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Ridsdale and I Part 7- Gary Speed and Don Revie
Thursday, 22nd Apr 2021 21:16 by Mark Monk

In this episode of my younger days watching Leeds United, the 1988/9 season comes to a close, and then we heard the news that our greatest ever manager had passed away.

On researching this post, I was surprised that post-Hillsborough, the football world pretty much carried on.

Obviously in Liverpool's case there was no way they could just turn out the following week, a city in mourning and engulfed in grief as they started to bury the Hillsborough dead.

Leeds on the other hand played-on. They were on the road against Chelsea, who made a step closer back on an instant return to the First Division with a 1-0 win (April 22nd) then the following Saturday we won 3-2 down at Stoke, a rare win at the Victoria Ground as Leeds fans older than me will know it never was a particularly happy-hunting ground.

May day fell on a Monday and due to how the trains ran on Bank Holidays I could not get up to Leeds or get back to be more precise. I missed one of the most bizarre incidents to happen at Leeds in the 1980's against doomed Walsall who were heading for Division Three.

By all accounts it had not been vintage Leeds, it was another "dead rubber" meaningless match as the crowd of just 13,280 reflected. It was heading towards a nil-niler but captain Mark Aizlewood, a Welsh international scrambled home the winner at the Kop end and celebrated by flicking "the V's" at the fans behind the goal.

Aizlewood was instantly subbed and never to be seen again, albeit in the colours of Bradford City the following season as Leeds cut their losses on him. It was unlikely he'd have been part of Howard Wilkinson's long-term plans. Wilkinson publicly apologised for Aizlewood' s response to being booed, there were sections of the crowd simply did not like him.

The guy was a bit of a prat and is currently in jail following a conviction for fraud in 2018.

I suppose it gave us all something to talk about, on Saturday May 6th I made yet another journey north for the final game of the 88/89 season against Oldham Athletic.

Joe Royle had built a decent side at Boundary Park ironically containing a few players regarded as surplus to requirements at Leeds such as Andy Ritchie, Denis Irwin, Andy Linighan and Tommy Wright. I'm not 100% certain if Asa Hartford was in their team that day or not, Hartford nearly being an ex Leeds player owing to him failing a medical to join Leeds from West Brom in 1971 because it was discovered he had a hole in his heart. Not that it deterred him from playing on.

One player I definitely saw that afternoon was 19-year-old Gary Speed, who had been making a name for himself in our Northern Intermediate League side. It was about the only noteworthy memory of a drab goalless draw with the Lactic's. Obviously Speed would go on to become an integral part of the Wilkinson years and such a tragedy that his life ended aged just 42.

Our final game of the season would be at Shrewsbury, May 13th ending in a 3-3 draw and no chance of getting a ticket for love nor money. Leeds finished in 10th but there was huge optimism, the papers going into overdrive who would be joining Wilkinson in the summer and the feeling that the future was going to be bright.

One of the first things Wilkinson had done at Leeds was to remove the pictures of the glory days e.g. the Revie teams from the club foyer and corridors. He explained it was not done out of disrespect, however they would go into storage and see the light of day again when he'd built a team worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as Revie’s.

Unfortunately Don had been struck down with Motor Neurone Disease, a debilitating muscle wasting condition which left the once-hyperactive ex Leeds manager confined to a wheelchair. On 29th May 1989 Don died at his home near Edinburgh aged just 61.

I'm still not sure to this day whether or not the reason I didn't hear about it until later that evening, when Brian Moore mentioned it during the televised Liverpool v Arsenal game, was because we were not living in a digital age of instant news or Revie was simply reviled outside of Leeds.

Even the FA, who slapped a 10-year-ban on him for quitting the England job and go to the UAE in 1977, did not bother to send a representative to his funeral. Their bitterness towards the man they were more than likely going to sack anyway for failing to qualify for the '78 World Cup remained an outcast until his untimely end.

If you can’t wait for the next episode to appear on toellandback, you can sneak a peek at my blog by clicking on this link.

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