Remembering The Great: Don Revie Became Leeds United Manager On This Day In 1961

Don Revie would change the landscape of English football at Elland Road
08:00, 17 Mar 2023

When Don Revie was handed the managerial reins at Elland Road on March 17, 1961, he took over an unfashionable Leeds United side who were in the Second Division and going nowhere fast; by the time he left they were the greatest team in the land and one of the most revered sides in Europe.

Born in Middlesbrough in 1927 Revie was a pretty accomplished player before going into management beginning his career at Leicester, before moving on to Hull and then Manchester City where he would arguably enjoy his best days as a player.

But after a falling out with his manager at Manchester City, Les McDowall, his relationship with the club become somewhat strained and he was eventually transferred to Sunderland prior to arriving at Leeds United in 1958 – a move which would prove to be hugely beneficial for both parties.


Leeds had only just been relegated to Division Two and following the resignation of manager Jack Taylor the club pinned their hopes on a man who had aspirations to be a boss though had no experience to talk of; and appointed Don Revie as their new Player Manager.

Perhaps not surprisingly the decision raised a few eyebrows at the time but as it turned out Revie would eventually become one of the greatest managers in the history of Leeds United while revolutionising the club in the process.

In a city obsessed with Rugby League and Cricket, Revie set about making Leeds a great sporting institution of Yorkshire by implementing a number of key changes at the club. He introduced dietary restrictions on his players and insisted the team only stayed in the finest hotels while also changing the club’s kit from the traditional blue and yellow to an all-white strip which it became famous for in later years.

He made it his business to know everything about everyone at the club, from the women in the laundry room and the men who worked the turnstiles, right through to the first team players while insisting that nobody was bigger than Leeds United.

He also placed a huge emphasis on youth development knowing that without serious investment in the future Leeds would struggle against many of the top teams in the country at the time and fortunately for Revie his chairman Harry Reynolds offered him his full support.

In Revie’s first season in charge Leeds struggled and finished 19th as the new manager inherited a squad which was made-up mostly of players who were over the hill; but in time the faith in youth paid off as the likes of Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Eddie Gray, and Paul Reaney came through the ranks.

After hanging up his boots to concentrate on full-time management Revie eventually took Leeds back to the top-flight in 1964 and so began one of the most exciting periods in the club’s history.

With Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter at the heart of the defence, along with Billy Bremner in the middle of the park who had been brought in to fill the void left when Revie retired, not to mention Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer up-front, Leeds took Division One by storm.

In the years between 1965 and 1968 they reached two FA Cup semi-finals, won the League Cup, the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and finished runners-up in the league twice – not bad for a side who had been languishing in the Second Division when Revie took over.

Leeds eventually won their first league title in 1969 clocking up 67 points in an era of two points for a win and were only defeated twice in 42 league games. They would also finish runners-up for the next three seasons in a row showing incredible consistency despite some critics claiming they should have won more.

In 1974 Leeds did eventually win the title again, beating Bill Shankly’s Liverpool to the top prize while cementing Revie’s place as one of the greatest club managers of his time. That title also helped to win over the many critics that Leeds had at the time who accused them of gamesmanship and underhand tactics.

Not surprisingly Revie’s exploits at Leeds caught the attention of the FA and following the resignation of the great Alf Ramsey after England’s failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup they only had one man in mind when it came to the top job.

However, his time with the national side was blighted by a number of dismal failures on the field as England failed to qualify for the 1976 European Championships and 1978 World Cup, not to mention a long-running battle with FA chairman Sir Harold Thompson, which somewhat tarnished his reputation.

But for supporters of Leeds United Don Revie will always be the man who transformed their side from an ailing and ageing outfit teetering on the brink of obscurity into one of the most famous names in football which is still recognised by millions of football fans around the world to this day.

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