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