Eddie Gray credited former Leeds United boss Jimmy Armfield with saving his playing career and opening the door to management after Armfield’s death at the age of 82 today.
Gray, the legendary Leeds winger, revealed how he was on the verge of hanging up his boots and finalising an insurance payment from the Football League when Armfield took charge at Elland Road in 1974.
A thigh injury had forced Gray to contemplate retirement but Armfield offered the Scot the chance to coach Leeds’ junior players and eased him back into the first-team fold during the 1974-75 season after giving Gray time to regain his fitness.
Gray, who turned 70 last week, went onto play until 1983, amassing 579 appearances for Leeds, and he took charge of United as player-manager in 1982. He later worked for the club as an academy coach and first-team coach under David O’Leary before managing United again during the 2003-04 campaign.
“From a personal point of view, Jimmy helped me get back playing again,” Gray told the YEP. “I’d been injured for a while and by the time Jimmy came in, the club had written to the Football League’s insurers to sort out the money involved. They were waiting to hear back but I was going to retire.
“Jimmy asked me to take the youth team and do some coaching while my injury settled down again.
“A few months later he had a look at me and said he wanted me to have another go. We hadn’t heard from the insurers so I did. And I played for another 10 years.”
Gray’s managerial career also took him to Hull City and Rochdale and he was widely credited with aiding the impressive productivity of Leeds’ academy in the late 1990s.
“It was Jimmy got me thinking about (coaching),” Gray said. “Working with the kids got me into the habit of managing people and taught me the basics, like how to put on a sessions. Between that and playing for as long as I did, I owed him a lot.”