Part 2 - The Difference
For Leeds United, 1961 was a watershed year: they had been down
among the dead men of the Second Division for twelve
long and miserable months and memories of the legendary John
Charles were dim. The playing staff was now populated by much
more prosaic forces, with few precious gems to punctuate the gloom:
Billy Bremner, at just 18, was an explosive talent on the right
flank, while big Jack Charlton,
though exhibiting the odd glimpse of latent ability at the rear,
demonstrated complete disrespect for both off-field authority
and on-field discipline.
John McCole was a reliable goalscorer, black South
African Albert Johanneson an emerging force on the left and
the ageing full back, Grenville Hair, could still demonstrate
many of the touches that took him to the verge of full England
honours, but the side as a whole was limited in ability and application.
On the plus side, the club was managed by an intelligent and
thoughtful force for the future, former
England inside forward Don Revie, Footballer of the Year in
1955 and focal point of the Revie Plan which had won Manchester
City the FA Cup a year later.
Revie, appointed in March, was a managerial novice, but had an
incisive knowledge of the game. Eager to learn the nuts and bolts
of his trade, he was keen to break new ground. One of his earliest
steps in the job was to cross the Pennines and seek the advice
of Matt Busby, the charismatic guiding force behind Manchester
Busby was a ready, willing and able tutor, advising that a consistent
pattern and approach should permeate the entire playing organisation,
with youth players schooled in the same style that the first team
practiced. He also counselled on the wisdom of growing your own.
For all his approachability and support, however, Busby remained
fiercely partisan and professional. His stint as Revie's mentor
did not deter him from attempting to entice Jack Charlton to Old
Trafford that summer as Revie set about fashioning his own blueprint
for the future.
It didn't take much to persuade Jack to consider a move - he
had long been a disruptive and difficult influence in the dressing
room, embittered by managerial incompetence and fear of wasted
potential. He was a constant thorn in managerial flesh and had
not impressed Revie: "When I joined Leeds United as a player,
I was amazed to find how undisciplined Jack was. He was one of
the most awkward customers it had ever been my misfortune to meet.
Whether it was because the club had never had much success or
not I have no idea. But in all matches, Jack wanted to run about
all over the place. He seemed to think that if he didn't do it,
no one else would."
Charlton's disregard for both tactics and the needs of colleagues
prompted Revie to snap "The best thing that could happen to you
would be for the club to leave you out. You're ruining it for
rest of us with that chip on your shoulder. If I were manager,
you'd never do for me." Charlton shrugged off the comment with
the disdain that characterised his entire approach to life, never
guessing that Revie's offhand prediction would soon be realised.
However, Jack Charlton was not as laissez faire when it came
to money, and he was enraged by one of Revie's early decisions.
The manager had rightly identified the lack of team spirit as
a deep rooted cancer. He decided to do away with pay differentials
between first team players, opting instead to improve incentives.
back to top
Bagchi and Rogerson in The Unforgiven: "For a club in Leeds'
predicament the package of up to £43 10s per player per week was
enormous, but the fine print, as so often, revealed that the Board
retained the upper hand. The basic wage was increased to £20 per
week, to be supplemented by a £5 appearance fee, a £4 win bonus
and a complex sliding scale of incentives aligned to attendances
above 20,000. To qualify for the full bonus of £14 10s, Leeds
would have to draw a crowd of more than 31,000 - a gate of 18,000
above the previous year's average. It's hardly surprising that
it was the ever obstreperous Charlton who saw through this scheme
and asked to be transfer listed. Convinced that senior players
naturally deserved a greater salary than the juniors, he was only
persuaded to sign the new contract (which ensured him £14 in the
close season) in early July on the proviso that Leeds would release
him if an acceptable bid was received."
Indeed, Charlton was so incensed by developments that he refused
Revie's perverse offer of the club captaincy. Brother Bobby, a
major star at Manchester United, mentioned Jack's dissatisfaction
to his manager and Busby started making overtures to the player
about a move to pastures new, suggestions that enthused the older
A combination of Revie's stubbornness and the meanness of the
Leeds board resulted in an asking price of £26,000, giving Busby
pause for thought. The valuation
was way above his own and he decided to shelve the move. Jack
was not best pleased. He confronted the United manager, demanding
to know what was going on. Busby tried to placate him, claiming
he just wanted to give a chance to 21-year-old Frank Haydock,
who had emerged from the youth team, and that the delay was temporary.
Charlton would have none of it: "I can't believe what I'm hearing.
I have caused ructions at Elland Road. I have refused to sign
a contract. Nobody there is speaking to me. I have caused bloody
havoc in the club. I have been offered a deal and turned it down,
and now you are telling me that I have got to wait until the beginning
of the new season, until you have had a look at someone else."
In a fit of pique, Charlton stormed back to Elland Road, apologised
to the club and signed his new contract without a second thought.
Accenting the positive, Revie boasted: "Both Jack and I are very
happy at his change of mind. He has been enjoying the training
- indeed his team won my training competition. He thinks, like
I do, that United are going places and he will be very happy with
The 'training competition' was a motivational gimmick that Revie
had dreamed up: "My one aim is to make them Leeds United-minded.
Get that, and much else falls into place." There was a distinct
improvement in the attitude of the squad, particularly when they
heard some of the other proposals.
Director Harry Reynolds, who had been instrumental in Revie's
appointment, was increasingly influential and intent on transforming
a perennial Cinderella outfit. His daughter, Margaret Veitch,
recalls: "When he came on to the Board in the 1950s, he didn't
devote all that much time to the club. But when he retired in
1959, then Leeds United became more or less his hobby ... and
he wanted to make them a success. Even though money was short
initially, he said, 'We're going to go first class ... we're going
to stay at good hotels.' His attitude was that if we were going
to be a top club, we would do the things expected of a top club."
As positive as the players were at these developments, they were
less convinced by the most memorable of the changes.
back to top
Bagchi and Rogerson: "Revie's other noticeable pre-season innovation
was the abandonment of the club's traditional blue and gold strip.
Though the decision effectively jettisoned forty years of United's
history, astonishingly little was made of it at the time. The
replacement colours were to be all white, in quite deliberate
imitation of the famous all white of the finest team in the world,
Real Madrid. To re-profile a club so efficiently on such a whim
demonstrated the man's flair and vision, drawing a line under
the failures of the past. That nobody remonstrated with him for
it is an early sign of the Board's growing willingness to indulge
him and of the interminable apathy of the majority of Leeds fans.
Such a flagrant psychological gimmick was risky. If he pulled
it off, it would be interpreted as a masterstroke. If 'New Leeds'
continued to founder, however, it could look like hubris and finish
his career. To invite comparisons with Gento, Di Stefano and Puskas
when all he had was McConnell, Peyton and Cameron ... one has
to admire Revie's nerve."
Such revolutionary change hinted at the Board's faith, particularly
as it entailed expense, with the club still hamstrung by financial
constraints. Chairman Sam Bolton admitted that he and four other
directors had each
made interest-free loans of £3,500 to keep things going, gambling
on improved attendances. It was a suicidally over optimistic outlook:
the club needed attendances of 30,000 to break even, and crowds
the previous season had averaged less than 13,500. The final home
game, a 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe, drew just 6,975, the lowest
League gate at Elland Road since the war. Understandably, the
Board would only sanction enough money in the close season to
purchase Preston right winger Derek Mayers. Arsenal's bid for
Billy Bremner in August could have eased matters, but Don Revie's
insistence that the youngster should stay was patiently indulged
by the directors.
The Leeds public were cynical about a new era - 12,916 fans braved
the Purgatory of opening day at Elland Road to jeer the spotless
new kits. Bremner scored the only goal of the game against Charlton
Athletic. The Scot's effort was also decisive three days later,
after an opener from Noel Peyton, as Leeds won 3-1 at Brighton,
with Mayers completing the scoring.
These were heart warming victories, but old doubts resurfaced
the following weekend, as Leeds were trounced 5-0 at Anfield.
Bill Shankly was moulding a football revolution on Merseyside
- Liverpool had finished third in Division Two in each of the
preceding two seasons and were on their way to the title.
Scottish striker Ian St John was in sparkling form for the Reds,
causing endless problems for a pedestrian defence with his intelligence
and mobility, pulling the strings in a masterly demonstration.
Liverpool were in no mood to let the soft centred Leeds team spoil
their day and simply played them off the park.
It was a major setback for Revie and his men. Brittle confidence,
which had been nurtured during the summer, crumbled as the team
went into free fall, registering just two successes in the next
15 games. A 0-0 draw at Elland Road against Leyton Orient on November
11 left Leeds second from bottom with just 12 points from 17 matches.
John McCole had scored all four goals in the 4-1 win over Brentford
in the League Cup on September 13, demonstrating that he could
still terrorise defences. However, it was a swan song, and he
was gone by the end of the month, returning to Fourth Division
Bradford City. Whether it was McCole's choice, or a desperate
attempt to supplement dwindling funds is not clear, but Revie
missed the Brentford win as he scouted for a replacement. The
transfer came as a shock, seemingly confirming that Leeds United
had accepted their role as eternal strugglers and a selling club.
back to top
Revie's short term solution was to thrust Jack Charlton into
the forward line, reasoning that his power in the air would be
an asset. Charlton did score goals, returning 9 in the League
and three in the Cups, but he hated the experiment, bitching and
moaning, with his reaction to an early home defeat being pretty
Leo McKinstry: "In a game against Rotherham, Leeds had conceded
a goal in the first half from a header on the edge of the 18-yard
box. Revie was angry about this error and said so in his half-time
talk, blaming Jack for failing to pick up the centre forward.
Jack, who thought the keeper should have saved the header easily,
was so resentful at this accusation that he threw his teacup at
Don Revie. It narrowly missed the manager, smashing into the wall
behind him. A stunned silence fell on the Leeds dressing room,
as Revie left the room without saying a word."
However, the manager could at least console himself with the
sustenance of boardroom support and the potential of youth.
Harry Reynolds was a powerful advocate for Revie. The two men
had formed a strong attachment through hours of conversation and
were shaping a vision for the future. Reynolds was soon to be
in a stronger position to emphasise Revie's qualities.
With credit at the bank exhausted, Chairman Sam Bolton sought
alternative means to bolster the coffers, appealing to local businessmen
for their support. He managed to enlist the aid of Albert Morris,
who ran Morris Wallpapers, and Manny Cussins, the man behind the
John Peters Furnishing Group. Both men were supporters and happy
to swell Board membership, sinking £10,000 apiece in further interest
free loans. Sidney Simon was another recruit onto the Board, as
Stanley Blenkinsop stood down after 27 years as a director, joining
John Bromley as vice president, while the Earl of Harewood was
elected the first president of Leeds United.
Bolton sought without success for further recruits. Nevertheless,
with Harry Reynolds making £50,000 available from his personal
fortune, the club was guaranteed enough money to see it through
the immediate future. The
task of establishing sound financial foundations achieved, Sam
Bolton chose to step aside.
Bolton's energy had been sapped by years of penny pinching and
struggle. He resigned as Chairman at the Annual General Meeting
on 8 December, hinting at his weariness: "I have taken a lot of
kicks, and I'm afraid I'm getting to the point where I can't stand
up to kicks like I used to." The period since the war had been
"one of anxiety, disappointment, hard work, financial problems,
staffing problems and a succession of unexpected difficulties".
He implored supporters to give their backing to the Board: "Encourage
them, they are shouldering a big responsibility."
There could only be one successor, as Harry Reynolds assumed
the mantle of leadership. He did so eagerly, encouraging Revie
to outline his plans for the future at the same AGM, commenting
that he had "never heard such ideas better put. He will have all
the backing the new Board and I can give him. Without going into
details, I can now say Don Revie has more of the 'sinews of war'
- what we Yorkshiremen call brass - at his disposal than his predecessors
had. How much more must remain our secret - the soccer market
is as tricky a field of business to operate in as you will find.
I have all possible confidence in Don Revie who has shown splendid
balance and unsurpassable zeal in our recent weeks of adversity."
Revie's vision was founded on attracting the best young players
in the country. He had taken Matt Busby's advice to heart and
placed his faith in the youth development policy introduced by
his predecessors. Yorkshire Post Sports Editor Richard Ulyatt
offered his support: "For years, the club built the wrong way
round. They constructed a team from the top instead of from juniors
... far too often United have recruited with a view to plugging
gaps in the first team. The whole history of the Football League
suggests that the teams who last longest as match-winners are
home spun. I believe that Leeds United have reached the nadir
of their fortunes and will shortly start on the way up."
back to top
The message became Revie's mantra and a regular theme of his
contributions to the club programme: "The long term outlook of
this club must be based upon youth. No players, however well intentioned
and conscientious, can possibly acquire the loyalty that all clubs
need to the same degree as those players who start their life
with one club and develop throughout the teams. We are basing
our plans upon securing the best youngsters there are available,
and to that end all schools, youth and junior representative matches
are being watched and reported upon. Already we have a nucleus
of talent. You have seen Billy Bremner, the 18-year-old forward
whom I regard as the man most likely to succeed me as schemer
of the forward line. It may be that I shall continue to play until
Billy is ready to take over, but I regard his promise as so great
that I do not consider that date far advanced.
"We are in the throes of a financial and playing depression ...
only hard work, discipline, and clear thinking without prejudice
can assist us at least to retain our present status. There is
anxiety but not panic or despondency at Elland Road."
He begged supporters to give him time and extolled the virtues
of the youngsters who were shining in the Northern Intermediate
League: "Their average age is 16, but in this tough competition,
our young team can more than hold its won. Here are some of our
lads: Gareth Sprake, goalkeeper, 16, from Swansea Schoolboys,
who is going to be good ... right half Jimmy
star of the Barnsley Boys team which won the Yorkshire Cup and
English Schools' Shield last year ... Paul Reaney, a 17-year-old
upstanding centre-half and captain, a Leeds lad from the Leeds
City Boys team ... Norman Hunter, an 18-year-old inside-forward
from Newcastle district has great ability. Terry Cooper, a 17
year old outside left, is another apprentice of great promise.
"We think we have a young team well worth watching - take a look
and judge for yourselves. But to get the best out of them, they
must be brought along gradually. It is of course frustrating to
a football supporter to be asked repeatedly to be patient but
I am afraid that is what is required ... the history of football
abounds with stories of clubs meeting with success when the days
looked darkest. In every instance it was to be found that the
people in charge were prepared to grasp success when the tide
began to flow their way."
However, Revie knew he might not be around long enough to see
potential realised. In a vain bid to stem the tide of poor results,
the manager pulled on a white shirt and reappeared in midfield.
But age had eroded his ability and speed, and he could not compensate
for the evident lack of talent around him.
A bad run of goals conceded spelt the end for young goalkeeper
Alan Humphreys, whose confidence was rock bottom, but the replacement
came as a shock for many.
Andrew Mourant: "Revie gambled on a player whom many people thought
had seen better days, goalkeeper Tommy Younger. Younger, who was
past 30 and overweight, had been playing in Canada and was recommended
to Revie by Stanley Matthews. He had also played previously for
Liverpool and Stoke and won Scottish international caps. But Revie
was uneasy, not least because Younger was reputed to be slack
at training and a difficult temperament to handle. Moreover, two
years earlier, Younger had slipped a disc at Stoke City and been
advised to stop playing. Yet he vowed to do his best for Revie,
and after signing from Toronto City in September 1961, rapidly
shed two stone, forcing his way into the first team."
Spirit was poor, but in December Revie signed his former Manchester
City team mate, Billy McAdams from Bolton Wanderers, hinting at
a possible remedy. The Belfast born forward scored 20
goals in 31 matches for City in 1959-60, and followed up with
16 in 27 for Bolton. However, at Elland Road he struggled to find
his form, returning just 3 goals from his 11 appearances. In common
with the other forwards, McAdams was guilty of "missing so many
chances it wasn't true", according to team mate Eric Smith, and
the Irishman moved on to Brentford for £8,000 at the end of the
back to top
The absence of the fleet footed South African left winger Albert
Johanneson forced Revie to persevere with former England youth
player John Hawksby. Hawksby scored in his first two games for
the club in August 1960, but had failed to find the net ever since.
As Revie said, "John has yet to make his position in the club
secure. In Central League matches and in training, he is outstanding
but on the field in the cut and thrust of the Football League,
his skill is not as apparent." With McCole gone and McAdams struggling,
the forward line had little bite, and Billy Bremner was to finish
leading scorer with just eleven goals.
However, if the strike force was unproductive, the defence had
consolidated, with some encouraging displays. Leeds' problems
over the last two years were at the back, with 175 goals conceded.
The rearguard was by no means watertight, but had stabilised.
In front of Younger, Grenville Hair retained the right back slot,
while Revie had converted former Queens Park wing half Willie
Bell to left back, with the robust Freddie Goodwin in the
centre alongside Smith.
However, things looked particularly bad for Leeds United and
there was a trap door to the Third Division beneath their feet...
Part 2 - The Difference