AF Book Review: Revie – Revered and Reviled

He was the manager of England and he was under pressure to perform.  The team had seriously under-achieved and the knives were out for his sacking.  Others were already being touted as a replacement.  Under this he opted to sort himself with managerial post to move to.

I’m talking about Don Revie, right?  Well, not on this occasion, I’m actually talking about Sir Bobby Robson.  His departure did not cause a big fuss, though.  It was done with the knowledge of the FA and he would go at the end of the 1990 World Cup, so that was alright.

Revie, however, is castigated because of being in a similar position and choosing to sort himself out under cover before eventually sensationally leaving the post for another with little notice given to the FA.  The uproar and aftermath firmly etched a picture in the minds of football lovers of a duplicitous, greedy, disloyal, selfish operator and a disgrace to football.

I do enjoy reappraising reputations.  It is almost too easy to rely on popular perceptions of people rather than consider other approaches to them that may dissuade some or challenge other preconceptions.  This is one of the drivers behind this authorised biography of Don Revie.

The title of the book captures well the contrasting opinions on the man.  There are a select few who do revere him for what he contributed to the game as a player and a manager.  Whereas it may not be unfair to suggest the majority of knowledgeable football followers are more likely to revile him rather than revere.

I would usually subscribe to this opinion of him.  I heard the basics on him – the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag, the apparent underhand deals for players and managers to ‘take it easy’ in matches, the financial inducements to lure players to Leeds United, the England disaster culminating in the shameful money-grubbing departure.

Sutcliffe does not refute all the charges made against Revie.  He is not out as an apologist to suggest that actually it was more a case of St. Don rather than Scum Don.  What he addresses however is a fuller picture of Don Revie.  This highlights the really outstanding and positive impact he made on the game.  Struggling to hit the peak of his professional career, before attaining it all too briefly at Manchester City.  The ongoing sadness of seeing a Leeds team appear to be always the bridesmaids and never the bride.

It is a sympathetic portrayal of someone who was essentially human.  Flawed, certainly, but no less an innovator and a pioneer in his field who engendered a spirit and camaraderie at club level and an ability to fight for each other that has yet to be replicated at any football club at any other time.  Sutcliffe gives glimpses of the man who was adored by his children and was hailed by a number in football for what he achieved and allowed others to achieve, likewise.

That pursuit of a more balanced picture of Revie helps considerably in reappraising the life and times of Don Revie.  It also helps confirm some suspicions on the FA which does not put them in the best light.  A critical point made in the book contrasts the response of the press to Revie on leaving England with the shenanigans of future managers of the country which were not similarly crucified.

The conclusion I reach concerning this book is that in as much as Revie deserved to be seen in a negative light because of the England kerfuffle. It was also clear in hindsight he perhaps was not cut out for international management as opposed to the day to day contact with players.  In a big way it is a shame he was not able to carry on his career after his jaunt to the Middle East.  Yet, apparently that was the nature of football.

Sutcliffe provides a fascinating insight into a different perspective on the man and should be praised for it.  This is an easy to read book with enough to evoke responses from those who love the game and are just interested in the complexity of humanity.  It works at helping us realise that there are more to people than ey-catching headlines and oft-spouted aspersions on reputations.




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