This week we learned of the sad passing of Paul Madeley, Don Revie's ‘Rolls Royce’, the original ‘Super Sub’ and the most versatile player ever to wear the Leeds shirt...and arguably in the whole history of the Football League. In his 724 first team appearances, spread over an incredible 17 year span at Leeds, he scored 34 goals, playing in every position except goal - perhaps hindering his international selection, as he never had a regular first team position at Leeds.
Born in close proximity to Elland Road, up the hill in Beeston, he attended Cross Flatts Park Junior School and Parkside Secondary Modern School and played for Middleton Parkside Youth team along with Paul Reaney, Rod Johnson and Kevin Hector. An England Schools international, he began work in an insurance broker’s office and played in the Yorkshire League with Farsley Celtic. He had trials with Leeds and signed in May 1962.
Originally he was groomed as Jack Charlton’s successor before Don Revie realized he was a versatile performer and in one season played nine different positions. Ignored at Under-Twenty-three level, he played for the Football League, but then turned down the chance to go to Mexico for the 1970 World Cup. He was omitted from the original squad but was called up when Paul Reaney broke a leg. Madeley felt he would not survive when the squad was slimmed down, and so he opted not to go. Sir Alf Ramsey bore no grudge and Madeley won the first of his twenty-four caps in 1971.
In a team noted for its ‘hard men’, Madeley’s attitude was exemplary and he was cautioned only twice in over seven hundred appearances, which brought him two League Championship medals, an FA Cup winners’ medal, League Cup winners’ medal and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winners’ medals. Nobody, including Madeley, could pin down what position he preferred:
I don't mind where I play, as long as I'm on the pitch.
Madeley was never asked to play out of position because every position was natural to him. Madeley's natural ability to adapt to a different role on a frequent basis meant that he was often in the side chosen by manager Don Revie at the expense of a 'specialist' in that position, though the majority of the time there was a player either injured or suspended whom Madeley would replace, mainly in defence. Although, having become a regular in the team from 1966, Madeley was in attacking positions when Leeds won their first major honours under Revie.
In 1968 he scored the crucial away goal against Juventus which helped Leeds win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. In the two legs he wore the No.8 shirt (striker, in Leeds' shirt allocation system that ace goalscorer Allan Clarke would later make his own) and the No.10 shirt (attacking midfield player) respectively. Leeds won the League Cup in the same year, and Madeley was the No.9 (a striker again) in the 1-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley.
Madeley played thirty-one League matches in various positions in 1969 as Leeds won the League Championship and in 1970 flitted around the side again until Paul Reaney broke his leg shortly before the season came to a finale, with Leeds seeking to win three trophies. Madeley duly played in Reaney's right back position and No.2 shirt as Leeds missed out on the League to Everton, the European Cup in the semi-finals to Celtic and the FA Cup in the final to Chelsea, who won after a replay.
In 1971, Madeley was in the side in one position for all bar one of Leeds' matches in the League, which Leeds again missed out on in the last game of the season. He played in the No.11 shirt (nominally the left winger, but in most games he could be found in midfield) as Leeds took their second Inter-Cities Fairs Cup that summer. As the next season got underway, Madeley again found himself moving round the side as injuries and suspensions took hold on his team-mates and in the end he never missed a League match, though for a third year in a row Leeds failed to clinch the title on the last day.
In April 1972, left back Terry Cooper suffered an horrific broken leg so Madeley was in the No.3 shirt for the season's end and the FA Cup Final, which Leeds finally won with a 1-0 win over Arsenal, duplicating their League Cup success of four seasons previously. Revie sorted the left back issue by signing Trevor Cherry in the summer of 1972 and Madeley moved across to the centre of defence for much of the next season as Jack Charlton's distinguished career at Leeds wound down. He was in that No.5 shirt as Leeds surrendered the FA Cup to Sunderland in the final; and then switched back to the left wing and the No.11 shirt for the European Cup-Winners’ Final a few days later in Greece, which Leeds lost to AC Milan.
Leeds won the League in 1974, Madeley missing just three matches, and even after Revie's departure that summer to take over the England job, got to their first and only European Cup final a year later, with Madeley in the No.5 shirt again. This was his last Cup final (and Leeds' last for twenty-one years). In the eight finals (nine matches) he played in, he wore seven different shirts. He was elected to the PFA Team of the Year after its inception in the 1973/74, 1974/75 and 1975/76 seasons and was also the Leeds United Player of the Year in 1975-76.
After their European Cup Final appearance, a decline in fortunes for Leeds followed, with the ageing side breaking up. Madeley stayed until 1980, when he retired. He enjoyed a testimonial season in 1977. No true 'utility' player has emerged in English football since; indeed, Madeley was arguably one of a kind for all footballing generations.
Paul Madeley featured at number 12 on our 100 Greatest Leeds Players.