Don Revie, Leeds United’s greatest ever manager
10 Jul 2019 07:31 am, by YorkshireSquare
Today would have marked the 92nd birthday of Leeds United greatest manager, Don Revie. First joining Leeds United in 1956 he was given the job of player-manager at Elland Road in 1961 four days after Jack Taylor's resignation. The appointment followed inquiries by Bournemouth and Chester about Revie's availability. Director Harry Reynolds, who was soon to become the Chairman of the Leeds United board, drafted a letter recommending Revie to Bournemouth but then he realised that he was just the man for Leeds. Reynolds tore up the letter and persuaded the rest of the board to agree to Revie's appointment. Yet even then they could not have dreamed that Revie would transform Leeds from a run-of-the-mill Second Division club into one of Europe's best teams in such a short time.
Revie was born in Middlesbrough on 10th July 1927 and began his career in 1944 with Leicester City. He figured in four major transfer deals totalling almost £80,000, a record at that time. Hull City paid Leicester City £20,000 for him in November 1949, Manchester City paid Hull City £25,000 for him in October 1951, Sunderland paid Manchester City £22,000 for him in November 1956 and finally Leeds paid Sunderland £12,000 for him in November 1958. He was a cultured inside-right and won six England caps, was Footballer of the year in 1955 and won an FA Cup-winners medal with Manchester City in 1956. He was the deep-lying centre-forward in City's 'Revie Plan' which was hailed as a tactical master-stroke in the mid 1950s, when it was evolved from team plan of the Hungarian National team.
Revie made his Leeds debut on 29th November 1985 in a 3-2 win over Newcastle United. He was soon made skipper after Wilbur Cush handed over the Captain's armband, but he in turn handed it over to Freddie Goodwin, after a string of poor results. Revie's Managerial career got off to a poor start and Leeds narrowly avoided relegation in 1960-61 when he took over in March from Jack Taylor and though the team finished fourteenth they were just five points clear of the highest relegated team. 1961-62 was no much better and they avoided relegation by the narrowest of margins finishing nineteenth just three points above the relegated team, thanks to a last day 3-0 victory at Newcastle United.
Post-match interview after Leeds United beat Derby County 2-0 in October 1969, the first league meeting between Don Revie and Brian Clough's teams
Revie retired as a player in 1963 after 80 games and 12 goals to concentrate on management. He already had Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Freddie Goodwin, Willie Bell and Albert Johanesson on the books when he took over as Manager and had bought the experience Tommy Younger, Billy McAdams, Ian Lawson, Cliff Mason and Bobby Collins and blooded Gary Sprake. For the new season he had bought Jim Storrie from Airdrieonians and funded the return of United's favourite son, John Charles. While the return of John Charles could be branded a failure, he was sold back to Italy at a profit and youngsters Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney and Norman Hunter quickly established themselves as regulars and Rod Johnson, Jimmy Greenhoff and Peter Lorimer had also found their names on the team sheet.
Tommy Henderson and Don Weston were bought to give the squad more depth and after a poor start to the season the team started to gel and had climbed to fifth on forty-eight points just four less than second placed Chelsea and five less than Champions Stoke City as the season came to its conclusion. The patient Revie looked forward and developed the Youth policy launched by Taylor and Lambton and nurtured the crop of youngsters who were to reap a golden harvest of success in the senior ranks for him. Leeds powered to the Second Division Championship in 1963-64 under the leadership of midfield general Bobby Collins, an inspired Revie signing from Everton. United made an immediate impact on the First Division being runners-up on goal average and losing the FA Cup Final in extra time.
In ten years at the top they twice won the League Championship and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and on single occasions, the FA Cup, League Cup and Charity Shield not to mention near misses too many to mention in all competitions including all the European Cups such as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, Cup Winners' Cup and the European Cup itself. But Revie was more than just the most successful Manager in the history of the club, to the players he was the father of the Leeds family, a man who made all reserves and juniors feel an important part of the club. An astute tactician, he surrounded himself with a fine backroom staff.
Ex-England and Luton centre-half, Syd Owen, who had been appointed coach to the Juniors by Jack Taylor and brought with him the future England trainer and former Stockport County and Accrington Stanley player, Les Cocker, who had been his assistant at Luton Town. Assistant Manager Maurice Lindley, who played once as a guest for Leeds in the Second World War and finally Bob English, who had joined the club as a physiotherapist in 1959. All four had been recruited by Jack Taylor but had dovetailed into the Revie backroom team perfectly throughout all the Revie years. In the same way Revie had the happy knack of keeping his large squad of stars happy even though some of the reserves could have commanded regular places at virtually any club in the country.
He was adept in the transfer market, picking up one of football's greatest bargains with the signing of Manchester United winger Johnny Giles and his big money signings Allan Clarke, Trevor Cherry and Mick Jones proved they were worth every penny. During his reign at Elland Road, Revie was named Manager of the Year in 1969, 1970 and 1972 and was awarded the OBE in January 1970. After United's failure to beat Sunderland in the 1973 FA Cup Final, Everton looked sure to lure Revie to Goodison Park, but he stayed and was rewarded with another League title. The honeymoon could not go on for ever, however, and in July 1974, Revie ended thirteen years at Leeds by becoming England's Manager.
With his track record he appeared the obvious choice to win England a place in the 1978 World Cup Finals but he was not able to capture the club atmosphere at International level and failed to set England on the road to Argentina. In 1977 he quit to take a lucrative job as coach to the United Arab Emirates on a tax-free contract reputed to be worth £60,000 per year. His move was bitterly criticised by the Football Association and the Press but whatever his standing nationally, his place in United's folklore is guaranteed. Near Elland Road there is a road named after him, and the new all-seater Geldard End Kop was renamed the Revie Stand in 1994.
In 1988 Revie revealed that he was suffering from motor-neurone disease, a muscle-wasting disease for which there was no known cure. The illness confined the once hyper-active Revie to a wheelchair, but he still managed to visit Elland Road in April 1988 to renew acquaintances at a joint Testimonial game for John Charles and Bobby Collins. On 26th May 1989, however, Don Revie died at Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh.
For the full story of Leeds United’s ‘Revie Years’ check out Twelve at the Top, the story in words and pictures of Leeds United’s greatest years.