Originally written for Turnstiles Magazine Issue 3
Throughout its history English football has seen its fair share of men from north of the border pull on various club colours. They have been well dotted throughout the clubs over the years. We “jocks” have always been kicking about in the English game from day one and continued to show face throughout and into the modern era. Today there are currently one hundred and one in the top four divisions of the English game at the time of writing. From Kieran Tierney at Arsenal in the top-flight to Ross Doohan at Tranmere Rovers in the bottom tier. There are at least fifteen in each league with the Championship leading the way with thirty-four.
I would be lying if I said I was even remotely interested in professional goings on at the other side of Hadrian’s Wall to me these days. I used to be, but the monster it has become has ruined it as any kind of spectacle. I cannot even say I look up the scores nowadays. However, I hold a wee soft spot for a team. I have a thing for reading about them and watching old videos of this certain club, a club that I have never actually seen in the flesh nor support. They are easily the second most read about side in my life (behind my own team Aberdeen). Leeds United. A team I used to enjoy watching during their first stint in the Premier League. There are a few reasons to this interest, more historical in honesty. The first being the Scottish contingent over time which I would say is the main factor. But more precisely, the Scottish players during the Don Revie years is what have drawn me to buying books and watching grainy footage on a regular basis. Another factor is there have been many players to pull on the Red of Aberdeen and the White of Leeds. To my knowledge seven to date, Hugh Baird, Jim Storrie, Arthur Graham, Gordon Strachan, Andy Watson, David Robertson, and Jamie Winter. However, I am not sure Winter should really count as a Dons player as my brain has removed any evidence of him in a red shirt.
Scots have been representing Leeds since way back in the ‘20s and as good as since their foundation in 1919. Fifer James “Jimmy” Frew signed from Heart of Midlothian in a £200 deal before the 1920/21 season. A decent number have come and gone leading up to today in 2021, where although born in Hull, Liam Cooper represented the club since 2014 and the Scottish national team since 2019. There have been some fantastic Scotsmen represent the Whites. The previously mentioned Hugh Baird who had a goal every other game average in his one season in the 50s prior to heading north to Pittodrie. Arthur “Bumper” Graham signed from Aberdeen and played the guts of 250 games in the late 70s/early 80s making it into number fifty-five in the “all time 100 Leeds players list”. Gary McAllister was a class act and is one of the canniest football players I have seen to this day and the league winner finds himself as the 22nd greatest United player. Aberdeen connections rear themselves again with Gordon Strachan who signed when he was no spring chicken at 32 yet went on to be one of the main influences in Leeds rise to glory in the early 90s. 385 appearances and six years the diminutive Edinburgh native dedicated to the cause earning him three winners’ medals and is still held in high regard at Elland Road. Interestingly, in regard to the “top 100”, twenty percent is made up of Scots which is testament to the impact they have had at Elland Road. But as stated above it is the Revie years that get most of my attention.
Don Revie took charge of the club in 1961 and amassed an impressive eight winners’ medals and plaudits along the way. His teams were hard, which caused a lot of detractors, and this seems to cloud some judgements on how good a footballing team he had created. People placed their focus too much on the “Dirty Leeds” moniker. Despite the “anything goes” winning mentality, there were some great players like Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter at the spine of the back line flanked by Paul Reaney and Terry Cooper. A truly great defensive line up. Utility man extraordinaire Paul “eleven Pauls” Madeley was class wherever the Don played him. All round midfield maestro Johnny Giles, well how much would a player like him be worth? Thirty-three grand was all United paid for him. A steal in real terms. He possessed a brain; an incredible passing range and he was a hardy bugger to boot. A perfect player in my eyes. Up top there was Alan “Sniffer” Clarke who had a knack for the important goals, and had a decent goal to game ratio, there was also Mick Jones who although did not score that much in the grand scheme of things, he was decent at the job he was there to do. All those players have my utmost respect and to be honest I could carry on the list but there is a word count limit to abide by. In amongst these great players there were a host of superb Scotsmen and Leeds United owe Scotland a great debt of gratitude for their services and so do I for the hours of enjoyment I have had out of watching and reading about them. I have always said if I had Doc’s DeLorean from Back to The Future, I would make Elland Road between ’61 and ’74 high on my list of priorities of visits. The team was like a gang, the aforementioned “anything goes” attitude they adopted toward the game is highly relatable to me as it was the way in which I always tried to play football. The game is about winning and that’s what Leeds always tried to do and with two leagues, two Fairs Cups, a FA Cup, a League Cup, a Charity Shield and a second division title that set the ball rolling the success is there to be seen. A big part of this was due to the incomer Scots and that appeals to me no end. If only the national team had this calibre of players in this day and age.
There is only one place to start when it comes to my compatriots, the greatest United player of all time, number one. Mr William John Bremner. The Raploch man was truly immense and fully deserved the silverware he amassed. (Eight medals like his boss). Billy was hard, he was fiery, he was a buzz bomb of energy. Goals came for him and he was a very talented football player overall. But his will to win was unmatched and any team in world football would have loved to have such a player in their ranks. With Giles beside him Leeds had arguably the best centre midfield pairing on earth at the time. Scotland’s greatest ever player, there is more than an argument to be had there. I am in the yes camp.
Bobby Collins was a superb signing from Everton, his form was stunning and helped the club to promotion. He won the 1965 League Player of the Year once in the topflight, unfortunately his five-year stay was ended by a horror femur bone break in Europe v Torino in 1966 this effectively ending his top-level football career, leaving him to move to Bury and see out his career in “lesser football”. A sad end to the Elland Road days for the player Revie called his “best ever signing”. Only the second division winners medal to his name but the fourth best Leeds player ever according to the fans.
Eddie Gray, “Mr Leeds”, a one club man. The Glasweigan has devoted most of his life to the Elland Road cause during his playing days and post on pitch career. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever to don the white of any nationality. The winger played four hundred and seventy-five times winning seven honours. A relatively low 12 caps for the national team despite his ravaging form at times for United comes as a surprise. A quality winger and only bettered by Bremner and the great John Charles in the all-time Leeds men.
Peter Lorimer, another with a long United career, 1962-79 , earning seven gongs in his time. “Hotshot” was renowned for his powerful striking technique which was once measured at ninety miles per hour. Used as a winger mainly, he did not play as an archetypal wide man as he chose to cut in to shoot a lot of the time. This instead of the stereotypical beat the man and cross approach to wide play in the era. His goal scoring prowess led him to become Leeds top scorer of all time, a record that still stands today.For such a integral part of Leeds plans he only found himself in the dark blue on twenty four occasions, inclusive of all World Cup 1974 matches. A fantastic footballer a quite rightly heralded by Leeds fans
Frank Gray, younger brother of Eddie, not quite the accolades of his sibling at United (got his hands on the big one at Forest though) and just the one medal, a League winner in 73/74. He did however equal him with a Leeds achievement in scoring on his debut. The left back was a very revered addition to the squad which he joined in 1972 and left in 1979 returning for another stint in the ‘80s. Almost trebling his brothers cap count on an international level the younger Gray was very steady player.
David Harvey, the goalkeeper who waited an eternity. Kept out of the side by Gary Sprake and kept in reserve for as good as six years excluding sporadic appearances. After finally earning a first team berth and went on to win the FA Cup in 71/72 and the league in 73/74. A very capable keeper who earned sixteen Scottish caps despite being a local boy.
Joe Jordan, what a player. Like Bremner he is a proper favourite of mine and like Bremner the heart of a lion. After losing his teeth in his early Leeds career due to a brave diving header and Coventry boot during a reserve match, the target man went on to appear one hundred and seventy-five times and was part of the league winning side of 73/74. A hero to the Tartan Army due to his winner v Czechoslovakia to secure qualification for the 1974 World Cup.
Gordon McQueen was a late comer and was signed with the unenviable task of being Jack Charlton’s replacement but was a solid defender in the air and on the ground. The big Kilbirnie man was part of the league winning side in the 70s and won LUFC player of the year on two occasions.
Looking back at this era it makes you realise how sterile and soft football has become. It also makes it apparent how far the standard of Scottish players being churned out has dropped. But to see these great Scots involved will always add to the appeal of the so called “Dirty Leeds” to me. I will continue to read and watch everything I can on them. Not just a gang but a fantastic football team littered with my fellow county men, which unfortunately is something in the modern day we will never get to see again in England.