James Riach talks to Eddie Gray on the 50th anniversary of Don Revie's first game in charge of Leeds.
By James Riach
Last Updated: 20/03/11 9:04am
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 Skysports.com.
"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.