Revie revalued

Don Revie, once an outstanding creative footballer with Leicester and Manchester City, built Leeds United into his own personal family, revitalising such players as Jackie Charlton. Over to Brian Glanville.

Suddenly, a rush of revaluation of Don Revie; plus a flavouring of his arch rival, Brian Clough. Two books and an exhaustive interview with no less a personage than the Queen's cousin, the Earl of Harewood, who happens still to be the Leeds United President, not to mention a famous figure in the world of music. “Don's the most undervalued manager in history,” he's maintained, in a sustained eulogy, dismissing every criticism of the former Leeds and England manager. Not least his depiction in the High Court of Justice by Judge Cantley, as being greedy and dishonest.

As for the books, a local journalist, Richard Sutcliffe, has produced “Revie Revered and Revived”, while out of left field, as they say, comes a former BBC radio editor and Yorkshire Post (the Leeds based paper) journalist Roger Hermiston with “Clough and Revie”.

For Harewood, whom I came to know, like and admire years ago, in England's pre-1970 World Cup tour in South America, Revie becomes an almost saintly figure, maligned and too often unappreciated. As one who disliked Revie's original, bruising, cynical Leeds United team — defended by Harewood — but was delighted by the later, often scintillating, version, and was both surprised and disenchanted by his time in charge of England, I feel qualified to put things in perspective.

As for Brian Clough, Hermiston comes no closer than anybody else in explaining why a manager who excelled at Derby and Nottingham Forest, had publicly excoriated Leeds, and told the players they should throw their medals in the rubbish bin, should none the less, in what seemed little more than masochism, accept the poisoned chalice of the Leeds managership, where he lasted just 44 volcanic days.

For Harewood, every accusation against Revie and his methods is automatically dismissed. Yet there seems scant doubt that in reviving a club which had fallen into mediocrity, he bought certain games. Something of which Bob Stokoe accused him when he himself was manager of Bury — he turned the bribe down — and who had the due satisfaction of leading his unfancied Sunderland side to beat Leeds sensationally, at Wembley in the 1973 FA Cup final.

Revie, once an outstanding creative footballer with Leicester City and Manchester City, built Leeds United into his own personal family, revitalising such players as Jackie Charlton. Yet how well I remember during Leeds' abrasive days, standing outside the Elland Road ground with Manchester United's Pat Crerand just before a game and being told how he hated playing against Leeds, with their endless gamesmanship.

Curiously enough, Clough and Revie were born within a few streets of each other in north eastern Middlesbrough. Many, though I was not among them, thought Clough could and should have managed England. Revie who did, was suddenly exposed in all his basic uncertainty and even paranoia.

Things which had worked so well in the “family” of Leeds, weighty dossiers about the opposition, games of carpet bowls and bins before a match, were disdained by his international players. Results were poor. England were soon eliminated from the European Championship. And Revie proved astonishingly thick-skinned. You could never have imagined his predecessor, Alf Ramsey, who despised the press, frequently using his ghosted newspaper columns to reply to criticism; let alone agreeing in 1975 to a radio confrontation with myself on BBC's popular “Sports Report” on a Saturday evening. I agreed to it because I felt I had told Don “on air” that I couldn't understand why he wanted it. “You,” I said, “are the manager of the England team. I am just a journalist working for a newspaper.”

Later, Revie asked Barry Davies, then a leading BBC TV commentator, how he thought the confrontation had gone, to which Barry wryly answered “I assume the return game will be at Elland Road.”

Hermiston does well enough for, to be quite frank, an outsider, but he is far too kind to Clough over the abysmal collapse of Brighton and Albion, when he briefly and disastrously managed them, after leaving Leeds. Humiliating results at home, when the Third Division side were routed in the League and thrashed by amateur opposition in the FA Cup, were surely down to the players' demoralisation by Clough's demands.

As for Revie, his England managership ended in ignominy when, on tour with the team in South America, he deserted them in Brazil, lying that he had to watch another international game, instead flying to Dubai to sign a hugely lucrative contract. Harwood would have us believe that Revie erred because he felt “a lack of support” from the FA.

Under the aegis of the vindictive Professor Sir Harold Thomson the FA suspended Revie for ten years and refused to pay him more money The case came to court, where Revie won, Thompson having constituted himself both judge and jury, Don getting his money but being savaged by an admittedly controversial judge. Since I described the conflict in court being between Dracula and the Wolf Man, I can hardly defend Thompson, a persistent intriguer, from Harewood's barbs. But the portrait he paints of Revie is a whitewash; as white as the all white colours Revie adopted for Leeds.

And a mystery remains. In May 1972, Leeds, two days after the Cup final, needed only a draw at Wolves to win the Championship. They lost, though Bernard Shaw, Wolves' left back, blatantly handled twice in the penalty box. Rumour had it that League secretary, Alan Hardaker, had decreed no penalties be awarded, though when I put this to him, he denied it.