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Football and the First World War
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Don Revie, Donald was born on 10 July 1927 at 20 Bell Street, Middlesbrough. He was educated at Archibald secondary modern school, Middlesbrough, and left school at fourteen to become an apprentice bricklayer, before joining Leicester City Football Club in 1943. Hull City bought him for £20,000 in 1950.
Revie transferred to Manchester City in 1953, and reached his peak as a footballer in the mid-1950s, winning six England caps and being voted footballer of the year in 1955. Manchester City won the FA Cup in 1956, using what became known as the ‘Revie plan’, with Revie, as centre forward, lying deep while feeding the ball to the other forwards and then moving through in the final stage, a tactic copied from the successful Hungarian team by the Manchester City manager.
Revie moved to Leeds United in 1958, after two years with Sunderland. At Leeds he was appointed manager in 1961, at a time when the club was struggling to avoid relegation to the third division. Revie not only avoided this, but brought Leeds to the top of the second division in 1964, and second to Manchester United in the first division in 1965, winning the League championship in 1969 with 67 points, the highest total in the history of the championship, and the FA cup in 1972.
His ambitions for the club were not confined to the domestic scene, and in 1968 Leeds won the European Fairs cup (the UEFA cup), beating Ferencváros 1–0, the first British club to win the cup. Despite these successes, Leeds had the reputation of being perpetual runners-up: they lost to Liverpool in the 1965 FA cup final, came second in the League championship in 1965, 1966, and 1970, lost to Chelsea in the FA cup final in 1970, were runners-up to Arsenal in the League championship in 1971, and lost to second-division Sunderland in the 1973 FA cup final.
In 1974, after Leeds United had won the League championship, remaining undefeated for the first twenty-nine games of the season, Revie resigned to take up the position of England team manager, following the sacking of Sir Alf Ramsey after England had failed to qualify for the 1974 world cup finals.
After a successful first season as the England manager, with the team undefeated after nine internationals, Revie encountered a set-back when England was eliminated from the European championship early in the 1975–6 season. While Revie was manager, England won fourteen out of twenty-nine matches, with seven defeats and eight draws. The poor results were attributed to the uncertainty and lack of continuity caused by frequent team changes rather than to the lack of outstanding players. He used fifty-two players in the twenty-nine games, awarding twenty-nine new caps, and he only once fielded an unchanged side. Morale sagged when England lost 2–0 to Italy in a world cup qualifying match in November 1976, and the press began to forecast England's elimination from the competition and Revie's dismissal.
In July 1977 the Daily Mail, to which Revie had sold his story, revealed that he had been in secret negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while the England team had been playing in South America, had accepted the post of team manager to the UAE for four years at £60,000 a year, and had resigned from his England job. This led the Football Association to ban him from English football for ten years. Revie successfully appealed against the ban in the High Court in November 1979, on the grounds that the head of the tribunal, Sir Harold Thompson, chairman of the Football Association, was biased. But the judge made it clear that it was still felt that Revie's conduct in leaving England so abruptly had brought English football into disrepute. He became manager of al-Nasir Football Club in 1980, and moved to the National Football Club, Cairo, in 1984.
By the time he left in 1974 some argued that Leeds was the greatest club side of all time, and that his achievements lay there, and not in his spell as England manager. He transformed Leeds from a club in danger of relegation into a club aiming at, and achieving, major honours at home and abroad. Revie was appointed OBE in 1970, and was voted manager of the year in 1969, 1970, and 1972.
Revie died on 26 May 1989 in Murrayfield Private Hospital, Edinburgh, of motor neurone disease. Leeds United legend Terry Cooper once said ‘He was a great man and a great manager who looked after us by wrapping us in cotton wool. On the field of play he made you feel 10 feet tall, so that you wanted to die for Leeds United.’