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date: 27 February 2021

Revie, Donald [Don]free

  • Anne Pimlott Baker
  • , revised

Donald Revie (1927–1989)

by unknown photographer, 1969

Revie, Donald [Don] (1927–1989), footballer and football manager, was born on 10 July 1927 at 20 Bell Street, Middlesbrough, the youngest in the family of one son and twin daughters of Donald Revie, journeyman joiner, of Middlesbrough, and his wife, Margaret Emily Haston. His mother died when Revie was twelve. He was educated at Archibald secondary modern school, Middlesbrough, and left school at fourteen to become an apprentice bricklayer, before joining Leicester City Football Club in 1943. Hull City bought him for £20,000 in 1950. On 17 October 1949 he married Elsie May Leonard (b. 1927/8), primary school teacher, daughter of Thomas Grosett Duncan, professional footballer, and niece of the Leicester City manager, John Duncan. They had one son and one daughter.

Revie transferred to Manchester City in 1953, and reached his peak as a footballer in the mid-1950s, winning six England caps and being voted footballer of the year in 1955. Manchester City won the Football Association (FA) cup in 1956, using what became known as the ‘Revie plan’, with Revie, as centre-forward, lying deep while feeding the ball to the other forwards and then moving through in the final stage, a tactic copied from the successful Hungarian team by the Manchester City manager.

Revie moved to Leeds United in 1958, after two years with Sunderland. At Leeds he was appointed manager in 1961, at a time when the club was struggling to avoid relegation to the third division. Revie not only avoided this, but brought Leeds to the top of the second division in 1964, and second to Manchester United in the first division in 1965, winning the League championship in 1969 with 67 points, the highest total in the history of the championship, and the FA cup in 1972. His ambitions for the club were not confined to the domestic scene, and in 1968 Leeds won the European Fairs cup (the UEFA cup), beating Ferencváros 1–0, the first British club to win the cup. Despite these successes, Leeds had the reputation of being perpetual runners-up: they lost to Liverpool in the 1965 FA cup final, came second in the League championship in 1965, 1966, and 1970, lost to Chelsea in the FA cup final in 1970, were runners-up to Arsenal in the League championship in 1971, and lost to second-division Sunderland in the 1973 FA cup final. Revie never achieved his ambition for Leeds to win the European cup.

However, encouraged by the British media, which declared Leeds to have the best side in the world at the beginning of the 1969–70 season, Revie was confident of a treble victory: the European cup, the FA cup, and the League championship. In the end all three eluded Leeds, partly as a result of a pile-up of fixtures, compounded by injuries. In 1974, after Leeds United had won the League championship, remaining undefeated for the first twenty-nine games of the season, Revie resigned to take up the position of England team manager, following the sacking of Sir Alf Ramsey after England had failed to qualify for the 1974 world cup finals.

After a successful first season as the England manager, with the team undefeated after nine internationals, Revie encountered a set-back when England was eliminated from the European championship early in the 1975–6 season. He was faced with the task of building an international side with players from many different clubs, and it was hard to achieve the family atmosphere that had been so successful at Leeds. Moreover, his difficult relationship with Alan Hardaker, secretary of the Football League, made his task harder. While Revie was manager, England won fourteen out of twenty-nine matches, with seven defeats and eight draws. The poor results were attributed to the uncertainty and lack of continuity caused by frequent team changes rather than to the lack of outstanding players. He used fifty-two players in the twenty-nine games, awarding twenty-nine new caps, and he only once fielded an unchanged side. Morale sagged when England lost 2–0 to Italy in a world cup qualifying match in November 1976, and the press began to forecast England's elimination from the competition and Revie's dismissal.

In July 1977 the Daily Mail, to which Revie had sold his story, revealed that he had been in secret negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while the England team had been playing in South America, had accepted the post of team manager to the UAE for four years at £60,000 a year, and had resigned from his England job. This led the Football Association to ban him from English football for ten years. Revie successfully appealed against the ban in the High Court in November 1979, on the grounds that the head of the tribunal, Sir Harold Thompson, chairman of the Football Association, was biased. But the judge made it clear that it was still felt that Revie's conduct in leaving England so abruptly had brought English football into disrepute. He became manager of al-Nasir Football Club in 1980, and moved to the National Football Club, Cairo, in 1984.

At Leeds, Revie had aimed to make the club as famous as Real Madrid. By the time he left in 1974 some argued that Leeds was the greatest club side of all time, and that his achievements lay there, and not in his spell as England manager. He transformed Leeds from a club in danger of relegation into a club aiming at, and achieving, major honours at home and abroad.

Revie was appointed OBE in 1970, and was voted manager of the year in 1969, 1970, and 1972. Always well dressed, he had the pugnacious features of a boxer. He was very superstitious, and had a lucky blue suit, which he always wore on match days.

Revie died on 26 May 1989 in Murrayfield Private Hospital, Edinburgh, of motor neurone disease, survived by his wife and children. He was cremated on 30 May at Warriston crematorium, Edinburgh.


  • D. Revie, Soccer's happy wanderer (1955)
  • E. Thornton, Leeds United and Don Revie (1970)
  • A. Mourant, Don Revie: portrait of a footballing enigma (1990)
  • J. Rogan, The football managers (1989)
  • The Independent (27 May 1989)
  • b. cert.
  • m. cert.
  • A. Mourant, ‘The Revie revolution’, Leeds United. The official illustrated history (1997), 48–102


Wealth at Death

£67,786: probate, 3 Aug 1989, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Hulton|Archive, Getty Images, London
Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]