Chris Evans talks about his new book about Don Revie, which sheds light on the life of the former English soccer player

Don Revie was the inspiration for Jack Charlton’s glorious decade of success with Ireland.

And Leeds United’s eight-year wilderness of the eighties in the second division of English football would have been prevented if the club had named John Giles to replace Revie in the summer of 1974.

So says Chris Evans, whose acclaimed book about the Leeds and England coach was just published after years of methodological research and hours of interviews with those who knew and played for Revie.

Evans ‘Don Revie: The Biography’ traces the Middlesbrough-born striker’s formidable career, but focuses on his 13 years on Elland Road and three years at the helm of the Three Lions that ended with his hasty exit to a job in the UAE ended.

In the latter part of his management stint, he was heavily criticized when England’s bid to reach the 1978 World Cup finals was ended by Italy – two years after Czechoslovakia had fulfilled its hopes for a place in the last eight of the 1976 European Championships.



Leeds manager Don Revie (right) and Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe lead their teams before the game (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Depart from Elland Road

Revie’s abrupt decision to break his contract with the FA – sparked by his credible belief that his employers would fire him anyway – resulted in a ten-year penalty for the FA from engaging in any level of English football and saw many in the Londoners The media denigrates a character they have never warm to and who is seen as a northern English outsider.

Charlton and Giles were both towering figures in Leeds’ success, which began with their promotion to the First Division in 1964 and resulted in successes in all three national competitions, two Fairs Cup wins and a number of runners-up before succeeding Alf. Ramsey resigned in 1974.

After Revie’s departure from Elland Road, the club made the big mistake of not complying with his manager’s request to replace Giles as he feared his midfield partner and club captain Billy Bremner would not agree to the decision.

Instead, the board hired former Derby County chief Brian Clough, who had publicly indicted Revie and his team for years and would only stay in office for 44 days until he was sacked over the players’ revolt.

“Had Bremner not submitted an application, Johnny would have received it,” says Evans, who has been a Labor MP for the Welsh constituency of Islwyn since 2010 and is the current shadow minister for defense procurement.

“Johnny would have had it all if he’d got the job.

“It would have been a replay from 1961, when Revie took over with one of the players who were kicked out of the locker room.

“All the players said that while Billy was the captain, Johnny was always the leader.

“I’m biased, but Johnny claims to be the best player of the era.

“Bobby Charlton won the World Cup, but in terms of consistency, Johnny Giles was the best midfielder week after week.

“Don realized that. If you look at Billy’s record as a manager, he fell short.

“Some of the players Billy sold when he was in charge of Leeds in the 1980s – Denis Irwin, Terry Phelan, Andy Ritchie, Ian Snodin – were a real mistake.

“He had what it takes to be a great team, but he sold them all.

“I think Leeds would have been completely different if he had taken over Revie,” added Evans, who first began to follow Leeds while they were in the old Second Division for eight years until 1990 before Howard Wilkinson led them to promotion and then within two years to her last league title in 1992.



Former Leeds United and England coach Don Revie (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Return to England

Giles was recruited by Manchester United’s Revie in 1963, but Big Jack was already on Elland Road when Revie arrived from Sunderland five years earlier.

It was a relationship that started on rocky ground and that possibly ended when Revie walked into the manager’s office in 1961.

“What Jack said on the day Revie was appointed was ‘Well, I’m out the door’ because Revie, as a player, had told Jack that if he became a manager he would get rid of him.

“According to Revie, Jack was sloppy and not interested in his attitude.

“But when he became boss, he turned around and told him that if he ‘screwed his nuts the right way,’ which he did, he would make him an English player.

“As Brian Clough said, without Revie, Jack would never have made the 1966 World Cup team. It was Revie’s idea to put Jack on the goal line for Leeds’ corners.

“Remember Jack, he dedicated his autobiography to Revie.

“I think what Jack did to Ireland is what Don wanted to do to England, with the Irish boys who are absolutely devoted to Jack almost like family.

“Jack and his players have the whole nation behind them. So I firmly believe Jack did this to Ireland because of what he saw with Revie in Leeds.

“Revie created this family unit in Leeds. He saw them all as his ‘sons’.”

Revie’s lucrative three years as manager of the UAE national team ended in 1980 while he then spent some stint with Al-Nasir in the same country and a shorter stint with Al-Ahly of Egypt before returning to England in 1984.

Leeds’ physical advantage had earned them many critics in their first five years in the First Division, and their ability to produce stylish football as well – especially between 1970 and 1974 – was overlooked by many experts, as it is today the case is.



Derby County v Leeds United, Leeds United manager Don Revie (in winter coat) leans out of the dugout as he watches the play (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Main mission

Evans’ main role in writing this tape was to clear up the record – a record that contains unsubstantiated allegations of match-fixing by Revie.

“The record needs to be set right. I think Don Revie was the greatest coach this country has ever seen.

“The reason I say this is simple. Where was Leeds United when it came on?

“They were mostly stuck in the second division since the 1930s and they had no history.

“They didn’t even play the biggest sport in town – that was rugby league and cricket.

“So you have a young manager with no pedigree who is battling two sports that are far more popular than the one he’s in.

“People talk about the Shanklys, the Paisleys and the Fergusons, but if you look at their record, Paisley won the championship with Liverpool in 1947, so Shankly took over a team that had been champions a little over a decade earlier.

“Alex Ferguson took over a club that had a pedigree of victory, the Busby Babes and the George Best team that won the European Cup in 1968.

“Revie built the club from scratch.

“He also introduced concepts in the 1960s and 1970s that are the norm today, including the suggestion that teams should have sponsors’ names on their jerseys.

“Today’s game has the deep false nine that he first introduced. Liverpool and Manchester City are not now playing with a recognized center-forward.”

“Nobody before him produced the statistics that were included in his dossiers on the opposition.

“With 13 years of success and consistency at Leeds, it’s really unfair that his career should be judged against England after three years when he didn’t have the players.”

The FA’s vengeful ten-year ban on Revie was imposed both ruthlessly and with the utmost pettiness.

“Revie showed up on a Saturday to see Leeds v Middlesbrough, which he obviously would, since he was from Middlesbrough and played and played for Leeds.

“On Monday morning, the FA sent a letter to all 92 clubs in the league saying they shouldn’t hire Don Revie because of the ten-year ban.

“This was a restriction on trade and one of the first victims of the demolition culture that erased his name from the record books.

“There have been allegations that Revie tricked Leeds into throwing matches.

“As Johnny Giles said, ‘we were crap!’.

“Elland Road is now a shrine to him and his side. It’s the club Don built and it is to this day.”


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