A couple of weeks ago, I came not to bury Greavsie but to praise him. The article I wrote was a thrilled response to the fact that Jimmy “Jimbo” Greaves – a known Leeds-hater from way back – seemed to have seen the light, acknowledging United legend John Charles as the greatest British footballer of all time, ahead of George Best, Bobby Moore and – well, everyone else on a list of fifty. It was such a surprise, such a welcome oddity coming from Greaves’ usually poisoned pen where the Whites are concerned, that I failed to look beyond the headline. Silly me.
When I finally did read the rest, I was less surprised – but I was utterly disgusted and amazed that somebody who had the honour to share a pitch with (and be heavily defeated by) Don Revie‘s Super Leeds could be so bitter, such a small-minded little man. For genial Greavsie, that impish cockney bundle of fun, had included in his Top 50 British Greats not one member of that fabulous Super Leeds side which dominated football for a decade and which regularly finished above the teams for which so many of Greaves’ Chosen Ones had played. And there I was, just a few short weeks ago, saying nice things about the little bugger. Well, I take it all back. Today I come, not to praise Greavsie, but to bury the sod.
It simply makes the mind boggle. Not one Leeds player from that Glory era of Bremner, Giles, Gray, Clarke, Lorimer et al. Not a single, solitary one. John Charles, of course, the Jimmy Greaves choice for number one, played at Elland Road in his first spell with Leeds before the Revie years, making a brief but only moderately successful comeback in the early part of the Don’s reign, before heading back off to la dolce vita. King John’s honours were won on foreign fields; he was not part of the Leeds success story. Did this exempt him in Greaves’ tiny and still semi-pickled mind from the hatred and disrespect with which he has always referred to the great Leeds side? Was there some envy there?
Greaves, let us not forget, for all the praise heaped on him as a natural finisher, didn’t win all that much in his career. You could fairly say he bottled it. No League Titles, just a cup or two. He missed out on the World Cup Final in 1966 due to injury, making way for one Geoff Hurst, who fortunately had a fair old game that day. You have to admit that Leeds, for all their talent, were underachievers (largely due to some corrupt refereeing) – but Greavsie out-shone them in that. Perhaps this explains some of that elderly bile and bitterness?
It’s not an unknown phenomenon, this steely determination to ignore Leeds United when the plaudits are being handed out. It’s sadly quite common and, despite the fact that it reflects ill on those who perpetrate the omissions, exposing them for the petty, shallow revisionists that they are, still they queue up to overlook that great side, and to be seen doing so. It’s as if there are brownie points to be collected somewhere for the person or persons who can show that they possess the biggest pair of anti-Leeds blinkers in the whole media. What a sad indictment of supposedly impartial coverage – and the ostensibly most impartial of them all, the good old BBC, are among the worst offenders.
A little while ago, I wrote – well, ranted – about the BBC’s determined stance on ignoring Don Revie when they put together a montage of legendary managers. It was laughable. There were managers in there who’d hardly won a bean – good sound men, but not in the same class as the Don, a man who built a European superpower from a provincial nonentity of a football club, scorned by many in a city devoted to Rugby League. The worldwide fanatical following that United have, even today, have their roots in the miracle wrought by Revie, the greatest manager of all time. So, I complained to Auntie Beeb, and got the standard fob-off response, naturally. The complacent pillars of the media don’t like being challenged in their cosy little ivory tower funk-holes, they would rather you just concentrate on what they’re saying and not try thinking for yourself too much.
There’s no need for me to start in on correcting Greaves’ list, or indeed the BBC’s laboriously-constructed montage of managers – either would be an exercise in the bleedin’ obvious. I’m simply happy to get this off my chest, to point out what smug, self-satisfied hypocrites and charlatans these people are, who feel that they really can reinvent history and expunge a whole, massively-significant part of it from the public consciousness. It’ll never happen, too many of us out here remember all too well who the top dogs were back in the day – and more and more of us are stomping our way into print, the better to emphasise exactly what was what. So you may take your heavily-edited version of history, Messrs Greaves, Lineker, Hansen and Shearer, and you may stick it where the monkey stuck its nuts.
The truth after all is out there, the evidence is easy to find, and even though some of the men so cruelly overlooked – Bremner and Revie for very obvious examples – are no longer around to defend themselves, there are plenty out here only too eager to do it for them. Say what you like, Greavsie, but we were there too, we remember and we know better.