Leeds United nostalgia: Patience paid its dividends for Harvey

David Harvey gathers the ball from Arsenal's Charlie George during the 1972 FA Cup final.
David Harvey gathers the ball from Arsenal's Charlie George during the 1972 FA Cup final.
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If David Harvey had played more regularly for Leeds United and been their outright first-choice goalkeeper earlier, the club’s trophy cabinet would probably have had several more additions.

At the very least, it would be as full as one would expect from a team considered to be one of England’s best club sides of the last 50 years. Gary Sprake was ahead of Harvey for several years, despite Sprake’s unfortunate ‘Careless Hands’ nickname.

Harvey appeared in three FA Cup finals for Leeds but it took until the end of the 1971-72 season for him to become a true number one. He played only 11 times in that term but a knee injury to Sprake coincided with what was arguably Revie’s crowning achievement as Leeds manager – the 1972 FA Cup final win over Arsenal at Wembley. From that point on, Harvey was Leeds’ regular ’keeper’.

Harvey had been associated with Leeds for longer than most, training with the club from the age of 11. Upon leaving school, he worked for Stylo’s shoe factory for two weeks but signed for United before long. He spent seven years waiting for his opportunity to displace Sprake but took it with aplomb.

Looking back on his time, he said: “I had to be patient but it was a great experience.

“I just enjoyed every single day. The travelling, the training – everything.

“We were due to be in at 10 o’clock in the morning but half past nine was late! Just to be there was wonderful. All the games gave me pleasure, I couldn’t really cherry-pick the (best) games.”

Harvey had many significant moments at Leeds but given its importance for his career and the importance it held for the club itself, the FA Cup final came up when speaking to this paper in 2011.

“The FA Cup final was a big moment,” Harvey said, “but it’s hard to say it was a highlight because you don’t really remember that much. Days like that pass so quickly.

“I think it was the sheer relief just to win something that I remember. Mick’s (Jones) injury was the only dampener on the whole day.”

In the 1973-74 season, Leeds put together a record 29-match undefeated streak and Harvey picked up a Division One title winners’ medal as a result.

However, he continued to suffer bad luck. He was in goal for the controversial European Cup Winners’ Cup loss against AC Milan of 1973, when Leeds’ failure to win the trophy supposedly came down to the credibility of the referee rather than simple footballing matters. He also missed out on the European Cup final in 1975 after being injured in a car crash and then lost his place in the side to understudy, David Stewart.

He later joined Peter Lorimer and Johnny Giles at the Vancouver Whitecaps before completing a further spell at Elland Road under Eddie Gray. His retirement took him to Orkney.

But even with Harvey’s poor luck and long-held position as a reserve, his successes were great.

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