The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie’s Leeds United book review

The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie's Leeds United
The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie's Leeds United

Like many football mad schoolboys of my generation, I was spellbound by the Leeds United team of the early 1970’s; and though family members supported QPR and Chelsea, the lure of Leeds in their all-white kit, arrogance and flair was too much. I would play left-wing for my school gripping my cuffs and always with my socks rolled down; the commentary in my head acting out Eddie Gray’s every move.

In the first half of the 1970’s Leeds United were the best club team in England and one of the most prolific in Europe.  However, history doesn’t show they were quite as great as they actually were due to missing out on cups and titles on several occasions.

The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie’s Leeds United is a well researched book following the years in which Don Revie became Leeds United’s Player Manager in the early 1960’s and over the following decade built Leeds Untied into a European force in the world of football.  This was achieved by completely rebuilding the club and everything associated with it including changing the home strip from blue & gold in favour of the all-white strip of European Champions Real Madrid; and in the process helping to formulate a different tactical approach for other English club teams and managers to follow.

Unfortunately Don Revie’s Leeds was infamous for their hard-tackling and so-called ‘professional’ fouls.  Though this helped Leeds to rise from the second tier of English Football to become League Champions and one of the most prolific club sides of that generation, their style of football made them very unpopular, something that still dogs them to this day, hence the title of this book – The Unforgiven.

Leeds United fans Rob Bagchi & Paul Rogerson have written a brilliant book that is only slightly let down by its unbiased views.  Maybe Leeds were unfairly treated by referees and the Football League Association, and furthermore wrongly accused of not playing exciting football.  But the fact is Leeds were a dirty team that quite possibly under the management of cynical yet forward-thinking Don Revie would do anything possible to provoke their opponents and in doing so win what sometimes appeared to be a battle rather than a game.  This was admired by some but caused bitter disgust from most football fans, players and journalists alike.

The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie’s Leeds United was originally published in 2002 and gets a well deserved reprint with a new foreword, following the recent success of the film, The Damned United charting Don Revie’s successor Brian Clough’s 44 days in charge.

Reading this book the memories of my youth came flooding back.  The sock tassels, Mick Jones broken arm in the 1972 FA Cup against Arsenal, just how bad Gary Sprake really was, those cool Admiral tracksuits, Peter Lorimer’s thunderbolts and how Leeds managed to lose the 1973 FA Cup final to Second Division Sunderland.

The Unforgiven was a great read.

The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie’s Leeds United
by Rob Bagchi & Paul Rogerson published by Aurum Press priced £8.99

Unpredictable results in the nPower Championship leave QPR on top

Tuesday night’s games showed how unpredictable the nPower Championship can be. Ipswich hadn’t lost to QPR at Portman Road since February 2005 but two first half goals from John Mackie and a Heidar Helguson penalty 20 minutes from time mean that Queens Park Rangers take a three point lead into Saturday’s game…which just happens to be at Leicester City, who ended Cardiff City’s unbeaten record with a 2-1 win at the Walkers Stadium. The Bluebirds had led at half time, but an Andy King brace ensured both a much needed home win and a measure of revenge for last season’s play off defeat; the win also ended Cardiff’s record of four consecutive wins and three consecutive clean sheets.

In the battle of the rookie managers, last week’s prediction that beating Preston North End might be the sign of better things for Sheffield United was exposed for what it was as Gary Speed’s outfit were hammered 4-0 at home by Scunthorpe; former Notts County, QPR and Scunthorpe defender Ian Baraclough made his managerial debut following Nigel Adkins’ departure to Southampton. Not that far away, almost 7000 travelling Leeds fans must have been delighted that their team scored after three minutes at Oakwell – Leeds also scored the last goal of the game but in between five different Barnsley players to give the hosts their biggest win over their Yorkshire rivals for almost a quarter of a century.

Many of those Leeds United fans will be making the slightly longer journey to Doncaster Rovers on Friday night for the first game of the weekend which is live on Sky Sports 3 at 7:45pm. Not many of them will remember the last time their team lost to Doncaster in a league game (August 1951!) but they’ll be aware that Doncaster are one of the ten teams who haven’t lost at home yet.

Millwall also haven’t lost at home this season and they have an intriguing game at home to Watford on Saturday afternoon. The Lions earned a useful point in a goalless draw at Reading and currently occupy third place on goal difference; the Hornets are one of a number of clubs who are performing better on their travels than at home and a 2-0 win at Bristol City during the week showed that the Hertfordshire club should not be underestimated.

There are a number of contenders for game of the week – Swansea v Scunthorpe, Derby’s trip to Barnsley and the contest between former Premiership sides Middlesbrough and Reading at the Riverside should all be worth keeping an eye on, but Ipswich v Cardiff looks like the pick of the crop this week, although it could be a close game without many goals. Having both lost on Tuesday night it will be interesting to see how these clubs react to defeats: Ipswich have only lost once at home to Cardiff in the last ten meetings but they haven’t won consecutive home games in the Championship since last March.

The weekend programme finishes with another televised game when Hull City travel to Nottingham Forest (Sky Sports 2, ko 5:15) for the first time since the 1976/77 season, which is remarkable considering both clubs have experienced so many ups and downs over the past decade.

Looking forward to the resumption of next round of the Carling Cup next week, Championship sides are guaranteed two places in the last sixteen. Leicester City have to make the trip to Fratton Park twice in a week – next Tuesday in the cup and next Saturday in the league – to face a Portsmouth team that has yet to win a game over 90 minutes; Ipswich visit Millwall and Swansea have a tricky looking tie at Peterborough United. Finally Burnley entertain Bolton Wanderers in another Lancashire derby – if it’s half as entertaining as their dramatic come from behind win over Preston that featured a Chris Iwelumo hat-trick, then fans of the Clarets will be very happy indeed!

Carling Cup, Steve Coppell & Championship League round up

The rather indifferent form of nPower Championship league teams in the first round of the Carling Cup this week – eight teams knocked out and four teams needing extra time to conquer opposition from lower divisions – was overshadowed on Thursday with the news of the first managerial casualty of the season. Steve Coppell resigned from Bristol City in particular and from football management in general, with the club website quoting Coppell as saying that he ‘could not become passionate about the role and give the commitment the position it demands’.

If an opening day defeat and being beaten by lower league opposition in the Carling Cup represents some sort of benchmark then Mark Robbins (Barnsley) and Billy Davies (Nottingham Forest) should take note.

Bristol City immediately appointed Steve Coppell’s assistant Keith Millen as their new manager: the former Brentford and Watford defender finished his career at Bristol City and was caretaker manager at the club after Gary Johnson left with nine games to go last season.

The first weekend of the new season resulted in five away wins – including a 3-1 Ipswich Town win at Middlesbrough – and only one draw. QPR thumped Barnsley 4-0 and Crystal Palace were 3-0 up at half time at home to Leicester but had to hold on for the last six minutes after the visitors twice in the second half. Hull and Burnley both won – as did three of the four clubs I picked to struggle!

Nottingham Forest, QPR and Sheffield United were the biggest casualties in the first round of the Carling Cup and the draw for the second round features three all Championship games – which means that only nine sides from the division will feature in the third round. It’s been nine seasons since a team from outside the Premiership reached the final of the competition and at this stage it looks unlikely that any of the Championship sides will end that streak.

Looking forward to this weekend, there are three games between teams that started their seasons with wins. Watford take on Coventry City at Vicarage Road, Hull City travel to Millwall and arguably the game of the day on Saturday is Ipswich v Burnley – although eight of the last ten meetings between these two at Portman Road have finished in draws and Burnley haven’t won at Ipswich since January 1970. Sunday’s televised game is between Leeds and Nottingham Forest (ko 1:15pm on Sky Sports 1) could also be a cracker.

There could also be some very early clues about which teams could face an uphill struggle. Having lost at home to Watford, Norwich City travel to Glanford Park to play Scunthorpe United, who won at Reading last weekend and defeated Oldham in the Carling Cup during the week. To add to their woes, Bristol City will be without striker Nicky Maynard until November at the earliest and will not relish the journey to Doncaster Rovers – South Yorkshire has not been a happy hunting ground for the Robins in the past.

nPower Championship Football League Preview

It’s highly likely that the 2010/11 nPower Championship football league will be more competitive than last season: Newcastle United became the sixth club in the last 20 seasons to win the Championship the season after being relegated from the Premiership.

Middlesbrough – another club with recent Premiership experience – are current favourites. Manager Gordon Strachan has bought in Kris Boyd from Rangers; if Boyd reproduces his outstanding goalscoring record in the Championship, he could be play a vital part in Boro’s promotion bid.

Although the clubs relegated from the Premiership shouldn’t be entirely written off, Burnley look the best equipped for a serious promotion challenge: Chris Iwelumo’s arrival from Wolves looks like a shrewd investment. Both Hull City and Portsmouth have off field issues that could hinder their efforts to make an immediate return to the top tier.

Two of the teams that reached the play offs last season should challenge for promotion places. Nottingham Forest were outstanding at home last season and Leicester City – where former Swansea City boss Paolo Sousa replaces Nigel Pearson as manager – look capable of maintaining their form from 2009/2010. Cardiff City’s prospects are unclear, but they should still be capable of a top ten finish, a prospect that both Ipswich Town and QPR will be hoping to achieve.

It’ll be interesting to see how the new arrivals from League One will perform. Champions Norwich City return after one season but may have to settle for a mid table finish; Leeds United will probably lead the division in attendance numbers, but their season may depend on how well new signing Billy Paynter adapts to the Championship. Millwall should avoid relegation but may have to be content with a bottom half finish in their first season at this level since 2005/2006.

A number of teams look as if they may struggle. Scunthorpe always seem to be punching above their weight but selling Gary Hooper to Celtic leaves The Iron without a proven goal scorer. Barnsley need to improve at home, Crystal Palace entered administration but eventually owed their survival to an outstanding away record that culminated in a win at Sheffield Wednesday on the last day of the season.

However, every club in the nPower Football League Championship will start on equal terms when the season starts on the evening of Friday August 6th, when Watford travel to Norwich City (7:45pm kick off, live on Sky Sports 3).