Leeds lose another legend as Peter Lorimer passes away
Saturday, 20th Mar 2021 23:06 by Tim Whelan
We knew this was coming, but the news that Peter Lorimer died this morning after a long battle with brain cancer is still hard to bear.
He was not only a key member of the great Don Revie but both the youngest and oldest player to play for Leeds and the club’s all time record goalscorer. In all competitions he amassed a total of 238 goals in all competitions, a huge total for a midfield player, even if it was supplemented by a regular diet of free kicks and penalties.
And although he was best known for the fierce shot that earned him the nicknames ‘Hotshot’ and ‘Lash’, there was so much more to his game than that. As Eddie Gray told Football Focus today "Peter was a truly great player, but he was also a great man. Peter could do anything. He could go by people; he was a great crosser of the ball.”
Lorimer’s talent was first noticed in his early teens when he played junior football in his home town of Broughty Ferry, just outside Dundee. About 30 clubs were chasing him, and Manchester United even left a bag containing £5,000 at his parents’ house. That was a lot of money in 1962, £5,000, but thankfully his parents had principles and wanted the move that was best for their son.
And Don Revie won them over after taking the trouble to make a personal visit to Broughty Ferry. As Loriner later explained in a contribution to a 2010 official biography of The Don. “He jumped in his car and raced up to Scotland, being so keen to get there he picked up a speeding ticket on the way in Perth.
He got me in the car and drove straight back to Leeds, before Manchester United could come back to the house in the morning. And that was that, I had joined Leeds. My parents deserved a lot of credit “Manchester United were the power team at the time but they saw Revie had a plan and was trying to build something.”
And by the early 1970s Lorimer must have been very glad they did, as by then he was playing for one of the top sides in Europe while Manchester Untied went into the slump that saw them relegated in 1974. After making Leeds debut on Saturday 29th September 1962 against Southampton at Elland Road at the age of 15 years, 289 days, he would go on to be a first team regular as Leeds six major trophies.
And of course the roll of honour should have been much longer, but nearly every season Leeds ran into a fixture pile-up and were the victims of a number of controversial decisions that still rankle. Lorimer famously had two goals disallowed, a last minute equaliser against Chelsea in the 1967 FA Cup semi-final and a thunderbolt ruled out for offside in the 1975 European Cup final. That would have stood today, even with VAR.
And he also blossomed on the international stage, winning 21 caps and scoring four goals for Scotland, including a belter against Zaire in the 1974 World Cup. In the Shoot magazine I used to buy at that time Pele said he thought Lorimer was Scotland’s best player, “I have never seen a ball hit with such power”, though that might have been ghost-written.
His first spell at Leeds ended in 1979 and he played for Toronto Blizzard and Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada, as well as fitting in a season for slightly less exotic York City, before a surprise return to Elland Road in 1983 at the age of 36.
Eddie Gray wanted him to pass on his experience to the fine young side he was building at the time, and during second spell he would become our all time leading scorer. I can tell you he went past the previous record by scoring a penalty in a 2-0 home win over Swansea in 1984, in an otherwise forgettable midweek game.
In total his second spell amounted to a further 19 goals in 87 appearances, but when Billy Bremner replaced Gray in October 1985 the new manager called time on his Leeds career. Even then he didn’t hang up his boots and he moved on to Whitby Town, and then Hapoel Haifa in Israel. Though he denied he’d been circumcised to fit in with his new Jewish friends.
After that he bought the ‘Commercial Hotel’, which was conveniently placed about halfway between the city centre and Elland Road. It was always popular with Leeds fans and on a Saturday when Leeds were at home the pub always seemed to be full of Scandinavians.
Lorimer was always down to earth and willing to chat with the fans, and there was the added bonus of John Charles being there to collect up the glasses. But the pub closed several years ago, so maybe there wasn’t enough trade to keep it going apart from on matchdays.
He also wrote his forthright autobiography, LASH – Leeds And Scotland Hero, which is well worth seeking out if you haven’t already read it. He tells a few tales of life on the road with Scotland, where the players drank on a scale that Revie would never tolerate at Leeds, and also of Billy Bremner’s lack of respect for Revie’s successor but one Jimmy Armfield.
Lorimer also became a Leeds Untied board member and ambassador for the club, and was always willing to turn out at supporters’ evenings. Sadly he was a little bit naïve in his backing of Ken Bates and Massimo Cellino in his club role, giving these gentlemen a credibility they didn’t deserve, and this didn’t go down too well with some of the fans.
I once took part in a ‘Bates Out’ march from City Square to Elland Road and there were a few critical chants in his direction as we passed the Commercial, though I couldn’t bring myself to join in after he’d been such a hero to me in my younger days. He was also a match summariser for first BBC Leeds and then Yorkshire Radio, the latter being a Bates propaganda vehicle that took over broadcasts from Elland Road during his regime.
In his final days Lorimer was a contributor to the matchday programme, even when his illness was restricting his other activities. His final column was as latest as the match against Aston Villa on 27 February. And now he’s gone. Stuart Dallas said on Twitter today "After the high of last night, we learn of such sad news this morning. My thoughts are with Peter's family and friends at this difficult time."
And Andrea Radrizzani tweeted "Another Legend left us. My prayers with the family - it has been an honour to meet you and host you at Elland Road, your home." We have indeed lost far too many legends recently, no fewer than four members of the great Revie team in less than twelve months.
Peter Lorimer was one of the best, and he will never be forgotten by the many fans from all over Europe who were drawn to support Leeds by that great side he served with such distinction. RIP.
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