Managers/Players - Don Revie - Player 1958-62 and Manager 1961-74
Part 7 - Inn-gerland! 1974-77
Part 1 An Appreciation - Part 2 Learning the ropes 1927-51 - Part 3 Centre stage with City 1951-56 - Part 4 Shuffling off stage 1956-61 - Part 5 On the march with Leeds United 1961-67 - Part 6 The agony and the ecstasy 1967-74 - Part 8 Disgrace and despair 1977-89
Don Revie enjoyed a long and colourful career as manager of Leeds United Football Club, reigning supreme at Elland Road from March 1961 until the summer of 1974. During that time, his success in building Leeds into one of the most powerful sides in the country attracted the attention of a horde of suitors who coveted his talents: Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City, Everton, Manchester United, Torino, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos had all tried to lure him away from West Yorkshire over the years. Revie, though, time and time again exercised his option to remain as the Godfather of the Leeds United Family, using the rewards on offer from others to help wring improved terms from the tight-fisted directors who ran the club. Fear of losing the complete control he enjoyed at Elland Road had always previously deterred him from jumping ship.
Things had changed by 1974 in two main respects.
Firstly, the challenge that now emerged was the biggest one of all and possibly the only one that could have persuaded Revie to forsake his beloved Leeds United. Six months after England's dismal elimination from the World Cup finals at the hands of Poland, the Football Association had summarily dismissed Sir Alf Ramsey, the manager who had won them the World Cup. Buoyed by Leeds' League championship triumph, Revie's stock was as high as it had ever been and, when the FA hierarchy learned that he might be open to offers, there was little doubt who would be Ramsey's successor.
Secondly, most of the Elland Road squad were fast approaching the veteran stage. Jack Charlton and Gary Sprake had already departed, and the likes of Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter, Paul Madeley and Paul Reaney were past their very best and would soon need to be replaced. Revie's success had been built around these young men, and he dreaded the day when he would need to show them the door. While he had a few good youngsters coming through, he had been spoiled by the multitude of young jewels that had emerged in the Sixties, and was apprehensive about the club's future. It was clear that radical surgery would be required if Leeds United were to retain their place at the top of the European game. Revie simply did not have the stomach for the job.
As Lord Harewood, President of Leeds United, said, 'The team was all the same age. The agony of having to replace them was something he was glad not to face. He said that it was a fundamental reason for him leaving. Yet leaving was agony too ... could he bear to leave what he had built up?'
On Wednesday 3 July 1974, Revie met the FA and agreed a deal worth £20,000 a year. The next day the Leeds United board accepted his resignation, expressing their 'deep appreciation of his loyalty during his 13 years as manager'. Revie had been under contract at Elland Road until 1979, with a five-year period as consultant after that. Revie had worked hard throughout his tenure. His salary at Leeds had been around £17,000. The only real issue had been one of compensation, and Leeds were promised financial support to find a new manager, although FA secretary Ted Croker was quoted as saying: 'We are saying nothing about compensation at all. We are not discussing figures. It is a personal thing. The salary is commensurate with managers' salaries these days. We are talking in terms of a five-year contract.'
Revie jumped at the challenge and was out of Elland Road in double quick time, taking Les Cocker with him. He left with the recommendation that the directors install Johnny Giles as his successor, but his views were disregarded and instead his long time nemesis Brian Clough was installed.
Revie said at the time: 'I am delighted to be given the chance to manage England. This must be any manager's dream. I also have a feeling of sadness after 13 years as manager of Leeds. I have tried to build the club into a family and there must be sadness when anybody leaves a family. The first result I will be looking for on a Saturday night will always be Leeds United's. Leeds gave me the chance to start my managerial career and we have had our ups and downs, but everybody in the club, the directors, coaching staff and, in particular, the players, have stood by me through thick and thin. I was in contact with the players about leaving them. They all understood and said the England job was a little bit special in their minds. They would have been upset if I had been going to another club.
'The main object must be to build up for the World Cup in 1978. Four years seems a long way off, but it isn't. I would like to build England on club lines. I am going to be interested in the youth policy and work closely with Allan Wade.'
Revie was remarkably sanguine about turning his back on Elland Road and the men who had given him such support over the years. Syd Owen was abandoned to his own devices and clearly felt slighted: 'I was disappointed that having been at the club all that time, having been a loyal servant to Don, having played a great part in the development of some of the players, he didn't give his staff the security in football he was looking for himself in the future ... that he didn't make sure all the coaches and physios who had served him had been made more secure with contracts. I was at that club all those years and put in all those hours ... but when I wrote a letter of resignation, all I got was what I had worked for. I understand Don had made a signed agreement that he would come back to the club as a consultant. Having done that, I would have thought he would also have looked after his loyal servants.'
Revie was not one for looking back, and was soon throwing himself enthusiastically into his new career at Lancaster Gate. This was despite the fact that there were some at the summit of the game who remained suspicious and critical of him, particularly Football League secretary Alan Hardaker, who had tangled with him in bitter disputes over many years.
Variously described over the years as 'the great dictator', 'football's godfather', 'a cross between Cagney and Caligula', 'the League's answer to Idi Amin' and 'St Alan of St Annes', Hardaker reigned supreme as Secretary of the Football League from 1957 to 1979. His successor, Graham Kelly, confirmed 'Hardaker loathed Revie with a vengeance that can only have been reserved for a fellow Yorkshireman who he felt had twisted his way to the top.' He was an opinionated and arrogant autocrat who saw the Football League as his personal plaything and went out of his way to make life difficult for Leeds United and Don Revie for reasons best known to himself.
Andrew Mourant recalls the enmity that characterised the relationship between the two men, quoting events from 1970:
'The championship was still possible but at this point Revie elected to concede to Everton. However, the decision was not shared with the 41,011 spectators who turned up for the Easter Monday away game against Derby County to discover the Leeds manager was fielding a travesty of a side; an entire team of reserves. The remaining energy of his star players was to be conserved for Cup battle. The Derby match was lost 4-1; probably all Revie deserved.
"='In so doing, Revie incurred, not for the first time, the displeasure of … Alan Hardaker. Over the previous two years, Hardaker had tired of Revie's requests for fixture rearrangements and postponements that might put Leeds at an advantage. In football matters Revie was, in Hardaker's opinion, devious, selfish and ruthless, and would cut corners to get his own way. Revie had offended Hardaker the previous season by an oblique approach to the League secretary's subordinates, with the aim of bringing forward by 24 hours a League Cup tie against Bristol City. It was the impropriety of Revie seeking to involve his juniors that had made Hardaker especially indignant. On another occasion, Hardaker gave Revie short shrift when the Leeds manager asked for a postponement because three of his key players were badly injured. Hardaker noted drily that not only did all three make sufficiently miraculous recoveries to play, but one scored twice and another was, by general consent, the man of the match.
'According to Hardaker, part of Revie's fixture pile-up was of his own making; earlier in the season, he had had fixtures put off. Revie's escapade in flouting League regulations by fielding a weakened team against Derby County cost the club a £5,000 fine but the Leeds manager was unrepentant. Hardaker meanwhile was excoriated by many in Leeds for the club's failure to win a trophy in 1970.
'Their mutual antipathy also extended to the appointment of referees. Hardaker had taken particular exception to another of Revie's oblique approaches, through a club administrator, wondering whether a referee for Leeds' next match might be changed. Again, Hardaker's reply was terse; that clubs were not, whatever the event, free to select their own officials.'
When the FA appointed Revie as manager Hardaker told them bluntly that they needed their heads examining.
There was a war of words in the papers between the two men in October, as Revie sought to bounce Hardaker by talking of the discussions that had been held with the Football League secretary. Speaking at a public luncheon in London, Revie revealed that he had spent nearly six hours in conference with Hardaker in an effort to obtain more co-operation from England's top clubs. He said: 'I asked him specifically if Saturday matches could be postponed so that I could have my squad for a full week before important World Cup qualifying games. I think it is vital that it can be arranged. My suggestion was received sympathetically but Mr Hardaker made some conditions which I am not going to go into at the moment. Sir Alf only had his squad from the Saturday before the vital game against Poland. It makes a hell of a difference if the players get together the previous Wednesday.'
Hardaker was not immediately available for comment because of a convenient throat infection, but a few days later gave short shrift to the claims; he effectively called the pre-emptive bluff, by saying: 'I have seen my name mentioned on numerous occasions by Mr Revie, concerning possible postponements of 'eague matches. These are unauthorised statements and if Mr Revie wishes to reveal all his business with me to the press then I wish it to be known that I cannot co-operate. It is true we met in my office, together with Mr Wragg, chairman of the international committee, and Mr Croker, secretary of the FA, and discussed future co-operation. I promised Mr Revie the same co-operation that I gave his predecessor, but made it quite clear that I have no authority to postpone League matches. This is the prerogative of the clubs and the management committee. I resent any suggestion made in public that I have promised to undertake such action. In any event, premature statements of this nature will only serve to make the job more difficult.'
It was a cynical ploy by Revie, who assumed that his very public revelations would persuade Hardaker to fall into line. He was right insofar as the reaction of Fleet Street was to enthusiastically support his proposals, but he badly miscalculated the reaction of Hardaker, who became even more embittered and contemptuous of the new England manager. For the moment, however, he had to bide his time because Revie was enjoying a honeymoon period with the public.
In contrast to the aloof and cool Ramsey, the PR-conscious Revie was warm and open with the press and cultivated popularity. One of his earliest ruses was to curry favour with the players on whom he would now depend. He gathered together 85 England hopefuls for a getting to know you session in a Manchester hotel, saying, 'Nobody is really out of the reckoning and there will probably be additions to the squad.'
The full list of players was as follows:
In retrospect, the initiative was a startling and unique opening gambit by Revie. He sought to gee the players up and develop some spirit of togetherness. It was a brave and revolutionary move, but in the months to come would be seen as an example of the indecision that clouded much of the manager's time at the helm.
Furthermore, in a mistaken conviction that financial rewards were as important a factor as pride in pulling on the England shirt, he revealed that he had negotiated improved rewards for the players, with £100 for a draw and £200 for a win on top of the £100 appearance fee. It was a mistake, and only enhanced the mercenary reputation that critics would hold against him.
There were questions over a kit sponsorship deal struck with Admiral, and the new blue and red trim was criticised as tacky. FA secretary Ted Croker tried to deflect the allegations that surrounded the deal: 'It benefited the FA, not the players. It was the first of the deals where somebody provided the kit and paid a premium on the basis of replica sales. I remember Admiral writing in ... we got a quotation from them and another company. Don was very much on the fringe of things ... I have no evidence whatsoever that he got anything out of the Admiral deal.'
On the playing front, England were in a trough. The powers-that-be were distraught at the failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, but in reality the national team had been on the wane for some time, ever since West Germany had fought back from 2-0 down in Mexico 1970 to dismiss them. Inspired by Beckenbauer and Netzer, those same West Germans comprehensively outplayed Ramsey's England at Wembley to end their interest in the 1972 European Championships.
Ramsey's previously sure touch had deserted him as he sought to rebuild, and Revie had few outstanding players available to him as England commenced their battle to qualify for the European Championships from a group comprising Czechoslovakia, Portugal and Cyprus. England were hot favourites to win through and had the advantage of a home tie to begin with, against the Czechs at the end of October.
For the most part Revie stood by the squad of players bequeathed him by Ramsey and developed during a summer tour by caretaker manager Joe Mercer, who noted, 'I felt I had restored a great deal of belief among the players after the Poland debacle.' Revie did spring one surprise by including QPR's young midfielder Gerry Francis. He also recalled his old favourite, Paul Madeley, who had not played internationally for more than a year. It had been thought that he would pair his Leeds goalscorer supreme Allan Clarke with the emerging talents of Birmingham's exciting uncapped forward Trevor Francis, but in the end both men withdrew through injury, as did Colin Todd and Tony Currie.
Revie said, as he prepared for the game, 'I will possibly be more keyed up than the players. This will be more important than any day in my life so far. I am doing everything I can to restore enthusiasm to English international football. I don't think that people who come along to Wembley will expect miracles, but they might be expecting something special. I hope they remember the old saying in football that you can only play as well as the opposition will allow you. Nevertheless there is a lot of skill in the side and I hope it's a win for England.
'I have seen Gerry Francis several times this season with Queen's Park Rangers and he really made them tick. He is a fine passer of the ball and likes to go forward. He is a very, very good player for a 22-year-old and has done well as Rangers captain.' The words confirmed that the youngster was in for his debut.
To the enthusiastic singing of Land of Hope and Glory from an optimistic 86,000 crowd (another of Revie's innovations), the following players took the field as his first selection: Ray Clemence (Liverpool), Emlyn Hughes (Liverpool, captain), Dave Watson (Sunderland), Norman Hunter (Leeds United), Madeley (Leeds United), Francis (QPR), Colin Bell (Manchester City), Martin Dobson (Burnley), Kevin Keegan (Liverpool), Mick Channon (Southampton), Frank Worthington (Leicester City).
For long periods of the game, there was the characteristic lack of ideas that had often afflicted Ramsey's sides. England struggled to establish any real rhythm, until Revie's substitution half an hour from time of West Ham's Trevor Brooking and QPR's Dave Thomas for Dobson and Worthington finally brought some much-needed penetration. An opening goal from Channon and two more from Bell in a golden 12-minute period finally brought a flattering and undeserved 3-0 victory.
The result masked the plain reality that Revie's team had been every bit as lacklustre and short on invention as Ramsey's men, and a drab goalless draw at home to Portugal three weeks later confirmed the suspicions of the cynics that this would not be the cakewalk which the new manager had hoped for. He had recalled Terry Cooper and Allan Clarke to the fold, and made two other changes, but there was no happy reunion for the Elland Road brigade.
More tinkering followed, and there was a sharp contrast with the stability that both Ramsey's England and Revie's Leeds had enjoyed over the previous decade. It seemed as if the new manager could not decide which players and which combination would serve him best, paying too much mind to press sponsorship of individuals and the claims of players on the back of a decent, high profile display in club football. The succession of injuries which robbed him of some of his better players enhanced Revie's apparent lack of conviction over his best selection, but it is a remarkable fact that it was not until his final two games in charge that he started successive matches with the same eleven.
Such dubious selections as Ipswich's Colin Viljoen, Norwich's Phil Boyer, Sunderland's Tony Towers and Peter Taylor of Third Division Crystal Palace devalued the currency of international appearances, while Revie developed a reputation for abandoning players with little warning or explanation.
The installation of the veteran World Cup winner Alan Ball as captain and his pairing with Stoke City's gifted Alan Hudson in midfield brought a memorable and highly impressive victory at Wembley over World and European champions West Germany. Ball and Hudson were again in tandem in the qualifying match against Cyprus as five goals from Newcastle striker Malcolm Macdonald settled matters, but then Hudson was discarded. Following a hugely entertaining and enjoyable 5-1 win in the Home International against Scotland, Ball was also cast aside with little explanation as Gerry Francis assumed the captain's armband.
Alan Hudson does not recall his relationship with Revie warmly. 'I was selected in Don Revie's squad for the match against the world champions, West Germany, a team who had not been beaten since winning that tournament. This was to become the best week of football in my life. It began at the Victoria Ground, where we beat Manchester City 4-0 and I gave a performance that hit all the headlines, with television highlights showing me scoring a great goal and setting up two others. To this day, I do not think that mattered, for I believe he would have picked me anyway for England's toughest match since he took over the reins, but for all the wrong reasons: to fail. He had had plenty of opportunities to play me beforehand, but chose one that I'm convinced he thought I could not live up to, so that I would fall flat on my face. Then he could leave me out and continue to pick the likes of Trevor Cherry who served him so well at Leeds United.
'Revie did not like Chelsea players, or those who were ex-Chelsea, and I was no exception. I had a couple of falling-outs with him, including one when I was an over-age player in an Under-23 match in Hungary and he tore off a strip of both Jimmy Greenhoff and me for not coming down for lunch one day before the match.
'I was picked for the Germany match and never wished good luck by the man in charge; but that only helped me to prepare for the biggest match of my life with more determination than ever before. If I had not been up to the test, or played badly, I would have been cast off and labelled as not being up to international football by Revie, and all the buzzards who had been waiting to swoop. Even to this day I know it would have stuck, but instead, the question most asked of me is, "Why did you only get one more cap after such an incredible debut?" I was playing against West Germany and Leeds United rolled into one. How many people could have made their England debut under such circumstances? Oh, how sweet success can be! Not only did I put one over on the Germans, but Revie as well.
'As I left the England dressing room on that memorable night, my first sight was one of my all time heroes, the great Franz Beckenbauer. We had left our dressing room to Revie's final briefing on the Germans, which was, "Remember what they did to our homes in the war." I knew that I had to take my chance in this match because it was more than likely to be my last, so I had absolutely nothing to lose.
'The match itself could not have gone any better for me. It lashed down all day and all night, which was just the way I liked it. A lovely cushion for an ankle that was truly appreciative. The plaudits came in afterwards, like on so many Alan Hudson debuts, from Beckenbauer, the one and only Gunter Netzer and Helmut Schoen himself: "England finally have a world class player," was the main one.
'Revie had caught Alan Ball and myself out, or his spies had, on one of his England get togethers. Ball, Frank Worthington and I would spend our afternoons down the road from our Cockfosters Hotel at friends' homes, having a few tasters. On another occasion, the little fella and I went out for the evening the night before a match against Czechoslovakia. Bally was one of Revie's subs, while I was not needed once again. Alan said, "Come on, Al, I'll take you down to my local," which was the White Hart in Southgate. We left the hotel on foot to the nearest pub and called a cab. Bally gave the cab driver the fare and fifty quid on top for starters, just to take us anywhere we wanted to go. We left the White Hart at around 11.30pm and headed for our beloved La Val Bonne in Kingly Street. On returning to the pub at about 2.30am we were now into the swing of things, joking about if Bally was brought on in the first minute. We arrived back at the hotel at about 4am and dived through the back entrance. Nothing was ever said until the next squad got together. As soon as Bally and I arrived, we were summoned into the lounge. Revie did not pull any punches: "I have been informed that on the last meeting here, you two were out all night clubbing it in the West End. Is this true or not?"
'For the first time ever, I did not know what to say, because I did not want to drop Bally in it. So I just sat and waited for Alan to answer; whether yes or no, I would happily go along with it. The silence of the pause seemed like an eternity before Bally said, "Absolute rubbish, Don." That was all that was said, apart from when we asked where on earth he had got such an incredible story. "A cab driver phoned me to tell me," was his reply. That's nice, we agreed, maybe the nifty wasn't enough!'
The team changes continued throughout Don Revie's time in charge, and his credibility gradually wilted with the FA, the players and the press. He had imported on a wholesale basis many of the tricks he had employed so successfully at Elland Road: the dossiers, the carpet bowls and the bingo - it may have worked with the impressionable young men he had developed at Leeds, but the players he was now working with were seasoned England internationals and mature adults. They were not prepared to put up with being treated like children and their implicit rejection of his approach undermined Revie's leadership.
Mike Channon: 'He wanted the England team to be his boys, like at Leeds. He would go, 'Come on, lads, we're having bowls tonight,' on a Friday night. But we were England! I think he was unfortunate to get it wrong. And I think once he fell out with someone, he couldn't forgive. Of course we used to sneak out. I used to rebel against being told what do. You treat people like children and they behave like them.
'He was so enthusiastic and he wanted everyone to have that same enthusiasm. I think he felt frustrated that everyone didn't feel the same as him. He liked everything right. I remember one day, the lads were messing about at West Park Lodge and Les Cocker got pushed into the pond. He got angry over that ... that shouldn't happen to the training staff.
'In training, he went overboard with tactics. I don't think he needed to do that. Alf Ramsey simply said: "This is what we're going to do ... so and so take him." We'd do a couple of little free kick routines and that would be the end of the story. Eventually with Revie, your mind was full of too much ... you could end up a nervous wreck. Some would take the dossiers seriously, though to others they were a joke. Revie should have just said they were there if we needed them ... and that's the way he meant them, to be fair to him. He was misunderstood. Players aren't really that intelligent. They didn't need all that. They just want to play football.'
Ted Croker: 'He was changing his mind all the time ... it changed my whole outlook on the sort of person who was a good England manager. Alf Ramsey never asked a player to do a job he didn't do for his club. But Don, because he had had the tremendous success of playing one or two people in different roles - particularly Paul Madeley - rather got the impression he could do it at England level, that he could take the eleven best players in the country and make a team of them. But the time you have with players is so short that you can't vary much what they're doing at club level. Don had this sort of idea you could do the sort of things he did at Leeds with the England team and that just wasn't on.
'Alf judged a player by international appearances... after the previous game, barring one or two injuries, he knew what his team was going to be for the next game. I think that is one of the most important features of a manager's success... he must not respond to the public clamour you tend to get to try this new lad or that new lad. You will always lose out.
'But Don was completely different. After an international match, he would come in and have a chat about who had played well and who had played badly, and I could see his thoughts about the team. Then he would watch a game the next week and see one of those players who had played well or badly, and be influenced by that, or he'd see another player who had played exceptionally well in a team doing well and be extremely tempted to bring him in. There were constant changes going on. From that experience, I recommended to his successors, Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson, that the most important thing was to try and keep a settled team. You get player loyalty, too, that Don never really got at international level. Though the one thing I never did was to volunteer an opinion about team selection unless I was asked.
'I didn't think he was getting as much out of the players as was available. It was as simple as that. I felt he was being distracted by commercial deals. And he just didn't have the players available to him... he was not happy about not having them directly under his control. It was frustrating to him. With Revie and Brian Clough, their success had been personal, based on the contact they had made with players. Revie had developed this father-figure image... he virtually controlled their lives. This is something that doesn't feature in international football. You have to survive from November ... you don't play again until February - three months when the England manager doesn't have a player under his control. The people you rely on being a father-figure certainly aren't the sort you want for an England manager.'
With spirit and support low, it was unsurprising that England were eliminated at the European Championships qualifying stage, with the Czechs going on to win the entire tournament. That fact is often conveniently forgotten when assessing Revie's record, as was the case when Ramsey's Polish conquerors finished as third placed team in the 1974 World Cup. It was clear, however, that Don Revie was not the all-conquering Messiah that the Football Association had sought.
However, things went significantly downhill in the relationship with his employers following the appointment of Professor Sir Harold Thompson as the new chairman of the FA in succession to Sir Andrew Stephen, as Andrew Mourant recalls:
'Many had troubled relations with the new chairman, but for Revie, Thompson reserved his worst manners. Merely regarding Revie with indifference seemed not to be enough. Thompson appeared more intent on humiliating him.
'Sir Harold Thompson was an unlikely figurehead at the FA. His achievements had been in the field of chemistry of which he was Professor at Oxford University. While at Oxford, he had also been deeply involved in amateur football. Shortly after the war he had created Pegasus, a combined side of mature Oxford and Cambridge students which twice won the FA Amateur Cup. Thompson himself had played for his university. But it was, as Croker remarks drily, very far removed from the England team.
'There was an early exchange between Revie and Thompson that later was to become celebrated. At a dinner, Thompson turned to the England manger and said: "When I get to know you better, Revie, I shall call you Don." Revie had a swift riposte. "And when I get to know you better, Thompson, I shall call you Sir Harold." It is one of Revie's few recorded flashes of wit.
'Croker says: "Don obviously got the impression that Sir Harold didn't think too much of him. You could say that Thompson referring to Don as Revie might have been a typical schoolteacher thing but it wasn't, for he didn't call everybody by their surname. He chose to do that to Don and it was undoubtedly derisory. But it was public knowledge I didn't get on with Sir Harold either. He certainly was opinionated... he simply didn't have the capacity to get on with people."
'Rudeness was one thing but interference in Revie's management was another. Thompson would think nothing of trying to meddle in team selection. "The classic one," Croker recalls, "was when Thompson told Don he shouldn't play Malcolm Macdonald after Macdonald had a particularly poor game. It puts a manager in a very difficult position. There is no way after that match that Revie would have played him. Yet he would think, 'If I don't play him, Thompson's going to think I'm listening to his advice.'" Afterwards, Croker reprimanded Thompson. "I said: 'Please don't ever make comments to the England manager about selection because it's just not fair.' Things were critical at the time."'
There was little relief as qualification began for the 1978 World Cup finals with England pitched into a group with Italy, Finland and Luxembourg. The Finns and Luxembourg were beaten easily enough, but did not become the cannon fodder predicted and Don Revie travelled to Rome for a crucial match against Italy on 17 November 1976 knowing that this would be the moment of truth.
Before the game, the media emphasised the hostility to be expected from a partisan Italian crowd and inflated the siege mentality surrounding the manager. They overdid it significantly, however, and hinted that the England players might be lucky to escape with their lives.
Revie's confidence was now shaky at the best of times and he was easily swayed by paper talk. He fell for the claim that the Italians, both playing and spectating, would be hungry for meat and opted to fight fire with fire. He packed his line up with seasoned, defensive players, in the hope of outmuscling Italy. Emlyn Hughes and Mick Mills were back in defence, with Brian Greenhoff and Trevor Cherry deployed in midfield.
Not for the first time, Revie had taken too much notice of the press and completely misjudged the situation. Italy, far from being thugs and cannibals, were packed with skilful and creative talent and simply pulled England apart. Shorn of creativity in the middle of the park, Revie's men did not have the necessary guile to create any openings, and finished on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline.
They played well, but could not match the liquid skills of the Italian master craftsmen. Italy's first goal came after 36 minutes, following a foul on Causio just outside England's box. Causio tapped the ball to Antognoni, who drove it at the England wall and got a crucial deflection off Keegan's body. A rout seemed on, but Italy allowed England back into the game - at least until 12 minutes from time, when they sealed victory with a brilliant second goal. Causio found Benetti on the left and, as the low cross came over, Bettega launched himself at it to head past Clemence in goal.
Now, the vultures began circling the camp in real earnest, especially when a fine Dutch side visited Wembley and left as easy 2-0 winners. Even worse was a disastrous series of performances in the Home International Championships, with both Wales and Scotland beating a dispirited England side. The Scottish debacle, in particular, rankled with the press.
The Times talked of 'the inferior quality of England … still fumbling with the basics … they lost Keegan and Brooking, their brightest assets, before the game started and were left to rely upon routine, predictable hard work. In defence, they were pedestrian. The midfield three chased where they should have led … Channon and Pearson were obviously out of touch.'
The manager prepared to embark on a close season tour of South America with his mind made up.
An approach had been made to him regarding a lucrative contract to manage the United Arab Emirates national side, and, convinced that he was about to be given the sack, Don Revie accepted the offer. All that remained to be decided was the manner of his departure.
He had flown out to Dubai to finalise the contractual details, as part of a trip to watch the Italians face Finland in Helsinki in their World Cup qualifier. He joined the touring party in Buenos Aires. Upon his arrival in South America he met Dick Wragg, the chairman of the FA's International Committee, to discuss his future, maintaining that he believed he was about to be fired. He stated that he had no objection, and would even pave the way for an amicable departure by agreeing for the rest of his and Les Cocker's contracts to be paid up! Wragg, who went to consult Ted Croker, rejected Revie's 'generosity' out of hand.
The FA secretary was astounded at both the notion of dismissal and Revie's audacious proposal, recalling, 'If he had come to me in the first place, I think he knew the response he would get. To say that he was throwing it in and leaving England in the lurch, and that he wanted paying off for the privilege was laughable. The whole idea was ludicrous. He was leaving the ship ... we were in stormy waters ... and he was asking for compensation at the same time. It just didn't make sense.'
Despite the concerns, the England team emerged with some credit and hope from their tour. There was only one team change during the three drawn games, against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, and the final two matches brought the first example under Revie of the same eleven starting two successive games. However, the manager appeared unusually thoughtful and low in mood during the trip, mindful of continual press carping and predictions that his tenure would be terminated after the Italy match, saying: 'Everyone seems to be forecasting that I will go if we don't qualify, but I'll make up my mind about that when it happens. If we can't beat Italy at Wembley we don't deserve to go to Argentina and I'm sure we will beat them. But it is the Luxembourg match that worries me more because we really have to score a lot of goals. England will keep plugging but we should have beaten teams like Finland and Luxembourg more easily. We had all the chances but we didn't put them away and that is what counts at the end.'
Qualification hopes were still not mathematically over, and some of the FA International Committee members even asked Revie whether he would consider extending his contract. It soon became evident that he had no intention of doing so, and one of the most controversial episodes in his often notorious career was soon about to become very public knowledge.
Part 1 An Appreciation - Part 2 Learning the ropes 1927-51 - Part 3 Centre stage with City 1951-56 - Part 4 Shuffling off stage 1956-61 - Part 5 On the march with Leeds United 1961-67 - Part 6 The agony and the ecstasy 1967-74 - Part 8 Disgrace and despair 1977-89