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Football News: And Finally... Don Revie

And Finally... Don Revie
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And Finally.....Don Revie


When Marcelo Bielsa showed up to the press conference to show how much he obsesses over the game putting together huge dossiers of information on each of Leeds United's future opponents, I wonder how many others were reminded of Don Revie? The Don used to keep huge dossiers of information on opposing teams, which helped him come up with tactical plans to defeat them. One of Brian Clough's first steps was to burn the dossiers left behind when he took over from Revie at Leeds.

Revie was ahead of his time, pre-dating the Bielsas and Mourinhos who routinely put together dossiers on opponents. It was not just that which saw him ahead of his time, he was also ahead of his time in exercise, nutrition and team bonding. Team bonding would involve the team in games of bingo and carpet bowls on a regular basis. Exercise included hiring ballet dancers to teach the players to balance and improve their movement.

It was Revie who turned Leeds into a power in English football, but, outside Leeds, Revie has never been afforded the admiration or affection of many other managers from the era. In large part that was down to the way they pushed the limits when they played, but a major issue was the arrival of Brian Clough to replace him and the way it all went wrong left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. Clough certainly left no one in any doubt what he thought of Revie and the way he chose to play the game.

Jack Charlton remembered Revie: "Don Revie made Leeds United into one of the most professionally run clubs in Europe. If I had to sum up Don's qualities as a manager in one phrase, it would be attention to detail. He compiled elaborate dossiers on our opponents, and for an hour or so on the morning before a match he'd analyse every one of their players - their weaknesses, their strengths, whether they were quick or slow. Sometimes it got a bit hard to bear. If someone started nodding off, he'd shout, 'Pay attention! I've spent fortunes sending people all over Europe to watch teams and bring back reports, so you bloody listen!'"

While another great pro in Joe Jordan said: "He is the best manager I have been privileged to work under." Not everyone agreed though and he is possibly the most disliked manager to achieve success at the very top level of the game. Bob Stokoe, who led Sunderland to the FA Cup final victory over Revie's Leeds in 1973, was the biggest critic of him, even accusing him of attempting to bribe Stokoe's Bury team ahead of a relegation tussle in 1962. Stokoe said: "It has always riled me when I see the career Revie has had. At the back of my mind, the bribe is always there. He was always an evil man to me." However most criticism was based on his abandonment of his role as England manager, something that caused an incredible amount of enmity.

In these days where no one really cares much about England any more, it is hard to get your head round just how much ill will his decision to jump ship for the money caused. The bitterness is still felt and Leeds United itself was caught in the backwash. This was a time when England still believed itself to be the pinnacle of all things football, when leaving to go anywhere else was simply sacrilege. Even worse when it was for mere money at a time when English football believed itself to be above such things.

Revie lived up to his forename at Leeds, he was the 'Don' of a very closely-knit, familial even, unit at the Yorkshire club, with complete autonomy over almost every aspect of the club. When Leeds wanted to take back the official club store from Jack Charlton and his wife, it was Revie who blocked it, saying it was Jack's shop. To be fair the Charltons had taken it over when it was failing miserably under the club's auspices and turned it around making it a very profitable enterprise, so Revie had a point. At most clubs a manager never had that sort of power back then, he answered to directors, who often interfered in everything, even team selection at times.

Don Revie was different, he ruled Elland Road in a way that became the norm due, in part to his success. Other clubs wanted to be like the best, and Leeds were the best under him, so other teams also gave managers more and more power in the following years. While he was never the most popular person in English football, Revie's appointment as England manager was met with popular acclaim due to his success with the Yorkshire team. However it all went wrong at England, where Revie found himself addressed merely as 'Revie' by the wealthy upper-class men running the FA.

So Don Revie may have said that "any Englishman that is worth his salt would want to manage the England team" on taking the job, but he soon found it not to his liking. The squad were demoralised, much weaker than in previous years and very few knew him, which was a big problem when his Leeds team had been built on being like a family with regular team bonding exercises. Revie did not have the time with his England players to build the family atmosphere that had helped with Leeds' success.

Despite the team being weak and the lack of family atmosphere, Revie managed to get off to a good start with England, but things soon turned sour and the, now familiar, media campaign against an England manager began. Despite his dreadful treatment at the hands of the media, they were still up in arms when he quit the England job they were hounding him out of and the faux outrage reached mammoth proportions when it was discovered he had been negotiating a deal to take charge of the UAE national team while still the England manager.

Revie's reputation never recovered and, somehow, Leeds have been tainted ever after by association with him. Like many who followed him in the job, Revie was never again held in the same regard in English football, despite his crime being, in effect, to be unable to perform a miracle and turn England around while being shackled by the men above him in the FA. The old men in suits, dreadfully out of touch with the game, made sure he had no hope of succeeding. They actively battled against him at times to maintain their grip on the game and the English team is still recovering from the damage they done now.

Revie is too. He does not get included very often in conversations about great managers, even though he deserves to be in those conversations for his work with Leeds. Maybe one day people will forget the hatchet job done by the media and judge him for what he achieved when given the opportunity and tools to work with.

Written by Tris Burke June 02 2019 14:06:23


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