Don Revie

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Don Revie
Don Revie and Billy Bremner.jpg
Personal information
Full name Donald George Revie
Date of birth (1927-07-10)10 July 1927
Place of birth Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire, England
Date of death 26 May 1989(1989-05-26) (aged 61)
Place of death Edinburgh, Scotland
Playing position Deep-lying centre forward
Youth career
Middlesbrough Swifts[1]
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1944–1949 Leicester City 96 (25)
1949–1951 Hull City 76 (12)
1951–1956 Manchester City 162 (37)
1956–1958 Sunderland 64 (15)
1958–1962 Leeds United 76 (11)
Total 474 (100)
National team
1954–1955 England 6 (4)
Teams managed
1961–1974 Leeds United
1974–1977 England
1977–1980 United Arab Emirates
1980–1984 Al-Nasr SC (Dubai)
1984–1985 Al-Ahly (Egypt)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Donald George 'Don' Revie, OBE, (10 July 1927 – 26 May 1989), was an English footballer who played for Leicester City, Hull City, Sunderland, Manchester City and Leeds United as a deep-lying centre forward. After managing Leeds United (1961–1974) he managed England from 1974 until 1977. He later managed in the Middle East at international and club level.

Early life[edit]

Revie was born in Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire, on 10 July 1927. He grew up in a relatively poor household with his father. His mother Margaret, passed away of cancer in 1939 when he was 12 years old.[2] Many of Revie’s ideas about football were formed at a young age, particularly while playing for his local team Middlesbrough Swifts under the guidance of coach Bill Sanderson.[3] He learnt the rudiments of the game using a small bundle of rags, in the tiny yard behind his home, this would influence his thinking in later life; arguing that young players should learn using smaller footballs, on smaller pitches, so they would be more adept in control when progressing to a bigger football.[4]

Playing career[edit]

He signed as a footballer for Leicester City in August 1944. Leicester City originally thought him not good enough to turn professional, but he was taken under the wing of Leicester player Sep Smith who began to mentor Revie on many of his ideas about the game.[5] Smith drummed into the young Revie the following principles: "When not in position, get into position; never beat a man by dribbling if you can beat him more easily with a pass; it is not the man on the ball but the one running into position to take the pass who constitutes the danger; and the aim is to have a man spare in a passing move. Soccer would then become easy."[6] He also learned the bricklaying trade outside of football. In 1949 he was made captain of Leicester and in the same year they reached the final of the FA Cup, however Revie suffered a nasal haemorrhage caused by a burst vein one week before the final. The condition became so severe it would threaten his life and see him miss his first chance to play at Wembley.[7] He could only listen on the radio in a hospital bed, as Leicester lost 3-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers. This disappointment and his belief the club's board lacked ambition, eventually led him to seek a move away from the club, and in 1949 he moved to Second Division Hull City (managed by his boyhood hero Raich Carter) for a transfer fee of £20,000. Not long after he was on the move again to First Division Manchester City in 1951 (transfer fee £25,000), then five years later to Sunderland (for £22,000) and finally to struggling Leeds United in November 1958 (£12,000). The combined transfer fees paid over his career were at the time (1958) a record in English football.

While at Manchester City Revie won six caps for England, was Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year in 1955 and won an FA Cup winners medal in 1956.

Revie plan[edit]

At Manchester City, under the management of Les McDowall, Revie played a pivotal role in the introduction to English football of the playing position of a deep-lying centre forward which evolved into the so-called Revie Plan, with Revie as the central figure. His role derived from the more traditional inside right position, and was based on the style of the successful Hungarian national team, and in particular Nándor Hidegkuti, who invented the role. Revie devoted 20 pages to analysing and explaining the plan in his autobiography 'Soccer's Happy Wanderer' written in 1955.[8] Revie won Footballer of the Year playing this role as a rejuvenated Manchester City reached their first FA Cup final in over twenty years, and came close to winning the first division title but lost out in the last few games. In the same year Revie adopted the position for England in a 7-2 victory over Scotland at Wembley, this was seen as something of a restoration in national pride at the time after recent humiliations inflicted by Hungary and Ireland. In the next season he missed most of the FA Cup campaign through disagreements with the City management staff, but was a last minute inclusion in the starting line up for the final, in which he was inspirational again in his role as Manchester City won 3–1 against Birmingham City. The game is best known for goalkeeper Bert Trautmann playing the last 18 minutes of the match with a broken neck.

Management career[edit]

Leeds United[edit]

Revie was made player-manager at Leeds United in March 1961, following the resignation of Jack Taylor. He had initially planned to apply for the vacant job at Bournemouth, but was persuaded by a local journalist to pursue the Leeds job.[9] His reign began in adversity, Leeds were in debt and the club had shown little sign of major success in the past, indeed it was located in a rugby league territory, with very little football tradition.[10] He immediately began to institute radical changes such as the implementation of a youth policy, and a change of kit from the traditional blue and yellow to an all-white strip in the style of Real Madrid.[11] He also constructed a family ethos around the club's staff and players.

Although his tenure did not get off to a flying start he won the Football League Second Division within three years as manager. During this time Leeds broke their record transfer payment to re-sign John Charles from Juventus, only to sell him on for the same amount to A.S. Roma after only a few matches. Revie built a new team around a crop of youth talents including; Norman Hunter, Jimmy Greenhoff, Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Paul Madeley, Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Terry Cooper, Peter Lorimer. Revie put his young players through demanding training schedules, made them follow diets and entered his best apprentices into youth tournaments abroad so they could learn from continental opposition.[12] In the early years much of the team's attack was based around the South African winger Albert Johanneson. Revie added to his squad by signing Johnny Giles from Manchester United and Bobby Collins from Everton, both of whom had fallen out of favour with their managers. Revie had inherited Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner from the previous manager, and both players became cornerstones of the team during Revie's reign. In 1966 following a serious injury to Collins, Bremner was made captain. Revie developed a close working relationship with the chairman Harry Reynolds who was keen to assist the manager in building Leeds into a powerful force. Also important to Revie’s success were his coaching staff; Syd Owen, a former Footballer of the Year, Les Cocker, an FA qualified coach and Maurice Lindley who would stay with the club for over 20 years. In 1964 Leeds won promotion to the First Division, topping the Second Division with 63 points.

Once promoted, Revie took Leeds to second in the league and the FA Cup final in their first season in the top division.

The 1973 FA Cup Final which Leeds surprisingly lost to Second Division Sunderland

All in all, Revie guided Leeds to two Football League First Division titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup titles, one Football League Second Division title and one Charity Shield. He also steered them to three more FA Cup Finals, two FA Cup semi finals, one more Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final, one Fairs cup semi final, one European Cup semi final, one Cup Winners' Cup Final and five runners up places in the league. Halfway through the 1969-70 season Revie was awarded with an OBE for his services to football.[13]

Throughout his reign Revie was linked with many clubs in England including; Sunderland, Manchester United and Everton, and he was offered lucrative contracts with clubs on the continent, in Italy, Spain and Greece, but chose to remain at Leeds.[14][15]

The 1–0 defeat to Sunderland in the 1973 FA Cup Final and the controversial loss to AC Milan in the Cup Winners' Cup final was seen by some as marking an end of Leeds' spell at the top. Revie was particularly disappointed by the defeat because Sunderland were managed by Bob Stokoe, a critic of Revie. There was a widespread belief that Revie would have to rebuild his team for following season, but Revie instead chose to continue with largely the same line-up.[16] He was rewarded as Leeds won another league title, going on a record 29 match unbeaten start to the season and pipping Liverpool to the title by five points.

Following his departure, Revie was succeeded by Brian Clough, one of his major rivals. Clough had been outspoken in his attacks on Leeds' perceived gamesmanship and poor discipline and he was an unpopular choice with the players who would have preferred Johnny Giles to get the post. After a brief reign Clough departed and was replaced by Jimmy Armfield. The team enjoyed a final flourish, reaching the 1975 European Cup Final which they lost to Bayern Munich before they began to break up. A succession of managers were unable to prevent the club dropping down the table, as attendances fell. By 1982 the club were in the Second Division again.

Just before departing from Leeds for the England job, Revie was a special guest on the TV guest show This Is Your Life.[17]


Following the 1973–74 season, when Revie and Leeds won their second championship in the first division, he was widely acknowledged to be one of the most successful managers in the country and was considered a leading candidate to manage the England national team. The previous manager Alf Ramsey had just departed after England had failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup following a draw with Poland. In July 1974, Revie accepted the manager's job after Joe Mercer had turned it down because of his advanced years. The FA, particularly Ted Croker, were impressed with Revie's personality and ideas.[18]

1976 European Championships[edit]

For the 1976 European championships, England were drawn in a tough qualification group including Czechoslovakia, Portugal and Cyprus, with only the winner progressing to the finals. England began the campaign well with a 3-0 victory over Czechoslovakia at Wembley, however two draws against Portugal, coupled with an away loss to Czechoslovakia, meant that England finished second in the group, one point behind Czechoslovakia, who would subsequently go on to win the tournament.

1978 World Cup[edit]

Revie was handed another difficult task in qualifying for the 1978 World Cup. England were drawn against Italy, Finland and Luxembourg, with only the winner progressing to the finals. England won three games, but lost to Italy in Rome. Italy progressed ahead of England on goal difference and went on to finish fourth in the tournament.


Criticism mounted over Revie's alleged unconventional style of management, and his importation of techniques used successfully at club level that did not fit with management of the national team. Team bonding exercises and the use of tactical dossiers on the opposition were met with scorn by playing staff and derision in the press.[19] Revie also had difficult relationships with figures within the FA, most notoriously with chairman Sir Harold Thompson, who allegedly attempted to influence Revie's team selections and undermine him publicly.[20] His two unsuccessful qualification campaigns means he is one of only two full England managers, along with Steve McClaren, to fail to take the national team to a major championship finals.

Middle East[edit]

In 1977, while still under contract to the English FA, he quit as England's manager to become coach to the United Arab Emirates. This was the first time a manager of England had resigned from the position. The circumstances of Revie's departure immediately provoked controversy. Revie snubbed the FA by selling news of his resignation to the Daily Mail, where the story broke before the FA had received his letter of resignation. Some football supporters were incensed at reports of Revie's lucrative contract with the UAE team (£340,000 for four years), and accused him of acting selfishly and disloyally. The FA suspended Revie from football for 10 years on a charge of bringing the game into disrepute. Revie contested his suspension in a lawsuit against the FA, and the court overturned the suspension.[21] After leaving the UAE coaching role in May 1980 he took over management of Al-Nasr, followed in 1984 by the Egyptian club Al-Ahly of Cairo.

Illness and death[edit]

In the Spring of 1986 Revie moved to Kinross, Scotland where he intended to retire, but in August that year he first noticed he wasn't hitting the ball as far as normal when playing golf. Then during the final few holes, he started feeling pains in his legs and pains in his back. At first Revie thought it was a problem with a slipped disc, and after a hot bath he would be fine again. In September, on a golfing holiday in Spain, Revie's wife noticed the strange way he was moving his left foot. He also complained of a sensation that left him feeling as if he was floating. After consulting specialists, the slipped disc problem was ruled out. Then he began to have problems buttoning up shirts. In February 1987 he played his final ever round of golf, and after numerous tests, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in London in May 1987. Revie publicly announced his illness in August of that year, revealing that he was no longer able to have a wet shave and that he could walk by using a stick. On 26 September 1987, he walked onto to the Elland Road pitch and waved to the fans, as he was guest of honour. He then stayed to watch Leeds United beat Manchester City 2–0.

Revie made his final public appearance on 11 May 1988 at Elland Road in a wheelchair, at a charity football match held to raise money into research into Motor Neurone Disease. By this point his speech was starting to slur. He died in Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh on 26 May 1989, aged 61, and was cremated four days later at Warriston Crematorium in Edinburgh.[22]

The FA did not send any officials to the funeral, nor was a minute's silence held at the England v Scotland match at Hampden Park the following day, nor did the teams wear black armbands. However, even the Daily Mirror newspaper, once one of Revie's fiercest critics, denounced the FA for not sending any representatives to the funeral.[23]

Those who did attend the funeral included Allan Clarke, Eddie Gray, Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles, Billy Bingham, Mick Jones, Paul Madeley, Lawrie McMenemy, Alex Ferguson, Denis Law, referees Ray Tinkler and Jack Taylor, Kevin Keegan, Lord Harewood, Brian Moore and the Daily Mail columnist Jeff Powell.

A memorial service was held in Leeds to give thanks for Revie's life on 14 June 1989. Paul Madeley addressed the congregation. Trevor Cherry attended along with David Harvey, Maurice Lindley, Terry Yorath, Paul Reaney, Joe Fagan and Gordon Taylor. Kevin Keegan and Norman Hunter attended as well.

Revie's legacy[edit]

Don Revie statue outside Elland Road

Revie is best remembered for the important innovations which he contributed both as a player and as a manager, and for the rugged, defensive style of football that brought success to Leeds United during his early years as manager.

Revie was a controversial figure in his time, his team inspired polarising views; winning both praise and criticism. He was hailed as an innovator in management, winning three prestigious manager of the year awards. Fourteen of the players that developed under his tutelage at Elland Road went on to become full internationals.

One of Revie's most notable critics however Brian Clough (who like Revie hailed from Middlesbrough), had initially given some degree of praise to Leeds following the 1969/70 season, commenting that ’they have made the season’,[24] however Clough’s attitude soon changed as the competition between their clubs intensified and over the course of subsequent seasons he would use his newspaper columns to attack Revie and Leeds, particularly in August 1973 in which he branded the Leeds players "cheats" and called for the club to be relegated to the Second Division on disciplinary grounds, though Clough would surprisingly succeed Revie as Leeds manager in an ill-fated tenure that lasted only 44 days.

Allegations of impropriety[edit]

Revie's reputation suffered in the late '70s after his controversial England resignation. Both the Daily Mirror and Sunday People claimed that Revie had attempted to bribe Wolverhampton Wanderers players to lose a crucial match in May 1972. The papers quoted Wolves midfielder Danny Hegan and former Leeds United goalkeeper Gary Sprake's claims that Revie's captain Billy Bremner had tried to arrange a bribe. Bremner sued for libel and won £100,000 libel damages, along with legal costs, after both Hegan and Sprake refused to repeat their allegations under oath in court. Wolves player Derek Dougan, who had scored against Leeds in the match in question, testified that he had heard no mention of the alleged bribes.[25]

Additionally Bob Stokoe would later claim that while managing Bury in 1962, Revie had offered him a bribe of £500 to "go easy" on his Leeds side who were at the time struggling against relegation to the Third Division and that he had become enraged when Revie responded to his refusal to accept the bribe by asking "in that case, may I speak to your players?".[26]

The Daily Mirror claimed they had delivered a 300-page dossier to the FA detailing the evidence of these allegations against Revie, although the FA stated that no such dossier was received. Both the FA and the police did investigate the allegations but found no evidence that they had ever occurred and Revie was never charged with any offence.

Personal life[edit]

Revie married Elsie, the niece of one time Leicester City manager Jocky Duncan, on 17 October 1949 and they had a son Duncan and daughter Kim. Elsie died of cancer on 28 March 2005 at the age of 77.[27]


In 2009, Revie was portrayed by Colm Meaney in the film The Damned United, which focuses on Brian Clough's ill-fated 44-day reign as manager of Leeds United in 1974 following Revie's departure for the England job.


As a player[edit]

Manchester City

As a manager[edit]

Leeds United

  • English Manager of the Year
    • 1969, 1970, 1972

League Finishes[edit]

Leeds United

Second Division[edit]

First Division[edit]

Managerial statistics[edit]

Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Leeds United England March 1961 July 1974 699 365 190 144 52.2
England England July 1974 11 July 1977 29 14 8 7 48.3
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates 1977 1980
Al-Nasr Saudi Arabia 1980 1984
Al-Ahly Egypt 1984 1985

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mourant p.16
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mourant p.16
  4. ^ Mourant p.14
  5. ^ The Mighty Mighty Whites – The Definitive history of Leeds United – Don Revie – Part 2 Learning the ropes (1927–51), retrieved 3 April 2011
  6. ^ Mourant p.18
  7. ^ Mourant p.22
  8. ^ Mourant p.32
  9. ^ Bagchi & Rogerson p.16-19
  10. ^ Mourant p.207
  11. ^ Bagchi & Rogerson p.36
  12. ^ Mourant p.60
  13. ^ The Mighty Mighty Whites – The Definitive history of Leeds United – Review of 1969/70 – Part 2 Treble heartbreak (1969-70), retrieved 3 April 2011
  14. ^ Bagchi & Robertson p.182-186
  15. ^ Mourant p.139
  16. ^ Bagchi & Robertson p.181-189
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Mourant p.152-153
  19. ^ Mourant p.160
  20. ^ Mourant p.168
  21. ^
  22. ^ [2]
  23. ^ FA's Final Snub – The Daily Mirror – 31 May 1989
  24. ^ Mourant p.121
  25. ^ "Leeds United, Don Revie and a 40-Year Old Slur". Sabotage Times. 29 April 2011. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  26. ^ Hardy, p10
  27. ^ [3]
  28. ^ (Decided who kept the trophy when the competition was replaced by the UEFA Cup)


  • Bagchi, Rob & Rogerson, Paul. The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie's Leeds United. Aurum Press, 2003.
  • Mourant, Andrew. Don Revie: Portrait of a Footballing Enigma. Mainstream Publishing, 2003.
  • Sutcliffe, Richard. Revie – Revered and Reviled. 2010.
  • Hermiston, Roger. Clough and Revie – The Rivals Who Changed the Face of English Football. 2011.
  • Hardy, Lance. Stokoe, Sunderland and '73: The Story of the Greatest FA Cup Final Shock of All Time. Orion, 2010.

External links[edit]