Leeds United legend Peter Lorimer says the Whites owe a debt of gratitute to the late Leslie Silver OBE, who helped transform the club’s fortunes and restore them on the path to glory in the late Eighties.
Silver, who passed away yesterday at the age of 89, took over the reins at Elland Road in 1983 and during his chairmanship, the club returned to the top table of English football, with the ex-United chairman sanctioning a spending spree which led to the second division title in 1989-90.
Greater riches and glory lie ahead when Leeds lifted the first division championship in 1991-92, with the team of Silver, manager Howard Wilkinson and director Bill Fotherby proving a winning ticket in the late Eighties and early Nineties alongside the players who took the field.
Lorimer, who returned to Leeds from North America during the early stages of Silver’s tenure, with the businessman appointed Leeds chairman in 1983, said: “Leslie goes back to the days when a wealthy businessman based in Leeds could afford to buy the football club with some of his colleagues. Football has changed a lot since those days.
“Leslie certainly did a fantastic job for the club while he was here and we owe him a debt of gratitude.
“He got on the board as a director, but in time became the main financier and chairman. He kept the club going and had some great times and ultimately had a lot of success.
“He rebuilt the club with Bill Fotherby and Howard (Wilkinson) and then they passed it on. Leeds have had their ups and downs over many periods and Leslie took over when things were tough. But he sorted things out.
“Football in those days was about the passion and the city and it was a time when business people felt they were obliged to help their local football clubs and do as much as they can. And that’s what Leslie did.
“During a bit of the early period when Leslie was there, I had gone to play in North America and Allan Clarke was manager. But unfortunately, things all went a bit wrong and I couldn’t believe when I came back that the club had hit hard times.
“It was up to people like Leslie to rebuild the situation.
“He was the chairman when I came back and was playing and captain. I was disappointed when he let Eddie (Gray) go as manager obviously at the time and didn’t agree with the situation and let him know. But at the end of the day, he did what he felt was right for the club and got us out of the problems we had.
“Leslie was a Leeds supporter. Just two or three weeks ago, which was the last time I saw him, he pulled into the car park in his car (at Elland Road) and loved his football.
“After his second wife Sheila died, football was Leslie’s life. Coming down and watching Leeds was what he had to look forward to.”