Happy Birthday to Leeds Utd Legend Paul Madeley – by Rob Atkinson

Mr. Rolls Royce - 69 Years Young Today

Mr. Rolls Royce – 69 Years Young Today

A short but timely piece to wish one of our greatest ever players, Paul Madeley, a very happy birthday today.  To think of one of the heroes of my youth reaching the age of 69 is enough to make anyone feel old, but the memory of Paul in a Leeds shirt is vivid.

He was one of the unsung heroes of that great Revie generation, the men who bonded to become a team feared and respected the length and breadth of Europe.  He was famous for having appeared in every outfield position for Leeds and so was dubbed a “utility player” – but that hardly did justice to his towering talent, his positional sense and calmness in tight situations and his immaculate reading of the game and distribution.  I remember him scoring against Southampton in 1978, a very rare occurence – this was the same match where Tony Currie scored that legendary “banana shot”.

Paul was often also referred to as the “Rolls Royce” of footballers, which some took as a reference to his versatility; but I always thought of the nickname as a tribute to his smooth style of play, utterly unflappable, totally reliable, quietly purring along as he covered so many miles for Leeds United between 1962 and 1980.

In more recent years Paul has not always enjoyed the best of health.  He had an operation to remove a benign brain tumour in 1992, had a mild heart attack in 2002 and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2004.  So it’s welcome news to hear that he’s still getting on and that he’s celebrating his birthday today.  The best summary of his attitude to being a professional footballer at Leeds United was related by his former manager Jimmy Armfield, who recalls:

“He once actually signed a new contract on what was virtually a blank piece of paper. I called him in to discuss terms and opened discussions by saying, ‘OK, Paul, we’ll give you so much’. He replied that he had no intention of leaving Leeds so he might as well sign the contract and let me fill in the details. I said, ‘What do you want, then, two years or three years?’ He answered, ‘Either way, I’ll leave it to you. I just want to play for Leeds,’ and that was that”.

That’s some example to put before today’s money-grabbing prima donnas.

Happy Birthday, Paul.  You’re a Leeds United legend, and your thousands of fans will always think of you as such.

15 responses to “Happy Birthday to Leeds Utd Legend Paul Madeley – by Rob Atkinson

  1. dansdad1919

    Paul Madeley was my favourite player of that great era, he was so smooth as he cruised around the field, international standard from right back to left wing and all positions in between. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mr MADELEY and boy what I wouldn’t give to have someone like him in the present team.



  2. Couldn’t agree more dansdad , we could do with him now , happy birthday Paul


  3. Paul Madeley grew up next door to my wife’s grandfather ( a local musician and tv personality) he was according to all reports an absolute pleasure of a young man. Polite, dedicated and an all round ridiculously good sportsman. My wife’s grandad took him to play golf for the first time and was thrashed in the nicest possible way by the legend that was Paul Madeley.

    Only downpoint was that he was rather noisy practicing his shooting against the garage door as a kid!

    MOT the past is the past but let’s not forget the greats!


  4. fiery jack

    I never saw him have a bad game, and when we signed Rio F the first thing that struck me was how similar they moved and played, except Paul was a better player. He’d be worth more than ferdinand today. nice one.


  5. Wonderful, wonderful, brilliant player. It always surprises me that he is referred to as unsung. I used to sing his name all the time.
    The remarkable thing about this particular ‘utility’ player is that he was so good wherever he played. He wasn’t, like so many a utility player, someone who didn’t specialise, he just specialised in several positions. Not many better full backs ever and certainly not centre backs – smooth fluidity persnified.


  6. or even personified


  7. How time flies…….I used to play in the same school team as Paul at Cross Flatts School when we were around eleven years old. His older brother Michael also played for Cross Flatts but a year or two before us and as I remember he was a star centre forward. They both moved on to Cockburn Grammar School whereas I went to Leeds Central High. Paul went on to become the star he was for LUFC but I never found out what happened to Michael. Sometimes our school home games were watched by LUFC players of the day because Alan Milburn, son of Jimmy Milburn was in the team too. It is sad to hear of his health problems in recent years and I know from my mother’s experience that Parkinson’s can be devastating as it develops over time. I too wish him a very happy birthday and hope he copes with life.


  8. colin gill

    I saw Paul play for Leeds United and can only agree with all that has been said. The most perfect footballer. happy birthday Paul


  9. Remember when we played Barcelona in 1975 European Cup Semi Final 1st leg at Elland Road, Barcelona had a guy called Johann Cruyff playing. He never figured, Madeley had him in his pocket the whole game. Great player who was never given the credit he deserved, played pretty much every outfield position in a great Leeds team. Often referred to as a Rolls Royce.


    • Remember it well, that was my second game ever, and King Billy scored my first ever live Leeds goal. I recall the hype and build-up about Cruyff and how subdued he was on the night – and you’re right, our Mr. Rolls Royce had him in his pocket.


  10. if he d just played 1 position he d have had 100 caps he seemed to glide when running quality


  11. getleedsbackwheretheybelong

    he was the fastest player from pen area to pen area (with the ball ) in the league,, he did it on numerous occasions, if only he had a shot on him he would have scored many times. A friend of mine is a current carer for him, they spend hours having very competitive games of snooker.
    Allways my fav player happy birthday Paul.


    • Another great response. One of the real benefits of this article has been the insights people have contributed on the player Paul was and the man he is. Thanks very much to all who have replied.


  12. Great player and a real gent. He played midfield in, what I consider our best ever 4-3-3 formation in the 1973-4 Championship year, when we played some of the best football ever seen in the English leagues. With him there, Billy was freed from some his normal midfield duties to play an almost exclusively attacking role. PM, in my opinion, would start in Revie’s best X1, even at the expense of one of our stellar wingmen ! It was the now disgraced Stuaert Hall, by the way, who dubbed him the ‘Rolls Royce’ of footballers. But Paul, you should have gone to Mexico !


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