The World Cup finals held in Sweden in the summer of 1958 had
been the most compelling and exciting ever. The fact that they
were the first to be televised undoubtedly helped, but the sense
of occasion was without question - a gifted Brazilian side had
won the Jules Rimet Trophy for the first time with some breathtaking
football, boasting an awesome 17 year old talent called Pele among
their ranks. Northern Ireland and Wales too had enjoyed outstanding
World Cups, progressing further than their more illustrious British
England and Scotland. Former Leeds United idol John
Charles had spearheaded the Welsh challenge, even though he
was deployed for the most part at the back and was kicked out
of the tournament by robust Hungarian defenders.
His former employers at Elland Road could only look on enviously.
While the rest of the footballing world was rushing expectantly
towards the excitement of a new decade and a new era in football,
humble old Leeds United Football Club were helplessly drifting.
They were still a First Division team, but they had long since
bid farewell to Charles and had parted company with manager Raich
Carter at the end of the previous campaign,
when the team had trailed in a disappointing 17th.
They had only collected seven points fewer than in Charles' final
season and were never in any real danger of going down, but the
United directors still elected not to extend Carter's contract,
dispensing with the man who only two years previously had delivered
the long sought after Holy Grail of promotion to the top flight.
Carter was bitterly disappointed at the decision, suggesting ruefully
and quite accurately, "It could never be any more than a holding
season once Charles had gone."
The manager had also protested that he had not been given enough
of the record £65,000 proceeds to replace Charles. Nevertheless
he did have enough to draft in two international newcomers, Scottish
centre forward Hughie Baird, who finished top scorer, and Irish
midfielder Wilbur Cush, who took over the captaincy.
The removal of Carter, an opinionated and arrogant leader, left
the club lacking direction. A successor was needed who could bring
experience and vigour to the job, but there was little on offer
to attract such a character, with Elland Road more closely associated
with financial restrictions and compromise than ambition and headlines.
The club had been lucky with the appointment of Carter, and that
of his predecessor, the charismatic Major
Frank Buckley, but struggled this time to find a manager of
any status. In the short term chairman Sam Bolton settled for
a temporary appointment, promoting trainer coach Bill
Lambton to the role of acting manager.
Lambton had been hired by Carter previous November and had no
experience of running a football club. He had not been a great
success as coach and commanded little respect among the playing
staff. Veteran full back Jimmy Dunn's comment that Lambton was
"a bloody comedian" was pretty representative of the views of
most of his colleagues.
The omens were not exactly promising as Leeds United approached
the 1958-59 season. It had been expected that in the absence of
Charles Leeds would struggle in front of goal, and so it was:
not only was their goals for total
of 51 in 1957-58 the lowest in Division One, but only three teams
in the entire Football League were less productive.
On the other hand, Leeds did have a pretty decent defence and
only champions Wolves and runners up Preston had conceded fewer
goals than the 63 that United had shipped. Such
meanness was due in no small part to the rearguard's lengthy experience
of playing as a unit. For the most part, Leeds fielded their old
guard in shirt numbers 1-6 - goalkeeper Roy Wood, right back Jimmy
Dunn, left back Grenville Hair, right half Archie Gibson, centre
half Jack Charlton and
left half Eric Kerfoot, although Cush had ousted Gibson for the
majority of games since Christmas.
back to top
Bill Lambton brought in no new players during the summer and
stuck for the most part by the regular defence for the opening
day and a visit to FA Cup holders Bolton Wanderers. The one exception
was 34 year old Kerfoot, who was nearing the end of his career,
and gave way to Cush, with Gibson reinstated.
The manager could have been forgiven for wondering what was happening
as the normal defensive assurance evaporated - Leeds finished
day one on the wrong end of a 4-0 hiding, setting an ominous tone
for the season to come.
Just as worrying as the defensive shortcomings was the lack of
punch up front. The previous March, Harold Brook, the 36 year
old veteran, had followed Charles out of Elland Road, and Lambton
was left with few options up front. United fielded a promising
young right winger called Chris Crowe, a precocious 19 year old
who had broken through the previous season and went on to win
Under 23 caps for England, but he was a rare exception and there
were few other youngsters of any note emerging. Raich Carter had
let Major Buckley's cherished youth development programme slide
into disrepair and Leeds were thus deprived of that particular
avenue for new recruits. It was to Lambton's eternal credit that
he was to relaunch the development programme, a decision for which
his successors were eternally grateful. For now, however, he had
to make do and mend.
Lining up alongside Crowe against Bolton were Irishman Noel Peyton,
the hard working but limited Bobby Forrest, the Scot George O'Brien
and left winger Jack Overfield. Hughie Baird along with another
Scot, winger George Meek, were missing and in their absence there
was neither presence nor bite up front.
The two were soon back in action and on the scoresheet, but Leeds
continued to struggle, winning just one of their opening nine
games. The point surrendered in a 0-0 draw at home to bottom club
Aston Villa on October 18 was enough to drop the team into the
bottom two, with a return of just 10 points and 12 goals from
13 games. On the positive side, only 4 points separated Manchester
United in 10th place from Villa at the bottom.
By now Bill Lambton was chopping things around a bit in an attempt
to change the side's fortune in front of goal. The board had not
managed to make a permanent appointment, but Lambton had been
given permission to buy players, forking out £5,000 for winger
Billy Humphries from Ards and another £8,000 to secure the services
of Burnley centre forward Alan Shackleton. He recouped most of
the outlay when Hughie Baird returned north of the border in October,
joining Aberdeen in an £11,000 deal.
Shackleton scored in his first game for Leeds, on November 1
in a 2-1 defeat at Manchester United, and added a hat trick three
weeks later, with
Humphries completing the scoring in a much needed 4-2 victory
at Blackburn. Three straight wins then followed, moving Leeds
up to a creditable 11th. The improvement in form prompted the
board to make Lambton's appointment permanent.
As well as the turnaround in results, November brought more excitement
when another £14,000 was laid out to secure the signature of an
illustrious name, the former
England inside forward Don Revie. Revie had a reputation for
switching clubs, so much so that the autobiography which he had
already written bore the title The Happy Wanderer. The book laid
out at length the details of the so called Revie Plan, which had
its greatest success during Manchester City's FA Cup triumph over
Birmingham in 1956. A year earlier Revie had won the Footballer
of the Year award as City pressed in vain for the Double, and
his was a name to conjure with. He was now 31, and past his prime,
having been largely an expensive luxury at Sunderland, from where
he had moved to Elland Road. However, the signing got Leeds United
back in the headlines in a big way. At last a star had been found
to partly eclipse the fond memories of John Charles.
back to top
Revie made his debut on 29 November in a 3-2 success at home
to Newcastle, right in the middle of Leeds' run of four wins,
and brought a cultured touch to the colourless football of the
team. But poor, erratic form soon set in once more.
Six weeks after Revie's arrival, Wilbur Cush stood down as captain
and, following a meeting of players, Revie was voted unanimously
into the job. "I feel honoured and will give the job all I can
on the field and off," he said at the time.
Shortly afterwards, discontent with Bill Lambton reached a peak.
There was little respect for his methods among the players and
Grenville Hair and Jack Overfield both demanded transfers. Jimmy
Dunn: "He had no experience. I remember he once took his boot
off on the Fullerton Park training ground and said, 'You don't
need boots when you're crossing a ball.' Eventually, there was
a players' meeting in protest. It was a rebellion. Eric (Kerfoot)
and I had complained about him. I can't remember exactly what
we said but it came down to the fact that he couldn't manage the
Jack Charlton: "The chairman called a meeting, and after some
of the lads had their say, he asked if we wanted the manager to
leave - and every one of the players said yes. Bill said pathetically,
'If you let me stay, we'll have a new start,' but nobody said
a dicky bird."
Leeds' disastrous 6-2 defeat at Wolves on February 14 was the
last straw, and with club directors openly expressing their disquiet,
the beleaguered manager bowed to the inevitable and resigned,
muttering darkly that there had been "interference ... in my training
Leeds were unable to replace Lambton immediately and the side
spluttered on, but somehow managed to finish 15th, with little
real danger of relegation. A closing run of three wins and a draw
banished any lingering fears. However, the optimism of the Revie
signing had long since disappeared, swamped by the malaise which
had gripped Elland Road and the disinterest of the players. The
mood had spread to the long suffering supporters. Public interest
in Leeds United was slumping. Gates had declined steadily and
from the end of January the club attracted just one League crowd
above 20,000. Despite their struggle of the previous season, Leeds
had attracted substantially more people to Elland Road over those
Shackleton and Crowe weighed in with 16 and 12 goals respectively,
but once again Leeds United were the division's lowest scorers
with 57 goals. This time they could not counter by pointing to
their reliable defence. Leeds had lost shape at the back, conceding
four or more goals on six separate occasions, and another five
when bowing out of the FA Cup at the first time of asking (as
usual) at struggling Luton Town.
It was a poor testimony to the set up at the club that the first
choice replacement for Bill Lambton, Arthur Turner, preferred
to stay at non-League Headington (later Oxford) United rather
than run a First Division club. Former Leeds favourite Tommy Burden
also turned down the post when it was offered.
Lambton's eventual successor was Jack
Taylor who had managed Queens Park Rangers through the 1950s,
though without conspicuous success. Somehow, with almost no money,
he was expected to do better at Leeds United. It was almost impossible
for anyone to envisage just how as the club entered one of the
darkest periods in its history.
Other Football Highlights from 1958-59
- The record for a transfer between two British clubs was broken
when Manchester United bought Sheffield Wednesday forward Albert
Quixall for £45,000
- Billy Wright became the first man in the world to play 100
times for his country when England Beat Scotland 1-0 at Wembley
on April 11. The match was his 65th consecutive appearance and
he had been captain 85 times. He had moved his total onto 105
caps by the time he retired on May 8
- Jimmy Greaves scored on his debut for Chelsea against Spurs
in August 1957 when just 17. A month later he scored on his
debut for the England Under 23 side against Bulgaria. In August
1958 he scored five for Chelsea against League champions Wolves,
then scored on his full England debut against Peru in Lima in
May. He was the First Division's leading scorer with 33 goals
- Brian Clough, five years older than Greaves, was the Second
Division's leading scorer for the second consecutive year, with
42 goals. This was the third season that Clough had averaged
a goal a game, and he reached 100 League goals in fewer games
than any previous player
- There was another FA Cup final injury when Nottingham Forest
winger (and Elton John's uncle) Roy Dwight broke his leg, but
it couldn't prevent Forest beating Luton 2-1
- Tottenham celebrated the appointment of Bill Nicholson as
their new manager by beating Everton 10-4 in the highest scoring
First Division match this century
- Aston Villa were relegated from the First Division when they
conceded the only goal of the match against West Bromwich Albion
on the last minute of their last match of the season
- Wolves retained their League title, finishing five points
clear of Manchester United
back to top