Eddie Gray was appointed manager at Hull City in June 1988, leaving his post at Rochdale to join the Tigers in the aftermath of Brian Horton’s rash dismissal two months earlier. Gray inherited a talented squad assembled by his predecessor, then adding height and strength in the form of Sunderland striker John Moore, Watford centre back Steve Terry and, later in the season, versatile big man Peter Swan from Leeds United. An opening day victory over Manchester City raised hopes amongst the City faithful but only five more league wins in the calendar year saw the Tigers drift into the bottom six by Christmas 1988. The New Year saw the Tigers eliminate Cardiff City and Bradford City from the FA Cup and set up a sumptuous Fifth Round tie against Division One giants Liverpool – with the Tigers 2-1 up at half-time a deafening cacophony of whispered incredulousness swept across Boothferry Park, but the game ended 3-2 to the Reds. The defeat had a significant negative impact on Gray’s side, which promptly lost the next six league matches and left the Tigers hovering just above the relegation zone. City only won one more League match that season though in the end a series of draws in the closing weeks saw the Tigers steer clear of the relegation places by one position and five points. The thrilling Cup run aside, Gray’s first season at Boothferry Park had not been a success and he was dismissed a week after the season ended.
Edwin “Eddie” Gray was born in Glasgow and raised in the Castlemilk district on the southern fringes of the city. His father was a welder from the tough Glaswegian streets of Gorbals who played at left half in junior football, though his playing career was cut short by World War Two and a shrapnel wound he sustained in 1944 while serving the Highland Light Infantry in the Netherlands. Eddie represented Scotland in schoolboy internationals and at the age of 15 was identified as one of the most promising young footballers in the British Isles. He attracted interest from local giants Glasgow Celtic as well as numerous other clubs from the higher echolons of the English Football League, but he chose to join Don Revie’s English Division Two challengers Leeds United in May 1963. Gray signed his first professional contract for Leeds in January 1965, having signed amateur terms prior to then in order that the limit on payments to apprentice players could be circumvented, and he made his first team debut a year later on New Years Day 1966, scoring the opener in a 3-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday. He remained in the first team squad for the rest of the 1965/66 season as Leeds finished Division One runners-up, he also started both legs of the Fairs Cup semi-final against Spanish side Real Zaragoza that Leeds lost on the aways goals rule.
In the 1966/67 season Gray established himself as a key part of Leeds United’s attack as manager Revie created a tight-knit squad that showed enviable team spirit and grit, matched with considerable talent – Gray himself was soon regarded as one of the finest wingers in the English game, placed by some on a par with Manchester United’s talismanic Northern Irishman George Best. Gray won his first medals in the 1967/68 season as Leeds defeated Arsenal in the March 1968 League Cup final then claimed the Fairs Cup two months later after defeating Scottish side Dundee. Eddie contributed five goals in the 1968/69 season as the Whites claimed the Division One title, in the 1969/70 season the perennial bridesmaid that was Leeds United finished runners-up in Division One, lost the FA Cup Final to Chelsea and were eliminated from the European Cup by Celtic at the semi-final stage.
As the 1970s began Leeds were one of the English games most powerful and at times notorious sides, with Gray renowned as a creative force that benefitted from the robust approach to the game adopted by several of his team mates. Leeds lifted the Division One title again in the 1973/74 season, though injury limited Gray to just eight appearances, won the Fairs Cup again in 1970/71 season and lifted the FA Cup a year later. Eddie played on as the late 1970s saw Leeds decline from their peak under Don Revie and after withdrawing to a left back role he made his last appearance for the club in May 1984 – a one-club man, Eddie Gray won six trophies and scored 69 goals in 579 senior appearances across at eighteen year career. He was also made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1983.
Leeds United were relegated from Division One at the end of the 1981/82 season and in July 1982 Gray took over the managerial reins from Allan Clarke, another star player from the 1970s Leeds side. He was player/manager for two seasons before concentrating solely on management during the 1984/85 season, which saw the Whites finish seventh in Division Two, the best of Gray’s three seasons in charge. After a poor start to the 1985/86 season Gray was dismissed in October 1985, drawing to a close his 22 year continuous association with the Yorkshire side.
Despite his undoubted talent Gray as a player was not a regular choice for the Scotland international team, often due to injuries. He won two Scotland Under-23 caps in November 1966 and March 1967, then made his senior debut in May 1969 against England. He won twelve senior caps for Scotland in three bursts – four in 1969, four in 1971 and the final four between May 1976 and his final cap against Wales in November 1976, scoring three goals against Cyprus in May 1969, Wales in May 1976 and Finland in September 1976.
In November 1985 Gray joined Northern League side Whitby Town as a player but after four months he suffered a knee injury that drew a close to his playing career. Gray returned to professional football in the 1986/87 season, initially working as youth team coach at Middlesbrough under former Scotland team-mate Bruce Rioch. Then in December 1986 Eddie was appointed manager at Division Four strugglers Rochdale with Jimmy Lumsden working as his assistant – Lumsden was Gray’s boyhood pal from his early days as a 15 year old at Leeds United. Eddie guided Dale away from the relegation zone in his first season and achieved a similar outcome in the 1987/88 season before leaving to join Hull City during the 1988 close season.
Following the end of his tenure at Hull City in May 1989 Eddie returned to Whitby Town in September 1989 and took the manager’s job at the Northern League side, but resigned his post in May 1990 to pursue other interests. He undertook media and ambassadorial roles and also led summer coaching schools – he even appeared on A Question of Sport in 1993 – before rejoining the Leeds United coaching staff in June 1995 after applying for a rather more humble Football in the Community role. In the 1997 close season he rose to become Leeds’ reserves manager and guided his charges to the Reserves League title, in October 1998 he was elevated again to assistant first team manager under newly appointed gaffer David O’Leary only to be demoted back to Reserves Manager again in March 2001. Eddie remained on the staff at Leeds United and in November 2003 he was made caretaker manager of the first team when Peter Reid was dismissed, a post he retained until May 2004. Gray subsequently fulfilled various posts for Leeds United, becoming a club ambassador for many years as well as working the media commenting on the club’s ups and downs.
During his long association with Leeds United Eddie observed the emergence of several relatives who played in the Leeds United side – his brother Frank, Frank’s son Andy Gray and Andy’s son Archie Gray. Eddie’s own son Stuart Gray, one of his six children, played for Celtic, Reading and Rushden & Diamonds in the 1990s and 2000s – in 2009 Stuart portrayed his father in the film The Damned United, which dramatised the notorious 44 day tenure of Brian Clough as Leeds United’s manager in 1974.
Date/Place of Birth: 17 January 1948, Glasgow, Scotland
Appointed by Hull City: 13 June 1988; 40 years, 148 days old
Left Hull City: 20 May 1989; 41 years, 123 days old
Tenure: 341 days
Leeds United (1982-1985), Rochdale (1986-1988), Hull City (1988-1989), Whitby Town (1989-1990), Leeds United (2003-2004)
Hull City Record
Playing Record: Played 52, Won 13, Drawn 14, Lost 25, Goals For 60, Goals Against 80
Achievements: 21st in Division Two, 1988/89 season