Tall and skilful inside forward Don Revie joined the Tigers in November 1949 as Raich Carter assembled a squad of star players capable of repeating the promotion of the 1948/49 season and pushing on into the First Division. The Tigers fought off interest from First Division sides Arsenal and Manchester City to seal Revie’s signature, who during his two seasons of senior football at Leicester City had proved himself one of the game’s hot properties. Hull City were third in the Division Two table when Revie signed, so he might have thought that he’d soon be playing in the First Division anyway – a judgement that proved erroneous. The prospect of playing alongside ex-England international forward Raich Carter, the Tigers’ player-manager, was also stated as a major draw for Revie.
While Revie was renowned as a skilful schemer in forward areas, he lacked pace and was regarded as something of a lightweight for his size. The Tigers paid a whopping £20,000 for his services so dropping Revie was not an option, but for four months he occupied the inside right berth and managed only one goal in that time, the fourth in a 5-0 drubbing of Southport in a January 1950 FA Cup tie. When City beat Plymouth in late January they went second in the Second Division table and promotion to the top flight continued to beckon – however a run of just one win in 15 league matches saw the Tigers tumble to seventh in the table and promotion became a distant pipe dream, while Revie saw out the season filling in at right half.
In the 1950/51 season Revie continued to split his time between inside right and right half, a portent of the deep-lying forward role that he was to pioneer five years later at Manchester City. He scored three goals ahead of the New Year celebrations, winners against Swansea and Brentford in the early weeks of the season and a Boxing Day equaliser against Sheffield United. Don missed only one game all season, a late April defeat at Preston, and added five more goals in the early months of 1951 as City’s form, fluctuating between heavy defeat and crushing victory, saw the club finish in mid-table. When the Tigers got off to a poor start at the beginning of the 1951/52 season and Carter resigned from the manager’s post, Revie was shorn of his mentor and became restless. In October 1951, a month after he scored twice in a 5-2 win over Swansea, Revie finally got his move to the top flight as he was transferred to Manchester City for a £25,000 fee that comprised £13,000 in cash and another £12,000 in the form of makeweight full back Ernie Phillips.
Donald George “Don” Revie was born in central Middlesbrough, near the Newport Bridge over the River Tees. His mother died before he was a teenager and his father struggled to find work as a joiner. After impressing for local amateur side Middlesbrough Swifts while training as a bricklayer, Revie was signed by Leicester City in 1944 – the Foxes were managed by ex-Tiger Johnnie Duncan while Swifts had a regular tie-up with Leicester. When the Football League resumed in August 1946 after the World War Two closedown, Revie was thrust into first team action by Leicester from the off and the teenager quickly became a pivotal part of the Second Division side’s first XI. His first senior goal came in October 1946 against Plymouth and by the end of the season his goal tally had risen to seven. A fractured ankle sustained in November 1947 saw Don miss most of the 1947/48 season but he returned to the Leicester first team in August 1948 and struck 20 goals, the best goals haul of his career, including his only career hattrick in November 1948 against Nottingham Forest. Leicester spent the 1948/49 season in the lower half of the Division Two table but did reach the FA Cup Final, with Revie scoring twice against Birmingham in the Third Round and twice more against Portsmouth in the Semi-Final at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium. Alas, Leicester were unable to select Revie for the Cup Final against Wolves due to a heavy nose bleed and Wolves ran out 3-1 winners. During the 1949 close season Revie agitated for a transfer away from Leicester, whose ambition to reach the top flight was questionable, and he eventually left Filbert Street and joined Hull City in November 1949 – Revie scored 29 goals in 110 starts for the Foxes in a three and half years spell.
Revie joined Manchester City in October 1951 and quickly became a first team regular at Maine Road. He became the arch exponent of the ‘Revie Plan’ playing as a deeper lying forward behind the centre forward rather than slavishly lining up alongside him in a typical inside forward position. While his time at Manchester City began with two seasons battling in the lower reaches of the First Division table, by 1954 Revie’s revolutionary play helped the Citizens rise up the league table and reach two FA Cup Finals. In the 1955 final Newcastle United prevailed 3-1 after an early injury to full back Jimmy Meadows reduced them to ten men, Revie playing the whole match alongside fellow ex-Tiger Paddy Fagan. In the 1956 final, which Revie also started, Manchester City beat Birmingham City 3-1 despite goalkeeper Bert Trautmann playing the last 17 minutes in a dazed state after suffering a broken bone in his neck.
At the start of the 1956/57 season Manchester City were again struggling in the lower reaches of the First Division and Revie, who had been the English game’s player of the season a year earlier, secured a transfer to Sunderland in return for a £20,000 fee – he made 178 starts for Manchester City and netted 41 times. Don spent just over two years at Roker Park and after suffering relegation to Division Two at the end of the 1957/58 season he was again looking for a move – he scored 15 goals in 66 starts for Sunderland.
In November 1958 a £14,000 fee took Revie to Leeds United, commencing a 16 year association with the Yorkshire club that would define his life. Managed by ex-Tiger Jack Taylor, Leeds were relegated to the Second Division in 1960 and in March 1961 Taylor was dismissed and Revie took over as player-manager. The last of his 80 senior starts for Leeds, which yielded 12 goals, came in March 1962, by which time Revie had already largely ceased playing in order to focus on management duties.
As the 1960s progressed boardroom investment was used by Revie to sign a number of key players – tenacious Scotsman Bobby Collins (a future Hull City manager) in 1962 and Alan Peacock in 1964 – while youth team products like Norman Hunter, Eddie Gray (another future Hull City manager) and Peter Lorimer came into a team that already contained stalwarts Billy Bremner (a future City player) and Jack Charlton. Revie created a collective spirit throughout the club that allowed him to drive the players to extra heights in terms of workrate and destructiveness on the pitch – Revie’s Leeds were a winning football side, but also a ruthlessly dirty side when the occasion required it. Leeds lifted the Second Division title at the end of the 1963/64 season and immediately competed at the upper end of the First Division, finishing second in the 1964/65 and 1965/66 seasons and reaching the 1965 FA Cup Final only to lose to Liverpool at Wembley. Leeds lifted the League Cup and the Inter City Fairs Cup in 1968, the latter a competition they were beaten finalists in the year before. In the 1968/69 season they won the First Division title, compiling a 34 match unbeaten run that was a club record for many decades. Revie’s Leeds repeated that League title win in 1974 but narrowly failed to emulate it in the four intervening seasons when they never finished outside the top three. A 1972 FA Cup final win over Arsenal was followed by defeat to Second Division Sunderland at Wembley a year later. As the mid-1970s approached Revie had led Leeds United to unprecedented success, plus numerous near-misses, over a sustained ten year period.
Revie turned down a lucrative offer in 1973 to become Everton’s manager but when he was offered the England international manager’s job in July 1974 he found the lure impossible to resist. Revie spent the opening months of his England tenure commenting unfavourably about arch rival Brian Clough, his short-lived successor as manager at Leeds United who was raised in a Middlesbrough home only a mile away from Revie’s – decades later Clough’s first home sported a commemorative plaque, Revie’s did not. Revie then failed to achieve qualification for the 1976 European Championships and with the qualifying campaign for the 1978 World Cup Finals not progressing as planned, Revie concocted a scouting mission in May 1977 that provided cover for his interest in taking over as manager of the United Arab Emirates, a role with considerably less footballing prestige but considerably more money than the equivalent role for England. Revie announced his resignation from the England job via a newspaper in July 1977, failing to inform his employers in person first, and after three years working in the UAE Revie took club manager jobs in Dubai and Egypt before returning to England in 1981. After initially settling in Surrey, Revie moved to Perthshire in Scotland in 1986 and within a year he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, an affliction that ended his life in an Edinburgh hospital in May 1989.
As well as England’s manager for three years, Don Revie was also capped for England as a player in the 1950s while playing for Manchester City. His first cap came against Scotland in March 1954 and by October 1956 his tally extended to six caps, which also featured four goals including a brace in October 1955 against Denmark.
Revie was honoured by Leeds United, the club where he achieved his greatest successes, when a statue was erected outside Elland Road in 2012 – it depicted Revie smiling and celebrating in his suit and overcoat. A stand at Elland Road was also named after Don Revie.
Date/Place of Birth: 10 July 1927, Middlesbrough
Hull City First Game: 12 November 1949, Coventry City H (Division Two), 22 years, 125 days old
Hull City Final Game: 13 October 1951, Sheffield Wednesday H (Division Two), 24 years, 95 days old
Middlesbrough Swifts, Leicester City (1944-1949), Hull City (1949-1951), Manchester City (1951-1956), Sunderland (1956-1958), Leeds United (1958-1962)
Hull City Record
Career: 82 apps, 13 goalsDon Revie