Ray was one of the most loyal servants ever at Elland Road, serving
both Leeds City and United for well over thirty years, although
he had a number of breaks from the place. As well as being manager
of United in two separate spells, he was also player and captain
of City, as well as being committee man and secretary with United.
Ray was born in the Potteries town of Newcastle-under-Lyme on
February 4 1876 and began his footballing career with local clubs,
joining Macclesfield as a seventeen year old in 1893, before moving
to Burslem Port Vale a year later. Over the next few years he
played for Manchester City, Stockport County and Chesterfield.
After Gilbert Gillies, his manager
at Chesterfield, was appointed as Leeds City's first boss in March
1905, the 29 year old Ray followed him to Elland Road in July,
in time for the club's first season
in League football. Ray was a dependable left back and even
skippered the side before leaving when the board declined not
to renew Gillies' contract in March 1908.
Ray retired from playing in 1912 and then served in the RASC
during World War One. He remained close to Leeds City, however,
and was invited to become a member of the original committee that
was elected to manage the new Leeds United, following City's
expulsion from the League in October 1919. He then became
the first United manager, running the club for part of their 1919-20
Midland League campaign.
New United chairman Hilton Crowther went back to his old club
Huddersfield Town to recruit Arthur Fairclough
in February 1920. Ray became his assistant for a while, eventually
leaving Elland Road in June 1923 to take over at Doncaster Rovers
when they were elected to the old Third Division (North). Ray
got them above a mid table finish, but when Arthur Fairclough
resigned following Leeds United's relegation to Division Two at
the end of 1926-27, the Leeds
Board recalled him to oversee all team and football affairs, including
selection and tactics.
One of Ray's first signings, in July 1927, was Charlie Keetley,
whom he seized from non League obscurity. Keetley went on to score
more than 100 goals for United over the next seven years, and
is still one of the club's all time leading goalscorers. Ray had
previously signed all of his four brothers while at Doncaster.
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Ray steered United back up to the First Division at the first
attempt in 1927-28, making
few changes to Fairclough's team, although Keetley had a good
late run, scoring 18 goals in his 16 appearances. He went on to
steer the club to a remarkable top five finish in 1929-30
(their best placing until Don Revie arrived), before seeing them
relegated the following year.
They bounced back immediately in 1931-32
as runners up to Wolves and enjoyed two seasons in mid-table.
Ray now had the celebrated England international half back line
of Edwards, Hart and Copping
at his disposal.
However, in the close season of 1934, powerful Arsenal, the 'Bank
of England' club stole Copping away, sorely depleting the United
backbone. Copping was badly missed. In 1934-35
Leeds sank to 18th place, though with only four points fewer than
in the previous campaign. But defensively there were some dreadful
embarrassments: an 8-1 defeat at Stoke in the second match of
the season, a 6-3 defeat at West Bromwich in November and a 7-1
thrashing at Chelsea in March - despite Leeds having taken a 10th
minute lead in the latter. By then, Dick Ray had resigned as manager.
With only slender resources at his disposal, he did much to enhance
Leeds United's reputation, fostering the talents of several fine
young players, but felt there was little more progress he could
make. 59 year old Ray resigned his £1,000 a year job on 5 March
1935, with United flirting once more with relegation.
Throughout his career, Ray was self assured, opinionated and
outspoken. Few argued with his achievements and, despite perpetual
financial problems, while he was at Elland Road, he fashioned
a strong outfit. He discovered and developed the likes of Bert
Wilf Copping, Billy Furness
and Eric Stephenson who all made it into the England side, as
did two of the players he inherited, Willis
Edwards and Ernie Hart.
The Football League recognised Ray's achievements by appointing
him the first manager of a League representative team, for the
2-2 draw with the Scottish League at Ibrox in February 1934. He
was presented with a gold medal to mark the honour.
Ray quit his £1,000 a year post on 5 March 1935, deciding
he had taken United as far as he could. A month later, he took
over from Jack Peart as Bradford City manager. They just about
avoided relegation from Division Two at the end of that season,
but were relegated in 1937. Ray left the club a year later when
he was relieved of responsibility for team selection.
He was then 62 and spent some time as Millwall's chief scout,
but was out of football two years later, spending his time running
garage businesses and billiard salloons.
Ray was also a fine cricketer with Bradford League club Laisterdyke.
He died on 28 December 1952 in St James' Hospital in Leeds, aged
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