It’s sad yet instructive, on the 27th anniversary of Don Revie’s tragically early death, to reflect that, had Massimo Cellino been in charge at Elland Road in the early sixties, the Super Leeds glory days would never have come about.
We all know the story of how Don inherited a shambles of a football club, with no tradition, a diffident body of support and a history that amounted to one second division title and one truly world-class player in forty-odd years of relentless mediocrity. Revie only got the job because a far-sighted club director, while writing him a reference for another managerial post, realised that this was the manager United needed. And, despite a difficult start, Don Revie accomplished the greatest transformation at any club, ever. The perennial ugly ducklings became the fabulous Mighty Whites. Unfashionable Leeds United, long-term no-hopers, became the finest club side on the planet.
Those were the days, of course, when football directors knew their place, by and large. For the most part, they looked to recruit a professional genius, support him in working his magic, and sit back to bask in any resulting reflected glory. That was the way it was done, and quite right too. Thus, Revie survived that difficult start, created a clannish family atmosphere out of an outstandingly gifted group of junior footballers, and went on to dominate domestic and European football for a decade. These days, of course, he’d have been down the road before you even had the chance to dream.