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.