LEEDS UNITED, it is fair to say, were not in the finest of states when Leslie Silver took over from Manny Cussins as chairman of the club shortly before the end of 1983.
The team was struggling, Leeds’s coffers were empty, and hooliganism was a blight on the game.
From such an inauspicious start, Silver – with the help of several key figures – not only dragged Leeds back from the abyss but helped lead them to the League Championship.
All this was achieved with the customary good grace, integrity and steely business sense that had characterised the life of a man who turned a £1,000 wartime gratuity into one of Britain’s best known firms.
Born in London, he joined the RAF at the age of 17 in 1943 and served his country during the Second World War with such distinction that he was awarded the ‘Bomber Command Clasp’ in recognition of the 40 plus operations he took part in over Europe and a further 20 in the Far East.
On being demobbed at 22, Silver founded Silver Paint and Lacquer Company Limited to set in motion a business career that would, a year before taking on the chairman’s role at Elland Road, see him awarded the OBE for services to export.
By the time Silver retired from the business world in 1991, his company – by now called the ‘Kalon Group’ – boasted a turnover of around £100m. He later went on to serve as chancellor of Leeds Polytechnic and its successor, Leeds Metropolitan University. A building on the campus of what is now Leeds Beckett University is named after him.
It is, however, for the key role Silver played in taking Leeds from the depths of despair to the very top of the English game for which he will be best remembered in the city. He retained close links with the club, pledging £15,000 to the cost of the statue of Don Revie that now stands opposite the East Stand.