Revie remembered looks at Don Revie's legacy at Elland Road

By James Riach   Last updated: 20th March 2011  

Eddie Gray Leeds United 1969

Gray: Prospered under Revie

Don Revie Jack Charlton Leeds United

Revie with Jack Charlton

For me Don's up there with the best managers that have ever managed.

Eddie Gray on Don Revie
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As is so often the case with great managers, success brings plaudits but also jealousy.

Fifty years on from Don Revie's first game in charge of Leeds United and outside of the club, a man who took a side from obscurity to the pinnacle of European football has a reputation that still belies his remarkable achievements.

Fans at Elland Road last Saturday during the game against Ipswich sang '50 years on remember the Don', fittingly, most vociferously from the Revie Stand. Yet for someone who accomplished so much, controversies throughout his career have left some still unsure whether he deserves his place at the top table.

The facts, however, make it clear. After taking control of Leeds in 1961 up until being offered the England job in 1974, Revie took a side from the Second Division and turned them into the most envied team in the country.

From twice winning the First Division to securing FA Cup glory thanks to Allan Clarke's diving header in 1972 and also enjoying success in the League Cup, Charity Shield and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the man from Middlesbrough had created a truly formidable outfit.

That is not to mention coming within touching distance of the European Cup in 1975, only to be denied in the final by Bayern Munich and referee Michel Kitabdjian, whilst also falling at the last fence during the 1973 Cup Winners' Cup.

Yet for all this, outside of Leeds Revie was not viewed in the same light. It is the same in the modern day - the most decorated coach still in the game Sir Alex Ferguson is widely loathed by most who do not bleed Manchester United.

Success does come at a price, and although the Don was inducted to the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004, the tag of 'Dirty Leeds' will forever surround his memory.

Players such as Clarke, Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray were a class apart - combined with Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles and Jack Charlton Leeds had the balance of skill and character that made them an exceptional side.

But their reputation for taking no prisoners and a physical style spread. Even today the club is still viewed in that light by certain circles.

This is one explanation as to why Revie has never been seen in his true light, but perhaps more significant was his decision to quit England and sign a lucrative contract with the United Arab Emirates, making an announcement in the Daily Mail before the Football Association received a letter of resignation.

Local journalist Richard Sutcliffe has explored the Don's career in a recent book, Revie: Revered and Reviled, in a detailed account of his rise to prominence and success at Leeds.


One man who played an integral role in that iconic Leeds side of the 1960s and 70s was cultured winger Eddie Gray, earning the famous tribute from Revie 'when he plays on the snow he doesn't leave any footprints'.

Gray, still heavily involved with the club, remembers his former playing days under the Don as Sutcliffe's book takes him back to a different era.

"I've read the book and for me Don's up there with the best managers that have ever managed," he told

"I joined the club in the early 60s, I came down from Scotland and I'd never really heard of Leeds United. It just goes to show what Don actually did with the football club.

"We'd never won any major trophies before Don took over and he realised that he had to start from scratch - he got lots of young players into the club and added some terrific players - Bobby Collins, Johnny Giles and the club took off from there.

"The tradition of the football club as one of the major clubs in the country stemmed from then. When I came down from Glasgow in 1962 I basically had never heard of Leeds United.

"He built the tradition of the club up and it's obviously carried through. Don's team to Howard Wilkinson's great side of (Gordon) Strachan, (Gary) McAllister, (David) Batty and (Gary) Speed through to the present time with Simon's (Grayson) team looking to get up to the Premier League.

"I think the football club now, the supporters are as passionate as I've ever known them."

In contemporary football, clubs have vast scouting networks that stretch from every corner of the world and are well informed of their next opponents. No stone is left unturned in a bid to exploit possible weaknesses.

Revie was the man who kick-started such thinking and he was famed for his detailed dossiers that he handed out before matches.

Gray added: "People say Martin Peters was ahead of his time as a player but Don was like that as a manager. He thought about diet, the opposition, now everyone looks at the opposition but back when Don started doing it in depth it seemed foreign.

"He did that and tried to keep the players relaxed by doing different things. I remember when we were young lads we used to queue up outside his office a couple of times a week and he used to mix milk, eggs and sherry to build us up. He made you drink it in front of him.

"He used to give steaks to the boys to take home two or three times a week to make sure you were getting good food, he thought of everything like that.

"Every aspect of every player in the team was in, and it was helpful. If you're playing against someone and you knew a certain weakness you could exploit it."One could be forgiven for thinking that Revie was a dour and introverted character, which is certainly how he is portrayed in the 2009 film of The Damned United, when Colm Meaney plays him as a downbeat character to contrast the flamboyant nature of his successor Brian Clough.

"He was never like that, never like that with the players, the staff, or anybody connected with the club," Gray remarked.

"Everybody that worked for the club at that particular time, he treated them very well and had a laugh with them. He was a very charismatic character.

"I think the book is good and shows that. Obviously there's another side and the book talks about people in the country disliking him for certain reasons, whatever they may be."

Asked what it was like to play under Revie, Gray said: "It was terrific. Football was very different then to what it is now.

"Don got a lot of young players together and everyone looked up to him because he moulded a side that played together for 10 years. The group of players never changed for a long time.

"It was terrific because there were a lot of great players at the football club when I played and it was just a privilege to play. People say we should have won more trophies, probably we should have done but we were involved in everything right up to the latter stages of most tournaments.

"If you watched some of the games in those days it was pretty brutal, it wasn't just Leeds United. The game now has completely changed. I watch some and nowadays they'd end up playing three aside.

"I don't think it really bothered us. We just thought we were good enough to compete with any side.

"I think later on we got the recognition we deserved as a unit as a team."


Later this year, to mark the half-centenary of Revie taking office as player-manager, the club will unveil a sculpture to a figure who remains beloved in his adopted home town.

It remains a mystery as to why Revie never succeeded at international level with England - suggestions indicate that some of the players did not take to his meticulous preparation methods.

Gray admits it was a blow to see him depart for England, in a decision that angered the club directors of the time. Meanwhile, the FA banned him from football for 10 years for bringing the game into disrepute - although this was later overturned.

"I was bitterly disappointed," he said. "Many people say Don left the club because he may have felt he grew up himself as a manager with the players and it was coming to an end.

"He jumped at the England job - only he will know the reasons for leaving but you've got to remember he left the football club as League champions. It wasn't an easy decision for him.

"Maybe the players never responded to him, you just don't know. It's a difficult one. He always had a great affinity with Kevin Keegan, I just don't know why it never happened."

Another blemish on his reputation came to the fore in 1977 when former goalkeeper Gary Sprake made claims against Revie in the Daily Mirror, accusing him of match fixing.

Revie sued the paper for libel although never followed through with his legal action, but Gray insists no-one ever doubted his integrity.

Asked if his reputation was tainted, Gray said: "Not in the eyes of the players that played for him - that's the most important thing. We just went out and played football, that's all we did and we knew we were playing for a great manager.

"As well as looking after the players and the families, he had a tremendous knowledge of the game.

"I think a lot of that is to do with how Don left England."

One thing is for certain, while people outside the club may not all acknowledge his achievements, Leeds United will always be in gratitude of their greatest manager. From changing their kit to all white from taking the fans across Europe, his memory will never be forgotten.

As Gray puts it: "His legacy will never leave the football club. He built the club to what it stands for today."

Richard Sutcliffe's book Revie: Revered and Reviled, published by Great Northern Books, is available now. Click here for more details.

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Comments (16)

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Daniel Bianco (Leeds United fan) says...

Don Revie's Leeds United dominated English football for 10 years and were contreversialy second placed too many times to contemplate. He was one of the best managers to ever live and deserved more recognition of his success than he got. Every one of his players from the glory days said they were willing to die for the sake Leeds United and Don Revie, and that was why they were most feared side in Europe..

Posted 13:42 24th March 2011

Daniel Bianco (Leeds United fan) says...

Don Revie is a disgrace to sport?? Are you joking? The best manager to manage one of England's greatest and most successful football clubs, and your saying he's a disgrace to sport you stupid prat. Leeds United dominated English football for 10 years under Revie, way ahead of his time and a great man. John Smith (or whatever) you completely and officially know nothing about football..

Posted 01:03 23rd March 2011

Alex Hallas (Leeds United fan) says...

@ John Smith you talk about diving and cheating, think you better take a look at your own team before you start throwing accusations like that around, as people have already mentioned george graham linking a bung and a certain theo walcott who admitted he dived in the FA cup tie, and yes what goes around comes around, hopefully that means with all the diving and cheating your club has done that you will too soon get your comeuppance.

Posted 17:08 21st March 2011

Liam Harman (Leeds United fan) says...

haha this arsenal fans an idiot talking about cheating and diving you have room to talk i bet you have never even been to an arsenal game and don revies a legend 1 of the greatest football managers of all time by a country mile and you wanna talk about cheating and accuse people of cheating? well your just another jealous pathetic waste of space why don't you go talk 2 theo walcott about diving so be quite you idiot i even agree with the manchester united fan aswell show some respect or get off this page MOT WACCOE

Posted 14:29 21st March 2011

Mike Wolf (Chelsea fan) says...

Forty years on I can still name the Leeds team.Sprake,Cooper, Reaney, Bremner,Charlton, Bites yer legs Hunter, Lorimer, Sniffer Clarke,Jones, Giles, Gray and I,m saying that as a Chelsea supporter for 45 years plus.Not many teams had a STAR player in every position but the Leeds team back then did.

Posted 08:41 20th March 2011

Jimmy Lothers (Leeds United fan) says...

@ John Smith your Arsenal side can look forward to reaping the just rewards of cheating then... George Graham anyone? Taking bungs at arsenal then riding on the coat tails of howard wilkinsons youth system when leeds gave him a chance, before jumping ship to spurs. I suppose Wengers mantra of "I didn't see it" when his players cheat is the way forward for blinkered fans as well.

Posted 14:02 19th March 2011

J Jones (Leeds United fan) says...

John Smith were you even alive back then, or are you just another prat on the bandwagon jealous of great achievments by a great man at a great club?

Posted 10:25 19th March 2011

James Reilly (Leeds United fan) says...

Sam Eaton (Manchester United fan) i take my hat off to you!! even though you are a man united fan....To stick up for a leeds manger is amazing!! John Smith (Arsenal fan) if a player dive in the old days its more then likely they where trying to save their legs from being broken. i like arsenal but there is no way in hell anyone of your players would get into the leeds team on them!! let alone want to play against them!1 MOt

Posted 09:02 19th March 2011

Gavin lee Fuller (Leeds United fan) says...

To be honest with you most people cannot see past their own teams success or failures. Don Revie was not only a Noble Gentleman but a Tactician. That wasnt heard back in the 1960`s and 1970`s. In terms of Karma I dont think Leeds have done anything wrong to deserve such comments, yes they played physically, but the last time I looked Football was a physical game? Leeds United will come good again and collectively over the years we have achieved great things, sustaining a young team for more than 10 years is an accomplishment, unheard of in todays game apart from Manchester United and as for Arsenal who seem to just buy young and underachieve!! Arsenal are a league above Leeds United and yes they are a good side but I know for a fact the Aresnal Fans are not as a passionate as Leeds United Fans. Aside of poor financial management in the past, Leeds United will come good again and I hope the 50 year Anniversary of Don Revie being at Leeds, caps off a great season for those players at Leeds and everyone who loves and suports Leeds, its not just about winning, its about being there through the "UPS AND DOWNS" something to be said for that in todays Game. X

Posted 03:51 19th March 2011

Sam Eaton (Manchester United fan) says...

hey john, calm down, although i could forgive your pathetic opnion considering you have had to watch your boys tumble out of 3 compettions in the last 5 minutes and trust me you won't win the fourth and that will now make how many years since you last won something. Check the records and i think you will find revie never went as long as wenger without a trophy for leeds. grow up and show a bit of respect you prat.

Posted 00:52 19th March 2011

Sam R (Leeds United fan) says...

And the amount of times i've see an arsenal player dive this season, and maybe your right, what comes around goes around, and hopefully the same will apply for arsenal. Im not denying that we may have dived back in the 1960-70's but we still had our achivements. May i also remind you about diving theo walcott during the FA cup, hypocritical wouldnt you say?

Posted 00:41 19th March 2011

David Thorpe (Leeds United fan) says...

I'll make you choke on them words you mug, bet you were'nt even at the emirates when we held you to a 1-1 draw, you talk about diving, I believe a certain "theo walcott" dived in the box to get arsenal a penalty and bring it level in the 90th when you were flapping about being moments away from being kicked out of the F.A cup, and don't say he did'nt dive because the guy himself even admitted to it and apologised on about doing so. Not that it matters seen as how you fluffed it at wembley to average premiership side birmingham, does arsenal even know what a full trophy cabinet even look's like???? PIPE DOWN!!!!

Posted 00:35 19th March 2011

Nigel Huntington (Leeds United fan) says...

That coment from that arsenal idiot stinks they just jealous that we were a better team than them they always have been cry babies every one of us has floors we are not perfect humans so he is the same as us imperfect !

Posted 00:28 19th March 2011

Alan Hewitt (Leeds United fan) says...

Strange comments from a gooner. George Graham left football in disgrace for "liking a bung" when he was manager of Arsenal. Oh and certain players spending more time in rehab, or the bookies than at home. Funny how cheating and low moral standards are acceptable for the team you support (all proven by the way) but rumours are not acceptable in a different team. Anyway, typical London double standards. I should expect nothing less.

Posted 00:09 19th March 2011

Mark Jenkinson (Leeds United fan) says...

John (bitter) smith Bitter about 72 Bitter about no trophies Bitter about the most anonymous fans in the country Just bitter John smiths !

Posted 21:40 18th March 2011

John Smith (Arsenal fan) says...

Shame!! This man is a disgrace, not only to football but, also to sport! Cheating and game fixing, how low can u go. Not to mention his cheating teams, u guys always talk about how 'diving is not the english way' when some of the biggest divers and cheaters played for Revie! People like that should not be remembered and honoured in sport! Remember him outside sport fine but, sport wise he was a disgrace, and Leeds are now paying for their cheating! What goes around comes around!

Posted 14:35 18th March 2011

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