers, who were content for him to wear the ‘legend’ tag for their club as well as one with whom they don’t see eye to eye.
Part of the golden generation who took Town up into Division One in 1970, alongside Frank Worthington and Jimmy Nicholson, Cherry was a winner and winners keep hold of football fans’ affections.
At Elland Road, there were highs and lows but he made an impression that lasted decades.
Whites were united in grief on Wednesday night when news broke of his sudden and unexpected passing, many recounting his prominence in their first or early Elland Road memories.
And it wasn’t just supporters paying tribute.
Ex-Leeds and England keeper Nigel Martyn said: “Another one of our legends gone too soon, great man and player.”
Champions League winner and former White James Milner simply posted ‘RIP’ on his Twitter feed.
Paul Hart, a team-mate of Cherry’s, said the 72-year-old had perfectly fit the Revie mould for ‘tough, strong minded and exceptional footballers.’
And Sean O’Neill, just a youngster learning his trade at Elland Road when Cherry joined, spoke of his sadness that a ‘very good player and a good man’ had been taken too soon.
Cherry had talent, but no airs and graces and according to O’Neill was as friendly and helpful as anyone in Revie’s star-studded dressing room.
Both he and Norman Hunter were ‘honest kickers’ said Cherry, but by every account, both men remained warm, friendly and approachable, no matter the levels of success they achieved.
Twenty-five miles down the road, Cherry’s loss has been just as keenly felt.
He wasn’t just a legend, he was a legend-maker who influenced young players at Leeds, like John Sheridan, as much as he did at Bradford City, the club he played and managed after his time at Elland Road had come to an end.
He helped to build the careers of John Hendrie and Stuart McCall – both of whom have voiced their heartfelt admiration for him since his passing.
He also helped the club to a Division Three title in the 1984/85 season.
Wherever his football career took him, he became a champion, achieving the successful transition from good player to good manager that eludes so many.
That might go some way to explaining why he has been able to simultaneously hold the fond affections of Whites, Terriers and Bantams.
To the winners go the spoils and the love.
But we in football are a fickle lot and it says much about Cherry’s character and judgement that he remains to this day a cherished and revered figure at all three clubs, never alienating one fanbase or another, never blotting his copybook or diluting his legacy.
We are also a possessive lot, we like our associations with glory and we claim people as our own.
But Cherry, his life and career are for all of Yorkshire to celebrate.
A man who made God’s Own County his home and a man who made Yorkshire football all the better for his presence and contribution.
A Leeds legend.
A Huddersfield legend.
A Bradford City legend.