The quiet Don – Revie’s legacy to football

‘When Eddie Gray plays on snow, he doesn’t leave any footprints,’ Don Revie once declared of his Leeds winger.  In some respects and with hindsight he could have been talking about how his achievements in football have been criminally overlooked.

 Despite the years passing there are still books, articles, and documentaries that fondly wax lyrically about the success and legacy of Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Jock Stein, and Brian Clough.

Yet despite the success of Leeds and being the man who put the Yorkshire club on the map Revie’s achievements are now in the shadows.  Even when Revie’s name is mentioned it has negative connotations that gloss over his talents.

When Don Revie took charge as player-manager in March 1961 of a struggling Leeds United side there was no indication or apparent ambition for the success that was to come.  Rugby league and even cricket were the main sports of West Yorkshire with football not even coming into the equation.  By the end of the decade this was to change with Leeds becoming one of the most feared and dominant sides of English football.

Don Revie was born in Middlesbrough although his playing career came with  Leicester City with stints at Hull City, Manchester City, and Sunderland.  He was by all accounts a gifted footballer with his successful years at Manchester City winning the FA cup in 1956 against Birmingham City.  Revie’s performance earned him the man of the match whilst the year before he was named the football writers of the year award.

It was Bill Lambton the then Leeds Manager in 1958 that signed Revie but under the new manager Jack Taylor was part of the side that was relegated in 1960.  A year later the job was offered to Revie.  Not because they had seen something special with Revie simply because nobody was attracted to the job due to the financial problems of the club.  Furthermore Don Revie was cheap although if Bournemouth had been prepared to pay the £6000 to sign Revie as player-manager then the history of Leeds could quite easily have been different.

One of the first things that Revie brought about was to bring about a family spirit with everyone from the cleaners to the club directors all pulling together.  He personally ensured that he knew everybody’s name whilst having a daily chat.

The referee Jack Taylor once noted that Revie gave money to the cleaners to put on the horses.  If they won they were twice as happy and even if they lost they were still happy at the gesture.  It was something that Revie succeeded at as it made everybody feel part and proud of the club.  Furthermore it brought a sense of togetherness and for Revie it was to bring about a family feeling to the place.

Another change that Revie instigated was that all players be it the first team, reserves, or B sides would all play the same system.  Revie told the Yorkshire Post that ‘any players moving from one team to another will know just what is wanted.’

Bill Shankly’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s Barcelona operated a similar system in the belief it would be easy for players to step up when required.

Revie was left with a very poor side and a club that was in financial difficulties.  Most of the side was compromised of journeymen footballers with the only players of exception being Billy Bremner who at seventeen had just broke into the first team, John McCole whose goals were important to Leeds and Jack Charlton.  The latter was seen as more trouble than he was worth whose surliness and open objection to anything that annoyed him made supporters wonder if he would be the first to go.

The only other notable legacy from Jack Taylor’s time as manager was his backroom staff of Syd Owens and Les Cocker.  Under Revie they would help Leeds to become one of the fittest teams in the league as well as analysing young players and helping them to improve.  Both were hard task masters but the likes of Bremner and Eddie Gray would later appreciate their efforts.

Revie that year managed to keep Leeds up but it was still going to be another two tough years before the Yorkshire club would start to make any improvement.  Even Revie admitted that towards the end of his first full season in charge that he half expected to be sacked.

With funds limited Revie was restricted with the players that he could bring in.  Two of the most notable signings was Bobby Collins from Everton for £25,000 and Albert Johannsen.  The latter was signed on the recommendation of a South African school teacher with Revie only having to pay his fare from Johannesburg.

Although Johannsen was to be inconsistent during his time at Leeds he did bring a touch of glamour and skill in those early days.  Bobby Collins though was to be very influential.  His dogged determination in never giving up or accepting second best seeped amongst Collins younger more impressionable teammates.  It was to be this determination that would become part of Revie’s Leeds DNA.

There was no instant Midas touch with Revie even experimenting by using Jack Charlton as a centre-forward.  It was more a case of hoping lightning would strike twice as the club legend John Charles had swapped defence for attack which had led to him being one of the most feared forwards in Europe.  However Charlton was no Charles and although he scored twelve goals in twenty games he was quietly put back in defence by Christmas 1961.  Most of the goals came from set-pieces but more importantly Charlton was like a fish out of water and didn’t know what he was doing.

One of the influences on Revie was Matt Busby who had advised that if possible to give youth a chance.  It wasn’t just because coming through the ranks that they would show more loyalty and affinity (especially if they were from the local area) but that at a young age they would be more impressionable.  Unlike seasoned pro’s they would be willing to listen, less likely to question, and not pick up bad habits from previous clubs.

The likes of Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Norman Hunter, Gary Sprake,  Rod Johnson, and Paul Reaney to name but a few all came through the ranks and all were to play a major part in the future for Leeds.  With Johnny Giles signed from Manchester United for £33,000 Leeds United were to become quite formidable.

Don Revie brought about another subtle difference to Leeds United by throwing a pre-season party with directors, staff, players, and wives.  Aware of his wife Elsie’s and his own isolation as a player he sought again to bring everyone together and made them feel involved.  Above all he wanted a family feeling about the place as he spoke of their importance to the club.  Revie was aware that domestic harmony could help a player feel more settled and not disrupt his form if his house was an unhappy one.

Over the years Don Revie would in some respects become a Father figure.  He would even make visits, give birthday and Christmas cards, flowers presents to the wives and children.  All of this was appreciated and as they too were made to feel part of the club their devotion to Revie also grew.  In many ways he was like the Godfather’s Vito Corleone.  A man who showed and expected loyalty but equally be tough if required.

To show that this was a new Leeds United and one that would be very much moulded in Don Revie’s image he decided to ditch the yellow and blue strip with Leeds to play in an all white strip.  That there was no dissent from supporters or the board about the change of colours showed the lack of interest within the West Yorkshire area.  Nevertheless it was the start of Revie building Leeds to what we know now.

Although Leeds might have looked similar to Real Madrid that was as close as they got to the Spanish giants in Revie’s first two full seasons in charge.  Slowly though things started to change especially as the youngsters like Bremner, Gray, Lorimer, and Norman Hunter started to shine.  Also the 1963-64 season that they clinched promotion the signing of Manchester United Johnny Giles gave them that edge with the brutal determination of Bobby Collins.

There was also a different to approach with how Revie selected youngsters.  Unlike other managers the size of a player did not bother him.  So long as they had the ability, desire, and willingness to work then they would be given a chance.

Revie also had an eye to get the best out of players by changing their positions.  Terry Cooper was converted from a winger to a left back, Eddie Gray from central midfielder to winger, with Bremner and Giles converting from wingers to central midfielders.

It was now a different Leeds in terms of talent, attitude, professionalism, and desire to be the best.  Johnny Giles observed in Eamon Dunphy’s ‘A strange kind of glory,’ that ‘people were consciously thinking about the game, small things like throw-ins, free-kicks, and corner-kicks were discussed and planned.  People were intent on doing something.  Nothing was ever left to chance.’

Critics at the time may have derided and even mocked the infamous dossiers that Revie had drawn up about the opposition but he was ahead of his time.  The reports drawn by Cocker, Owen, and Lindley were so meticulous that they would observe whether the goalkeeper was a flapper or a catcher or whether the right half could accurately pass the ball across his body to the left-wing whilst running right.

On the Friday the reserves would copy the style and formation of the opposition that Leeds were due to play on the Saturday.  By the end of the session the selected XI would know by heart the movement and as a result be able to anticipate the moves of the opposition for real on match day.

In football today that is nothing new with the endless stats and coaching geared towards dealing with the opposition at the weekend that it would be expected at any professional club.  Back in the 60’s it was more about putting out your XI and letting your rival worry about you.

The work on Leeds fitness was to also have an impact especially as Revie had them playing a high tempo pressing game.  In the ‘Unforgiven,’ by Bagchi and Rogerson they quote Bremner saying how Collins would dictate the game by making ‘them go like bombs for a ten minute spell.  Then he would tell them to tighten up again before going at them again.’

With teams not as fit and being unable to cope it was no surprise that Revie had managed to ensure that Leeds finally gained promotion in the 1963-64 season.  As the good work started to pay dividends it was to be start of the glory years for Leeds United.

Leeds first season in the top flight unerringly summed up the Revie era in terms of being so close but yet so far.  The West Yorkshire side almost won what would have been an incredible double but lost out to Manchester United who won the league due to having a superior goal difference to Leeds.  A week later they lost 2-1 in extra time to Bill Shankly’s Liverpool who won the FA cup for the first time in their history.  Nevertheless it was a fantastic season for a team that had spent most of its history in the doldrums.

It was though a season that Leeds started to earn their reputation as being ‘cynical cheats,’ who fouled, harassed the referee, and looked to gain any advantage by hook or by crook.  George Best recalled walking down the tunnel at Old Trafford ‘I felt a terrific pain in my right calf as someone kicked me with brute force.  I turned.  It was Bobby Collins.  ‘And that’s just for starters Bestie.’  He snarled.

Earlier that season brutal challenges by the likes of Giles and Hunter caused outrage at Goodison that led to the Everton crowd making a pitch invasion.  The crowd was cleared with Leeds winning 1-0 which later led to the Yorkshire Post’s Ian Guild description of the match as ‘a disgrace to football.’

The question and indeed suspicion was on whether Don Revie instructed his players to try to win at any cost even it meant fouling or cheating.  There probably is some truth that Leeds pushed the rules with Johnny Giles admitting ‘I have certainly done things on the football pitch that I am embarrassed about now.’  But as he then stated ‘one has to put them into the football climate that existed then.’

Certainly in that period in the 1960s and 1970s it was a more brutal game.  Going in hard and trying to intimidate your opponent was seen as fair game.  Nearly every team had an enforcer whether it was Manchester United’s Nobby Stiles, Anfield Iron’s Tommy Smith who threatened to ‘break player’s backs,’ or Chelsea’s Ron ‘Chopper,’ Harris.

Despite the notoriety of these players they in many ways gained cult and legendary status of when football ‘was a man’s game.’  Yet with Norman ‘bites yer legs,’ Hunter and Leeds they were viewed as the villains of football.

In some respects there was always a suspicion that Don Revie embraced the dark arts a bit too much.  That he was like a grand wizard who became bad in his pursuit of glory.  From hiring a gypsy to eradicate an alleged curse that had been placed on Elland road to wearing his blue suit that became so threadbare that his underwear could be seen in bright light.

Revie himself openly admitted to being superstitious and following a routine that involved the ‘same lucky tie, one or two lucky charms in my pocket. I walk to the traffic lights every morning, turn round and walk back to the hotel.’

There was of course the famous bird phobia that saw Revie remove the club’s owl badge to the familiar LUFC, having three puffs on a cigar,  before sucking on a mint for one minute, and then chewing gum for ten.

Again superstition although ridiculous is very much part of football.  Being an unpredictable game it gives the person a feeling of control that by following a certain ritual that they will gain some good luck which may win the game.

However the dark shadow or the smearing of Revie’s achievements is that he was alleged to have offered bribes for teams to go easy.  Bob Stokoe who managed Sunderland to a FA cup shock in 1973 against Leeds told the Daily Mirror that during his time as Bury manager in 1962 that Revie had offered him £500 to throw the match.

None of this has ever been proven and as Bagchi and Rogerson point out in the ‘Unforgiven,’ how did Revie on £38 a week with a club that was struggling financially find that amount?  Furthermore why did Stokoe wait fourteen years to tell his story and then for the princely sum of £14,000?

The accusations didn’t stop there with Wolves Mike O’Grady claiming that he had been paid as a fixer in 1973 to offer his teammates £1000 a man to throw their game against Leeds and ensure that they won the title.  Again none of this was substantiated with Revie being cleared by the Police and Bremner winning a libel case when accused of offering the bribes.

Again it all added to the media trying to paint Revie as some kind of super villain.  Leeds achievements would be tarnished because of this despite being one of the best footballing sides in the mid-seventies.

Maybe it was because Leeds were insular with Revie encouraging ‘us against the world,’ mentality.  This was no different to the tactics that Alex Ferguson encouraged at Manchester United.  It brought a sense of unity and loyalty as well as a determination to knock their critic’s noses out of joint and enjoy the discomfort of the critics having to acknowledge that they were the best.  Yet whereas Ferguson is lauded it is seen as another stick to beat Leeds with.

Revie’s man management was also second to none.  He knew when to put an arm around a player and when they needed a proverbial kick up the backside.  Nothing was left to chance as Revie ensured that he knew the character of all his players.  Furthermore he only wanted players who would fit into the work ethic of the club.

Europe was another learning curve for Revie who quickly realised that discipline and organisation was a key to being successful.  During the Inter Cities Fairs cup Leeds used their strength to hit teams on the break and in turn to be able to absorb the pressure.  Their mental strength was also second to none with the Italian press admiring their character and not letting the awful leg break of Bobby Collins by Torino’s Poletti to affect them by seeing the game through and winning the tie.

Breaking your duck in winning your first trophy is always the hardest but despite a turgid match Leeds beat Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley to win the League cup.  In a sense it gave Leeds a taste of victory and the belief that they could achieve more.  Revie was more than aware of this as he showed a rare expression of delight by joining his celebrating team on the pitch.

More success was to come as Leeds went a step further by clinching the Inter City Fairs cup by beating the Hungarian Ferencvaros 1-0 over two legs.  There was a significant delay due to the Warsaw pact invasion of Czechoslovakia with the possibility of the game being called off.  Again the professionalism and organisation was enough to see Leeds through against a team whom Shankly and Busby viewed as one of the best teams in Europe.

The league championship with its long, arduous season that decided the best team in England now sauntered into view for Leeds.  They had finished runners-up to Liverpool in the 1965-66 season but wanted to go that one step further.  By now Leeds had firmly established themselves as a difficult team but needed a title to show that they were not pretenders.

It was to the 1968-69 season when Revie’s Leeds would clinch the clubs first championship in their history.   The team was now maturing with the average age of the squad being around twenty-five.  Besides which Leeds with the two cup wins now had a taste for trophies.  Something that Revie wanted to encourage.

Billy Bremner recalls how Don Revie ensured that the desire and fire to keep winning trophies and not to rest on their laurels was to continually set new challenges.  That was to win the league.  ‘When you haven’t won anything, you’re delighted to win something; but as soon as a new challenge is offered, you have to climb higher.  And so we climbed that bit higher in going for the league.’

It was to be a culmination of Leeds gaining experience and knowing how each other played.  There was in some respects a communal style to Leeds play.  For example Hunter, Cooper, and Gray formed the left side, working the ball in triangles and quadrilaterals between them before seizing on any space given to initiate an attack.  Charlton, Reaney, Bremner, and O’Grady replicated this on the right.

Bremner and Giles having the ability to hit the killer pass once the opposition had committed themselves too far forward.

All season Leeds had stretched the opposition and with their superior fitness that the West Yorkshire side were easily the best side in the league that season.

The title was clinched at Anfield after a 0-0 draw against Liverpool.  It was to be a night were Leeds also felt that they had finally achieved the recognition that they deserved.

Revie had instructed his team that if they won the league on the night then they were to go forward and acknowledge the Kop.  Bremner was unsure but duly led his players towards the goal with the crowd becoming silent.  There was a slight pause before the crowd chanted ‘Champions,’ and applauded the Leeds team for their achievements for that season.

With Shankly declaring them worthy champions it felt for Leeds that they were finally being recognised for their footballing abilities.  After so many years of being branded villains they were now being hailed for their football.

The following season Leeds didn’t let their laurels slip as Leeds chased a unique treble of the league, European, and FA cup.  Bagchi and Rogerson in ‘the unforgiven,’ believe fixture congestion and the lack of help from the league authorities in terms of re-arranging fixtures meant that Revie had to prioritize which trophies they wanted to go for.

In what seems strange in this Premier league obsessed era, Leeds had made winning the European and FA cup more of a priority as these were not only trophies that they had never won but were also equally prestigious.

Leeds with seven games remaining was top of the league but decided that in order to boost their chances of success had to rest players.  For the remaining six games the Leeds team were a mixture of reserves and experienced players which earned the club a five thousand pound fine from the football league.

Sadly for the West Yorkshire club they were to fall short.  It didn’t help that it took three games to beat Manchester United to reach the 1970 FA cup final in order to play Chelsea.  The semi-final against Celtic was to see Leeds comprehensively beaten 3-0 over two legs with the Glaswegian side to later lose 2-1 to Feyenoord in extra time in the final.

That was to be a fate that Leeds would suffer in a replay at Old Trafford as Webb snatched the winner to lift the cup for Chelsea.  It was to be a final remembered for two things.  A poor pitch due to allowing the horse of the year show prior to the final and the brutal tackling and fouling from both sides.

Due to picking up only three points from the final six games the league had duly been surrendered to Everton who were proclaimed the football league champions for the 1969-70 season.

It was a disappointing season but Leeds maturity and confidence in their own abilities as Revie allowed the shackles off showed that Leeds were one of the top footballing sides who would be favourites for all the major honours in the years to come.

Yet they would become more known for choking at the crucial moments.  Some of it was down to appalling decisions made against Leeds whilst other times the West Yorkshire failed to play to their ability.

A fifth round tie away to fourth division Colchester should have not really posed any problems for Leeds.  Instead they found themselves three-nil down and despite pulling two goals were unable to snatch an equaliser.  Sprake was held responsible for the three goals and indeed was seen as the weak link of the team.

Despite the shock cup exit the league was still on.  However another infamous game against West Bromwich Albion with the referee Ray Tinkler’s poor performance to have repercussions’ on Leeds title challenge.  Albion’s Colin Suggett was quite clearly offside with Brown looking for the decision only to continue and square the ball to Astle who put the ball into the back of the net and winning the two points for West Brom.

Barry Davies the match of the day commentator was incredulous and declared that ‘Leeds will go mad and they have every right to be.’  It provoked a reaction from the Leeds players which also ignited crowd trouble who were outraged at the decision.

Arsenal would go on to clinch the league by one point with Ray Kennedy netting the winner against Spurs at White Hart lane.  Again Leeds would be the bridesmaid in terms of the league although they didn’t end that season empty ended as they won the Inter Cities fairs cup on away goals after drawing 3-3 on aggregate but crucially drew 2-2 away in Turin.

It was becoming a familiar occurrence as Leeds once again blew the chance of winning the double in the 71-72 season.  They played some scintillating that year with the highlight being Leeds torturing Southampton with keep ball after being 7-0 up.  As Barry Davies said in admiration it was ‘cruel,’ but at the same time it was breath-taking football with the flicks and back heels as Leeds played a match version of ‘piggy in the middle,’ by keeping hold of the ball.

Leeds it seemed was head and shoulders above everyone else.  The FA cup was lifted for the first time in their history as they beat Arsenal 1-0 who hoped to retain the trophy.  The double it seemed was a certainty as Leeds only needed a point away to Wolves.  However two days after the cup final Leeds were to be denied and frustrated by the referee yet again.  There were three penalty shouts with a blatant handball to deny Allan Clarke.  Wolves won the game 2-1 and with Liverpool failing to beat Arsenal at Highbury with a Toshack goal ruled out for offside, Brian Clough’s Derby County won the league whilst on the beach in Majorca.

Heartache seemed to be the Leeds way and the 1972-73 season was to be no different.  Although they were not in any contention to win the league that season Leeds again reached the FA cup final against second division Sunderland and the European Cup Winners Cup against AC Milan.

Critics assumed that Sunderland had no chance and that Leeds would triumph over the North East side.  It was a case of how many would Leeds would win by.  Instead Leeds failed to deal with the corner with Porterfield gaining legendary status by striking the ball into the back of the net.

Leeds would put the pressure on Sunderland with Cherry’s diving header which was parried away by Montgomery straight to Lorimer who almost equalised only to be thwarted by Montgomery who parried it against the crossbar.  Yet again it was not be Leeds day and to be remembered for all the wrong reasons as David beat the unpopular Goliath.

A 1-0 defeat to AC Milan in the Cup Winners Cup final meant that Leeds ended the season empty-handed.  There was a feeling that Leeds had been cheated following the Greek referee Christos Michas being suspended by UEFA and his own federation due to some dubious decisions against Leeds.

There are numerous theories as to why Leeds United kept falling short at the crucial moments.  Some cited poor refereeing decisions and Hardaker of the football league who was believed to have disliked Leeds due to their reputation.  With fixtures piling up due to replays or poor weather and the football league refused to accommodate or assist Leeds in order to give them enough recovery time between games.

At times with the matches piling up there were key players who were injured and in the case of the Wolves game both Clarke and Giles had pain killing injections certainly couldn’t have helped.  With so many irons in the fire so to speak it meant that the Leeds players were on their last legs and just couldn’t carry themselves over the line when required.

Some even questioned whether Revie thought too much about the opposition and whether that anxiety transmitted to the players.  Dave Watson the Sunderland centre-half stated that he thought the Leeds players were very subdued in their interviews prior to the Cup final.  It could also be said that at times Revie brought the squad for big matches too early and rather than be distracted by every day life were left to brood on the game.

Perhaps it was a mix of all and more than likely being involved in so many big competitions stretched the squad to their limit.  Revie certainly knew his players and he had managed to channel that comradeship amongst the team and supporters.

The 1973-74 season was to be Revie’s last as he left Leeds to take the job of England manager.  However Leeds ended it as champions after going twenty-nine games unbeaten.

Some wondered if Revie took the England job on as he couldn’t bear to break up his ageing Leeds team.  The fact of the matter is that Revie had already got itchy feet and had got caught going for possible talks to become the Everton manager in 1973 when he had got lost and had to ask directions.  Money was another insecurity of Revie with the attraction of more money at Everton whetting his initial interest before deciding to stay at Leeds.

The England job was not to be a success as he was unable to replicate the team and family spirit that he harnessed at Leeds United.  Some players mocked his carpet bowls and ideas.  Revie himself seemed uncomfortable in dealing with the politics of International football and seemed to miss the day-to-day coaching that club football brought.

With England performing poorly and unlikely to qualify for the world cup qualifiers Don Revie decided to quit the job and took up a post offered by the UAE.  Despite the FA having approached Bobby Robson in order to replace Revie they suspended him for ten years.  Although Revie won on a Court appeal he was never to work in English football again with only coaching stints at other middle-east countries.

Due to the manner of Revie’s England resignation and the money being offered to manage the UAE national side he was branded a mercenary with his reputation never Don_Revie_and_Billy_Bremnerrecovering.

Leeds too was never to be the same side that they were under Revie.  In what was a bizarre decision they appointed Revie’s arch critic and nemesis Brian Clough to re-build the team.  With Clough’s brash manner and telling the players ‘to put all their medals in the bin as they had won them through cheating,’ it was never going to end well.  After forty-four days in charge Brian Clough was sacked as manager.

It was to be an end of an era despite reaching the European cup final in 1975 and losing to Bayern Munich.  Again there was to be much controversy and crowd trouble after the referee disallowed a Lorimer goal after initially pointing to the centre circle to indicate that a goal had been given.

As the years go by the achievements of Don Revie seem to fade into the background.  Nothing is mentioned of Don Revie physically building the Leeds United that we all know of now even if the past ten years or so have seen them back in the second tier.  It was Revie with hardly any resources that dragged and moulded Leeds United to be one of the most feared teams in English football.  Prior to his appointment Leeds were seen as a joke and in the shadow of rugby league.  Even Leeds current all white strip is down to Revie who decided to change the colours.

In terms of coaching and preparation Don Revie was ahead of his peers.  In today’s game in-depth analysis and preparation is all part of the game.  Revie in his dossiers and gearing training towards the opposition was so way ahead that at the time it was mocked by others within the English game.

Ironically in this day and age of mass marketing Revie was to be a pioneer by agreeing that Leeds became commercially involved with Paul Trevillion an illustrator more known for you are the ref.  There were track suits with player’s names, sock tags, and the Leeds wave as the players ran out two minutes early before kickoff and wave to each part of the ground who would shower them in applause and cheers.

Revie also encouraged youth and brought a collective spirit right throughout the club.  Everybody was part of this inner family that in turn brought about that resilience required to dig in and snatch a result no matter how badly they were playing.  In short everybody looked after each other.

Of course there was the cynicism and the intimidation that Revie’s Leeds did dish out.  There is no question that they rubbed up the opposition but other teams could just be as physical.  Leeds did push it to extremes and cynicism can be seen in the game today from the little clip, dive, time-wasting or harassing the referee.  Not that it makes it right but from a professional point of view it is about testing the boundaries in order to gain an advantage.

Maybe it’s because Revie didn’t have the statesman like aura of Matt Busby and Jock Stein or the charisma of Bill Shankly.  Neither did he have the soundbites of Brian Clough that the media lapped up.

In front of the cameras Revie always looked uneasy and seemingly shifty.  With the physical approach of Leeds it was easy to throw mud at Leeds with the unsubstantiated claims by Stokoe of offering bribes to go easy casting more dirt.  Revie with his superstition was all too easily cast as dabbling in the black arts of football.

It could be argued that there was an element of snobbery with Leeds not having the glamour of a London team or a charismatic star like Manchester United’s George Best.  They also equally refused to be in awe of anyone’s reputation and gave as good as they got.  Revie certainly showed this from a story given in the Unforgiven.  At an official FA dinner in 1976 Revie objected to the pompous Sir Harold Thompson referring to him by his surname.  Thompson haughtily replied ‘when I get to know you better Revie, I shall you call Don.  Quick as a flash Revie’s response was ‘when I get to know you better Thompson, I shall call you Sir Harold.’

Despite all the knocks and whether you think Don Revie’s reputation is deserved or not Revie’s Leeds United played attractive football.  Yes they could dish it out but they could play with aggression, skill, and pace which many teams of the time couldn’t cope with.  It was Revie who installed that discipline and ideas onto his team in the belief that it would get results.

Don Revie made and was Leeds United that even now his legacy still exists.  Furthermore he was also a pioneer and forward thinker who knew how to build and get the best out of his team.  It is for these reasons that Don Revie should be remembered alongside the greats of Shankly, Stein, and Busby.

 

The Downton Abbey effect on history

Nostalgia,” as George Ball the American diplomat once said “is a seductive liar.”  This is certainly the case with dramas such as Downton Abbey, Victoria, and the Crown.  They paint a different world that indicates a gentler more British way of life than today.  However the reality is different to the world that it portrays which is why it needs to be challenged lest the voices of those who really helped shaped our world are forgotten.

Downton Abbey in many respects is guilty of this and portrays for some nostalgists how they like to think Britain once was and still should be.  In that world the Lord of the manor smiles benevolently whilst those down under not only know their place but are happy with their lot.  If there are any problems  then the Lord of the manor will sort it out.

Looking at the period that Downton Abbey covers from the beginning of the twentieth century is a world away from what it was really like to work as a servant in those times.  For starters the servants world would consist of virtually working from the crack of dawn right through to the late hours of the evening.  There would hardly be any time to call your own and you certainly were not expected to be seen never mind tell their betters what problems you had.

Therefore it was not a surprise that the majority of servants were recruited from orphanages  from the other side of the country so that they had nowhere to run back to.  They were seen as chattel who were there to serve and certainly not to fraternize to the extent that the chauffeur marries the Earl’s daughter and is welcomed into the bosom of the family.

Robert Crawley would be more likely to say to his butler ‘As you know Carson, one likes to run a progressive household but damn it I wouldn’t be able to show my face at one’s club if the Chauffeur was my son-in-law.  So show the bolshy sort the door forthwith Carson my good man.’

If you were to believe the historical depiction of the Edwardian period in Downton Abbey it was a relatively peaceful one.  The British Empire was at its peak and although everything might not be perfect everybody seemed to be getting along. For sure the rich and the upper classes were enjoying the prosperity of the Edwardian golden age but life for the ordinary person was one of poverty, poor living and working conditions.  Just look at any pictures from that period.  The children are mainly bare-footed and dressed in tatty clothes.  The adults fare no better with most looking small and even malnourished.  The houses were slums and were unfit to live in that the life expectancy for working class people was low.

2591

Consequently it was not surprising that workers demanded improvements as they wanted fair pay, better living conditions, housing, education, to name but a few issues that anyone today would feel is a basic right.  The ordinary person era of that era had to fight for it that it was a turbulent period that frightened the political elite.

Now in the world of Downton Abbey there are no talks of soldiers being sent to Llanelli during the first national railway strike of 1911 who shot dead two strikers.  Nor of Churchill sending gunboats up the Mersey during the Liverpool 1911 Transport strike.  This was in response to riots that broke out after mounted Police had charged a 80,000 crowd at St. George’s hall who were there to listen to the Trade Unionist Tom Mann.  Thousands were injured with the Liverpool Echo at the time likening the scenes to revolutionary Paris of 1789.

GT striike

More strikes and unrest during that period between 1910-14 broke out across the country in places such as Hull and Belfast.  The period was one of uncertainty with workers fighting for a better more equal world.  For instance just look at the 80,000 crowd at St. George’s hall, Liverpool that it looks very similar to the Arab spring a few years back.  Yet this is never widely mentioned in history never mind someone making a drama of it.

Liverpool_transport_strike-1911

Recently there has been a spate of what can only be described as PR films for the Royal family such as Victoria, and the Crown.  These are lavish biscuit tin productions that belong in a Disney fairy story.

The stories are sold as young Queen’s who at times reluctantly have to make the tough decisions that they may not like to bring stability to the country.  Again it depicts that only the nobility have the grace, wisdom, and benevolence to rule the country.  There is nothing about the poverty and the wrongs of the British Empire.  Instead the ordinary people are there as a background as they sit back and listen to their betters.

Both ignore about whether having a Monarchy is actually democratic but instead portray the Monarchy as a positive good.  The aristocracy are born to rule whilst its subjects are there to serve.   It is an inconvenient truth that the upper classes did not want the working class to be educated nor did they feel that they were entitled to free health treatment.

All of this as well as better living conditions were fought for by workers and were given to appease the working classes lest they went one step further and overthrew them.

It is important that this is re-addressed otherwise history will be distorted from a view that the establishment want the world to be seen as.  Furthermore the real life stories such as the 1911 Transport strike is more dramatic and real than the lavish period dramas of Victoria biting her lip as she has to make a tough decision.

A drama like this would be more realistic of a Britain whose inhabitants were in poverty and fought for their basic rights.  The likes of Downton Abbey, Victoria, and the Crown are more about portraying the aristocracy in a better light and only shining a light on history that is more pertinent to them or simply cannot be ignored.

Maybe just maybe someone will make a drama of the ordinary, brave people who fought and helped to establish the NHS, education, and better living conditions that we are used to today.  After all the ‘Great unrest,’ from 1910-14 appears to be now a forgotten period of history when it’s stories deserves to be as much celebrated as well as giving an understanding of the world that we are in now.

Joe Fagan – the quiet champion

3_4ebd05adba84f349426123

The demeanour and actions of Joe Fagan was of a modest man who would give his time to anyone.  No job was beneath him and to have passed him in the street as he made the short walk from his house to Anfield you might not have looked twice.

However he was no ‘ordinary Joe,’ but contributed to the success Liverpool enjoyed through the 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s.  Not only did Fagan help Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley literally re-build Liverpool from scratch he also managed Liverpool to their most successful season by claiming a treble.

Achievements like these would normally guarantee you a place amongst the pantheon of football manager greats.  Winning a league championship over a marathon season, a league cup when it was taken just as seriously as the FA cup, and beating a Roma side in the European cup final in their own backyard is the stuff of legends.  Even the following season which would be his final year as manager saw Fagan guide Liverpool to a runner’s up spot in the league and European cup final.  Yet his achievements in football have been strangely forgotten.

Not that Joe Fagan would have liked to have been referred to as a legend.  He was a man who didn’t seek any platitudes or have an ego.  Instead Joe Fagan was happy to get on with his job and above all loved his football.

There are some critics who will try to state that the team that Fagan inherited was still in its prime and just needed a steady hand to keep things ticking over.  This though is not only ignorant but sloppily glosses over the talents of a man who was not only a top coach but also contributed to the success Liverpool enjoyed.

Besides as David Moyes, Wilf McGuinness, and Brian Clough found out to their cost it is hard to follow after one legend never mind two which was the case with Fagan.  His predecessors were Bob Paisley and the man responsible from dragging Liverpool from the doldrums to conquering Europe the enigmatic Bill Shankly.

For the Liverpool board it seemed a relatively easy decision to make after Bob Paisley had announced that he wished to retire from football after the 1982-83 season.  After all Joe Fagan was an original member of the boot room.  He was just as much responsible for the evolving changes in tactics as well as being liked and respected by fellow coaches and supporters.

It was something that Fagan wasn’t too sure about as he stated ‘my first reaction at the time was that I wouldn’t take it,’ ‘but I thought about it carefully and realised someone else might come in and upset the whole rhythm.  I finally decided to take it and keep the continuity going for a little longer.’

At sixty-two Fagan was one of the oldest managers of the league and was only a couple of years younger than Paisley.  Even so with the experience and with his fellow boot room colleagues Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans were on hand to assist.

Fagan despite being born in Liverpool started his career as a defender for Manchester City and although there was not much success did Captain the team.  After that there were early coaching stints as a player-manager at Nelson, assistant manager at Rochdale before taking up the offer of a coaching role at Liverpool by the then manager Phil Taylor.

With the departure of Phil Taylor after Liverpool failed to gain promotion there was of course much uncertainty of whether the new manager Bill Shankly would bring in his own staff.  It was to be one of the best decisions that Shankly made as he made no changes to the coaching set up.  Indeed his first words to Fagan were ‘You must have been a good player, Joe, because I tried to sign you.’

The foundations of Shankly’s Liverpool were helped by Paisley, Fagan, Moran, Bennett, and Saunders who helped turn a dilapidated club with poor training facilities kicking and screaming into a first-rate club that became the bastion of invincibility that Shankly wanted.

Although Fagan had been given the job as reserve team manager he was still to have an influential part to play in helping establishing Liverpool to be a major force.  No job was seen to be beneath anyone with everyone expected to muck in for the common good.  Whether it was helping clear the rocks from the battered Melwood training pitch and making it a surface suitable for a top club or painting the barriers and what not at the ground Fagan like Paisley and Shankly was quite willing to pitch in.

Part of the success of Liverpool was that nobody was allowed to get any airs or graces.  Shankly, Paisley, and Fagan were from a generation rife with poverty and as soon as they were old enough were expected to graft and earn for the family.  It was a philosophy that certainly influenced their outlook on life and if a player wasn’t giving their all then they were shown the door.

Tommy Smith recalls the time that Joe Fagan would not allow for any illusions of grandeur.  After two years on the ground staff Smith had been offered a professional contract.  Prior to signing the contract his ground staff mates asked if he would help sweep the home dressing room in order to finish quickly.

Smith scoffed at such a suggestion now that he was to be a professional and let them know that his days of skivvying were behind him.  Unbeknown to Smith, Joe Fagan had watching all of this in the background and with the sigh of an Uncle telling off a petulant nephew said “Tommy, pick up the brush, son.”   No more needed to be said as an embarrassed Smith picked up the brush and helped his mates.

One of Fagan’s strengths was his ability to listen to players and offer advice when needs be.  Roger Hunt had signed amateur forms whilst doing his national service which in turn restricted him playing.  As a result Hunt found himself struggling with his fitness.  So much so that after being selected to play Preston for the reserves his performance deteriorated so badly that midway through the second half Fagan pushed his Captain John Nicholson up front with Hunt dropping back in defence.

It was what was said after the game that even now sticks in Hunt’s mind.  Fagan quietly told him that he was not attempting to make a show of him but advised him what he needed to do if Hunt wanted to make it as a professional footballer.  Hunt recalls “I decided to get even much fitter, work harder, and at least if I didn’t make it at least I had given it everything.  I always remember that part of it because Joe was solely responsible.”  The advice worked with Hunt not just breaking into the first team but became an Anfield goal scoring legend.

One of the most difficult tasks of being a reserve team manager is how to deal with the senior professionals who had been dropped from the first team.  After the defeat against Watford in a third round away tie, Shankly had realised that the team needed rebuilding and that he had perhaps allowed players to stay way past their prime.

Ian St. John was one of the senior pro’s to be part of the cull and Fagan was aware that he had to ensure that not only would St. John do his best on the pitch, but not cause disruption like many a disgruntled former first teamer do in football.

Man management though was part of Fagan’s strengths as he ensured that he would ask St. John’s opinion in front of his teammates as well as making him Captain.  Through Fagan’s tactful diplomacy he made what was a rough part of St. John’s career a bit more smoother as well as ensuring that he also performed on the pitch even if it was only for the second string.

Again with up and coming youngsters who were impatient at wanting to get in the first team like Ray Clemence or newcomers like Brian Hall, Tommy Smith, Ian Callaghan, Joe Fagan would show the patience and tutoring required that would help these player’s eventually make the step up to the first team.  Brian Hall said about his time under Fagan “His thinking was always football-orientated, but above that he was a real people’s person.”

As a result the reserves for example only lost fourteen of their one hundred and twenty-six Central league fixtures.  This of course resulted in three consecutive Central league championships from 1969-1971.

That was not to say that Fagan wasn’t averse to laying down the law verbally.  Souness recalls that Joe’s way would be “a quiet word or even a single look would say it all.  He could be hard and I remember on a number of occasions that he would say something really harsh to one of the lads, but he’d do it ever so quietly and that was his way of emphasising the point.”

Fagan knew when it was appropriate to put an arm around a player, to offer practical advice, and when to give a bollocking.   Mark Lawrenson recalls that a telling off from Joe Fagan felt like the end of the world.

The most famous example of this was Liverpool’s poor start to the 1981-82 season.  After a poor defeat against Manchester City at home and with the reds slumping to twelfth nine points adrift of the leaders Swansea City it was the final straw for Paisley and his coaching staff.  On the following Monday with the players getting ready for training Fagan let rip at every single player as he made it very clear that their performances were not only unacceptable but that it was time for them to start pulling their weight.

Lawrenson states that it had the required affect.  “It had a far bigger effect than anyone else at the club doing it – even Bob Paisley or Kenny Dalglish afterwards.”

The next game was a third round cup tie against Swansea with Liverpool winning emphatically 4-0.  In the league Liverpool went on a run that included eleven consecutive league wins to claim the league title with the League Cup retained after beating Spurs 3-1 after extra time.

In many ways Shankly, Paisley, and Fagan were a holy trinity with their own individual skills and talents coming together that helped make Liverpool so successful.  The fabled boot room is now talked about in mythical terms.  It was as the name suggests where the boots were kept but became a base for the backroom staff and manager to have a chat and discussion over the football or issues affecting the club.

Joe Fagan indirectly was responsible for creating the boot room.  As a favour to his friend Paul Orr who was then manager of the local amateur side Guinness Exports, Fagan would do a spot of coaching and arranged for injured Export players to be treated at Anfield.  As a thank you Orr would regularly send supplies of Guinness and other ales for Joe.

The only problem was where to store the ale with Joe finding that the boot room was a handy place.  With a ready supply of ale it became the go to place for the coaching staff to meet.  Paisley commented “It’s just like popping down the local.  We have a full and frank exchange of views in there in a leisurely atmosphere every Sunday morning.”

Shankly might have been quoted that “football was a simple game, based on the giving and receiving of passes,” a view that Paisley and Joe Fagan also shared but that underplayed the hard work and thought that went into their preparations.

For starters when Shankly took over at Liverpool he instantly changed the training philosophy that was geared towards physical endurance with the actual work with the football regarded as a second thought.  In some quarters the lack of work with the ball made them believe that it made the players hungrier come Saturday.

The new regime wanted training to replicate a match which meant working with the football.  ‘Pass it to the nearest red shirt,’ or ‘pass and move,’ became the mantra.  Everything was all based towards improving the technique, control, and reacting quickly to what would happen during a match.  Three, four, and five aside matches became established with players becoming more involved with the ball and in tighter situations.

There was of course the infamous sweat box with four boards, placed on each side of a twenty yard rectangle against which a player would play the ball, play it, and play it.  A minute in there was more than enough for most players as it improved technique and concentration.

Fitness was a key issue but not only did the player’s enjoy it but the level of fitness was improved to such an extent that the opposition would wilt in the final third of matches but Liverpool being generally fitter would take advantage.

Whereas Shankly as manager would have to take step back Fagan was involved where he enjoyed it the most which was working with the players.  Like Paisley and Bennett, Fagan would report back to Shankly if there was anything of note from training.

Joe Fagan like the other coaches was also responsible in meticulously logging each day’s schedule.  It was done so that in times of trouble it could be something that the coaching staff could refer to which may resolve any problems that may arise.  These books were also referred to as the ‘anfield bibles,’ that were meant to contain the secret of Liverpool’s success.  In truth it was a reference book that the coaching staff would refer to.

It was also in the boot room that Liverpool would discuss players and tactics.  Lessons would be learnt from key games such as the mist game against Ajax in 65 and Crvena Zvezda in 1973 that saw Liverpool change their style to a patient passing style.  The likes of Emlyn Hughes and Phil Thompson who were good on the ball were drafted in to play this new style which would take them to new levels.  Joe Fagan of course would have been involved and would have voiced his opinion that would influence Liverpool’s way of playing.

The hard work was to be worth it as Liverpool changed from club muddling along in the second division into a team that dominated England in Europe as the trophies continually kept being filled in the cabinet.

In 1979 Joe Fagan became the assistant manager it was a job that he had been doing anyway but was now made official.   He had of course helped Paisley to steady the ship and take Liverpool to even greater heights after the shock resignation of Shankly in 1974.

So when Paisley announced that he would retire after the 1982-83 season it wasn’t really a surprise that Fagan would take charge as it seemed a natural transition.  Something that Liverpool back then prided themselves on doing it well that it would hardly be noticed.

Joe Fagan certainly had the respect of the players and it was certainly a case of business as usual.  For Fagan though there was a slight difference that he now had to take a step back.  However any worries that he wasn’t up to the task of making the hard decisions were quickly put to bed.  They might be decisions that Joe Fagan didn’t want to make but he knew that the success of the club relied on not allowing sentiment to cloud your judgement.

A pre-season tour to Belfast and Rotterdam meant Fagan had to select a fourteen man squad.  With Hansen and Lawrenson now the established centre-backs and Gary Gillespie being Fagan’s first signing it meant no place for the respected veteran Phil Thompson.  Joe Fagan admitted that it was his first unpleasant decision but did it because it was in the best interest of the team.

For the start of the 1983-84 season there were understandably nerves Joe Fagan worried that the season might be similar to Bob Paisley’s first year when Liverpool finished the season trophyless.  There were injury worries with Ronnie Whelan being sidelined for the beginning of the season and the failure to capture Michael Laudrup and Charlie Nicholas as signings.

It was to become a memorable season as Liverpool won a historic treble.  With Liverpool chasing a third successive title the stakes was high especially as the media mused that the reds dominance might be on the wane.

These were worries that Joe Fagan kept to himself although he did highlight the concerns in his diaries.  After one defeat Fagan questioned whether the players still had the hunger to win although these fears were to be disproved during the course of the season.

There were doubts about some of his signings such as Michael Robinson whilst Craig Johnston was causing much consternation with one of Fagan’s entries declaring about Johnston “he sounds as if he plays for Roy of the Rovers and has to grow up.”

Despite all this Fagan kept a positive air with no indication of any worries or concerns about the up and coming season.  It was to be justified after Liverpool thrashed Luton Town 6-0 at home in October with Rush scoring five to send the reds top of the league.  It was a position that Liverpool rarely slipped away from with the only real challenge coming from Manchester United.  A 4-0 reverse after going unbeaten for fifteen games away to Coventry City saw Fagan give his team a rollicking but Liverpool consistently got the wins as United failed to take the initiative when the reds dropped points.

Highlights of the 1983-84 season was a Rush hat-trick for the TV cameras as Liverpool came back from 1-0 down away to Villa to win 3-1, a 3-0 win against Everton and the 5-0 thrashing of Coventry City that virtually guaranteed Liverpool the title.  A 0-0 draw away to Notts County secured Liverpool their fifteenth title and become the first team since Arsenal to win three consecutive league championships.

The League cup or Milk Cup as it was known had been won earlier as Fagan felt the relief of claiming his first trophy.  Everton had been beaten 1-0 at Maine road following a drab 0-0 draw at Wembley.  A superb strike by Souness winning Liverpool the Milk Cup.

Europe though was where Liverpool looked especially impressive.  Athletic Bilbao were beaten in a solid display after winning 1-0 away in the second leg with the Basque side having only lost once in thirty-one European ties at home prior to being beaten by Liverpool.

Benfica were up next after winning 1-0 at home the Portuguese side were thrashed 4-1.  Then came a volatile match against Dinamo Bucharest with a Sammy Lee goal winning the first leg.  However it was Souness breaking the jaw of Moliva after the Romanian’s side cynical fouling that saw the Scotsman retaliate but luckily was not caught by the referee or officials.

It turned the return leg into a volatile and hostile match with even airport officials giving threatening gestures as the team went through customs.  The reds though soared above the hostility to win 2-1 and win a place in the final to play the Italian Champions AS Roma which was to be played at their ground the Stadio Olimpico.

It was a stadium that brought good memories for Liverpool as it was Rome where the reds won their first European cup in 1977.  Although they were literally in the Wolves back yard and with Roma boasting the likes of Falcao and Conti it was the Italians that were favourites.  This though was where Joe Fagan showed his mettle in terms of his man management skills by putting his players at ease.

Whilst Roma were placed in a training camp and kept to themselves Liverpool went to Israel not only because the temperature would be similar to Rome but with the intention for the player’s to relax after a hard season.

Despite Fagan’s casual appearance everything was meticulously planned.  From toning down the training as he felt the player’s were pushing themselves at the wrong time and peaking too soon.  Fagan also ensured that they arrived in Rome not too early so as to ensure the players didn’t dwell or get bored.

For Fagan it was about ensuring that the player’s were relaxed and feeling confident and that the pressure was on Roma who had to get the better of Liverpool.  Even delivering the UEFA instruction about player’s not running to the crowd if a goal was scored was changed by Fagan to “when we score a goal.”  In turn it gave Liverpool the confidence that they would score in a very intimidating arena.

It certainly had the required effect with the player’s so much relaxed that after casually lapping up the atmosphere they returned back to the tunnel and started to sing Chris Rea’s song ‘I don’t know what it is (But I love it)’ which became the unofficial song for the squad.

Nils Liedholm the Roma manager saw the colour on his player’s face drain as they heard the Liverpool players in full voice that he knew that they were in trouble.

Although the Liverpool way was to let the opposition worry about them Fagan still gave brief instructions that close tabs had to be kept on Falcao and Conti.  However the main instruction was for Liverpool to play their natural game.

Phil Neal had given Liverpool the lead and despite dominating the first half Pruzzo had equalised for Roma just before the end of the half.  No goals came in the second half or the extra time that was played which meant that the European Cup final would be decided on penalties for the first time.

During the period whilst deciding who would take penalties Fagan told his players that he was proud of them.  The onus was on Roma to win the game on their own patch and Liverpool had prevented them from doing so.  Grobbelaar remembers Fagan easing some of the pressure off him by telling him that he had done his job and that nobody would blame him if he couldn’t stop a ball from twelve yards.

Steve Nicol blasted Liverpool’s first penalty over the bar with Roma taking the lead.  Neal pulled one back but with the words of Fagan advising Grobbelaar to “put them off,’ and decided to in his own words do ‘the crossover legs routine,’ with Conti missing.  Souness scored from the spot with Righetti levelling.  Then came Ian Rush who put Liverpool back in the lead.  Then came the spaghetti legs from Bruce Grobbelaar with the nerves getting to Graziani who hit the crossbar.  The mathematics was now clear.  If Liverpool scored they would be the European Champions for the fourth time.  Up stepped Alan Kennedy who shot to the goalkeeper’s right, with the ball hitting the back of the net as a jubilant Alan Kennedy sprinted away in triumph.

For Fagan it capped an unbelievable first season as Liverpool manager as they won a historic treble that no other English club had managed to do.  Although Joe Fagan had a beaming smile his interviews were quietly understated as he also commiserated Roma in their defeat.

The celebrations continued well into the night and there is the iconic picture of a relaxed Joe Fagan lounging casually in a deck chair by the pool with the European cup as two Carabinieri stand guard.  In many ways the image summed up Joe Fagan.  He might have given the casual laid back air but underneath there was a steel of determination who was as hard as nails when it came down to it.

Parties broke out across Liverpool as the reds were welcomed home in an open bus tour.  It was a welcome that the team and Joe Fagan thoroughly deserved especially as many had questioned whether Fagan had the mettle to succeed Bob Paisley.

Anything after that magnificent year the followin season was always going to be an anti-climax and with Souness going to Sampdoria it was equally going to be harder after losing their influential skipper.

Jan Molby and Paul Walsh had been signed but Liverpool got off to a terrible start to the season and at one point in the season went seven games without a win.  Joe Fagan equally showed that there was no sentiment or player’s being picked purely on reputation as Kenny Dalglish was dropped for the first time away to Spurs.  Although Liverpool lost 1-0 it showed that Fagan had the ruthlessness if he felt it necessary to drop a player.

Liverpool had crashed out of the league cup early against Spurs whilst being knocked out in the semi-final stage against Manchester United in the FA cup.  Although Liverpool had managed to put on enough of a run to claim second place to the Champions Everton, it was the European cup that looked like Liverpool’s best chance of success.  Comprehensive wins against Benfica and the demolishing of Panathinaikos 5-0 aggregate win in the semi-final saw Liverpool face the Italian champions Juventus in the final.

Contrary to what some people believe Joe Fagan after two seasons in charge had decided to step down at the end of the season prior to the European cup final.  The plan had been that Joe would manage for two or three seasons with either Phil Neal or Kenny Dalglish to take charge.  It was of course the latter who was to succeed Fagan who hoped to bow out in style with a fifth European cup win.

Sadly that was not to be with the horrific events of Heysel after Liverpool fans charged at Juventus fans in the alleged “neutral area,” there was a crush prior to the collapsing of the wall which led to thirty-nine deaths.  A riot broke out between the two sets of fans with numerous appeals from both sides including Joe Fagan appealing to the fans to stop.

Much has been written about the causes and those responsible for what happened at Heysel.  The final should never have been played at a dilapidated stadium with some of the Police and authorities also held culpable and subsequently charged.

Despite the violence the match was still played with Liverpool beaten after Platini scored a penalty.  However the result had no real meaning after the loss of lives at what was meant to be a football match.

The image of a broken Joe Fagan being supported by Roy Evans after Liverpool had touched down at Speke airport spoke volumes on how it had affected him.  It was something that he couldn’t comprehend and was to be a sad end to an illustrious career.

After all the years of loyal service to Liverpool it should not be the lasting image of Joe Fagan nor should his achievements be forgotten.  It isn’t just about winning an incredible treble in his first season in charge of Liverpool but his overall contribution to the reds.

Joe Fagan with Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley did the most difficult thing in football by not just constantly adapting to the changes in the game but consistently staying one step ahead.  Their philosophy that football never really changes with the fundamentals being consistent are true but their actions of recording every minute detail of training, injuries, and ensuring the players warmed down properly for example showed that they were ahead of their time.

Equally true is the fact that training was more ball based with it mirroring the actions of a football match showed the thought process that went into making Liverpool one of the greats.

Paisley in his cardigan and Fagan in his flat cap may have looked and even acted like your favourite Uncle but were as hard as nails if you was silly enough to cross them.  They knew the ins and outs of the various personalities of footballers and as a result knew how to deal with players.

Playing under either of the three you were expected to take personal responsibility and to give your all no matter what job you were given.  Failure to do so would see you being shown the door.  Reputations or egos didn’t come into it.  If you didn’t do the job then you were no good to them.  Sentimentality didn’t come into either with the decision made for what was best for the team.

That was not to say it was easy at times.  In many ways it may have been one of the reasons why Fagan had decided to step down as manager after two seasons.  From reading the diary extracts of the authorised biography by his son Andrew Fagan and Mark Platt there does appear to be a sense of frustration at not being at the ground floor which he loved best by working with the players in training.  An extract from his second day as manager reads ‘I have been here since 9.15am.  The time now is 10.15am and there is no sign of anyone or anything happening!  I am also dressed up in collar and tie.  It is not my normal gear – but it becomes me!’

Despite the success in the short space of time that Joe Fagan was in charge of Liverpool he seems largely forgotten outside of the club.  Not that it would have bothered Joe Fagan.  He had no airs or graces and viewed it as only doing a job.  Indeed he couldn’t understand why people would still stop him in the street to chat football long after his retirement.  Fagan even kept an eye on supporter’s cars after being surprised to see the ex Liverpool manager opening the door when they had knocked  to seek permission to park outside his house.

There is no doubt that Joe Fagan was a down to earth man with many of those speaking of what a nice guy he was.  There is the story of him brushing the away changing rooms at Notts County just after Liverpool had won the title in 1984 or of helping supporters get tickets for big games.

What should never be forgotten though is not just winning the treble in the 1983-84 season, but Joe Fagan’s contribution to Liverpool.  He was just as much an integral part as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were in making Liverpool the best.  It is only right that equally Joe Fagan should be remembered as being one of the top coaches in the game.

 

Brian Benjamin

 

 

The Wapping dispute 1986-87

Wapping disputeAndrew Neil of the Sunday Times called it “the most audacious plot in newspaper history,” whilst others saw the dispute as a move to break the Trade Union movement with Murdoch being aided in these attempts with the full use of the law and Police at his disposal.

Thirty years on  the Wapping dispute is just seen as a footnote within the pages of history but it is certainly an important part of modern history in terms of workers rights and the changes within the press and media.

Change within the industry was overdue considering that other countries were using the modern technology whilst the newspaper industry within the UK were still using hot metal to produce the newspapers. Many felt that the printers union was holding back progress with Murdoch describing the unions of having a “noose around the neck of the industry, and they pulled it very tight.”

Nevertheless Murdoch had no intention of trying to bring in changes amicably but to be provactive and  erase the power of the trade union.

A letter featured in a exhibition about the Wapping dispute this year shows a letter from news International’s lawyers advising on how to provoke a dispute and in turn fire five thousand people without any legal repurcussions.

It was a plan that had started as far back as 1980 when news international had bought the land in Wapping and ‘secretly,’ began building a new printing plant.  From the outside it with its barbed wire and high walls it looked a maximum security prison, but the official line in 1985 was that it was to be used to launch a new local newspaper called the London Post.

Five hundred workers had also been recruited but crucially they did not belong to the SOGAT union but to a more compliant workforce that belonged to a rogue union the EETPU thus ensuring that in the event of any dispute there would be no walkout.

The next move was the announcement of moving four prominent titles of news international to Wapping.  Further demands made to the Unions was the acceptance of flexible working, agreement to a no-strike clause, adopt new technology, and abandon their closed shop.

Despite the union offer of promising no walkouts, flexible working, and binding arbitration news international insisted on compulsory redundancies, minimum compensation and the end of a closed shop.  It was at that point that Dean the General Secretary of SOGAT began to understand that there was no real effort from news international in reaching an agreement by stating “I rather got the feeling the company did not want a settlement.”

Inevitably a strike was called with the five thousand five hundred newspaper workers who went out on the 24th January 1986 were immeaditely given their notices.  The next move by news international was to ensure that none of the journalists would strike in support of their print colleagues.  In what was described as ‘project humiliation,’ news international journalists were told to go to Wapping and get a bonus or be fired.

Without any strong support from the NUJ and journalists either fearing for their livilihoods or simply believed that the printers union was holding back progess a large majority crossed whilst some like Paul Webster of the Sunday Times simply refused.

The final part of news international’s plan was to hire TNT vans to distribute the newspapers in case the rail unions refused to to transport the papers in a show of solidarity of the strikers.

Mass demonstrations ensued outside the Wapping plant as the EETPU shepherded in the strike breakers in an attempt to minimise disruption to the plant.  Even then due to the Conservative government a court order was submitted to limit picketers.  Added to which TNT vans were used to distribute the newspapers for fear of the rail unions refusing to transport the papers.

Just like in the miners strike the Police were drafted in with heavy handed tactics used that at times they were accused of of being a law onto themselves.  Barry Fitzpatrick a then SOGAT union official recalls Police on horse back with no regards for safety charging at the pickets.

Local residents also complained of the actions of the Police as they found themselves caught up in the violence and in some instances were refused access to their street to enter their home. The BBC had also lodged a complaint as they covered the skirmishes after attacks on journalists and camera crews.

Despite the strikers strong resolve in continuing the strike, disruption was seriously limited due to the strike breakers entering the plant with not one day of production lost. This also wasn’t helped as some NUJ members crossed the picket line and despite vocal support from other unions no practical support was given. So with funds exhausted the sacked printers accepted a weak redundancy package on the 5th February 1987.

The aftermath of the struggle had a massive effect on the newspaper and workers rights as a result of Murdoch’s victory.  Many felt that the actions of news international had allowed the press to prolong its life for the next two decades and even allowed new titles like the Independent to flourish in its early years.

Others felt that rather than the start of a new prosperous era it allowed not just Murdoch but other newspaper proprietors to cut costs and cream off bigger profits.  In turn wages for journalists have slumped with the lack of investment in quality journalism.  Other critics also point out Wapping also led to Murdoch increasing his control on the media.

Other critics of the dispute felt that just like the miners was more about breaking trade union power and reducing workers rights that Wapping was more than a fight to move with the times.  They cite  the use of Government help in terms of anti-trade union legislation and the manner in the way the Police was used to help break the strike.Murdoch it is argued would most certainly have found it harder to have won the dispute and certainly may not as been as provactive.

Wapping may not be discussed as much but the ramifications that it had on the press, media and further anti-trade union laws meant that workers rights were greatly diminished as a result.

Comments & views from those involved:

 Andrew Neil, Editor, The Sunday Times

It was the most audacious plot in newspaper history. The other day I was trying to explain Wapping to young journalists and I put my finger on a computer keyboard and said: “In 1986 I would not have been able to do that.” They were amazed. They just couldn’t believe it. Wapping was pretty harrowing, but what kept me going was that I was a true believer.

Roy Greenslade Assistant Editor

If that revolution hadn’t occurred, some papers would have gone to the wall: the 1990 recession would have wiped out four or five. For us on the left, the failure to effect the revolution we wanted and the realities of the 1980s meant we had to know we’d lost the battle. The only way John Pilger ever spoke to me afterwards was by spitting at me.

Paul Webster, Chief Sub, Sunday Times Business Desk

I was summoned with colleagues to a London hotel to be told I must report for duty at the secret new newspaper plant at Wapping in return for a bonus – or be sacked. The brutality with which the printers were fired and the casual contempt of the company towards its journalists persuaded me that I had no choice but to refuse.

Brenda Dean, General Secretary, SOGAT

I was very angry. I felt that there had been a betrayal of the trade unions. Given a little more time we could have negotiated but the die had been cast by Murdoch, his supporters and the Thatcher laws. The power was all on one side, and then it switched straight to the other. It was like a pendulum, and all the moderates like myself just got swept away.

Ian Griffiths, Business reporter at the Times

With the printers and support staff dismissed and the journalists in denial, Murdoch was ready for his final confrontation with the scribes and sub-editors. The idea had been to hand-deliver to each journalist’s house on Saturday morning an ultimatum – come to Wapping or be fired. Through Wapping Murdoch set the tone for a compliant and non-confrontational press. He dealt a body blow to journalism from which we have not yet fully recovered.

Quotes obtained from the Independent & Observer newspapers.

 

The 1990-91 season. Liverpool’s fall from the top

19901991

Anfield was still basking in the afterglow after claiming their eighteenth league championship as they beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 on a late warm August evening.   The week previously Liverpool had beaten Sheffield United at Bramall lane 3-1 and it was deemed business as usual as the reds started the 1990-91 campaign in the quest to not just retain the title but win a nineteenth league championship.  There were to be twist, turns, and shocks but not always on the pitch and it was to be a season that it could be argued the demise of Liverpool’s dominance of the game began.

With Liverpool winning their first eight games on the trot there was nothing to suggest that the reds would not retain their title.  One of the games had included a 4-0 thrashing of Manchester United courtesy of a Peter Beardsley hat-trick.   It had been a lesson of speed, precision of moving and passing the ball as well as a master class in cold finishing.  Manchester United who were constantly expected and failing to match Busby’s team of the fifties and sixties in winning a league title since 1967 were it seemed still light years behind from the level required to win the league.

Nevertheless there were still concerns about this Liverpool team and looking back retrospectively it was clear that the cracks were starting to appear.  For starters the defence which was known to be as miserly as Scrooge was beginning to look vulnerable.

This was evident at the 1990 FA semi-final against Crystal Palace at Villa Park as Liverpool lost 4-3 mainly due to their inability to defend from set-pieces.  Many saw the semi-final defeat as the beginning of the end but it was one of many cracks that had appeared which would result in the reds falling apart during the events of the 1990/91 season.

Liverpool fans knew that the club could not keep on relying on their stalwart centre half Alan Hansen who was part of the spine of the team from the 1970s that had given the club so much success.  That season Hansen was injured and would eventually retire in March 1991 due to his on going knee problems.

Another problem was the lack of any notable signings since 1987 when Kenny Dalglish had obtained the services of John Aldridge, Ray Houghton, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley.

It had led to one of the most exciting Liverpool teams with Tom Finney describing the 5-0 win against Nottingham Forest as “the finest exhibition that I’ve seen.  You couldn’t see it bettered anywhere not even Brazil.”  Liverpool had ran away with the title going twenty nine games unbeaten although they were surprisingly subdued in the Cup final against Wimbledon as they lost 1-0 courtesy of a Sanchez header.

Ian Rush had returned from Juventus in 1988 but it was hardly the Liverpool way of phasing players out just as they were starting to decline and continuing a smooth transition that many supporters scarcely noticed.

It was a lesson that Bill Shankly and the bootroom had learnt after a 1970 third round FA Cup tie defeat against Watford that sentiment and allowing the team to age without adequate replacements was not a recipe for continued success.  Since then Shankly, Paisley and Fagan had always ensured that there was a regular supply of young talent coming in with those having reached their peak quietly moved on.  It was done so subtly that many didn’t even realise the changes immediately.

The squad for the 1990-91 season had a bulk of players who were approaching or already over thirty years old.  No new signings had been made at the start of the 1990-91 season to rectify this problem.  The only deal that was done was making Ronny Rosenthal’s loan move permanent after his crucial goals during the title run in had helped Liverpool reclaim the league from Arsenal.  Even the season before the only addition had been the twenty nine (soon to become thirty) Swedish international Glenn Hysen who turned down Manchester United in favour of the reds.

With hindsight Liverpool should really have turned their attention to a young Gary Pallister who was playing for Middlesbrough which was what United did after failing to sign Hysen.  It could be argued that Shankly, Paisley, and Fagan would not have considered signing a player hitting his thirties and believed signing young players was more beneficial in the long run especially after a stint in the reserves which would teach them the Liverpool way.

As the honeymoon glow of the 1989/90 title success faded like the autumn leaves something didn’t seem quite right within Liverpool.  Manchester City were unlucky not to win at the end of November as Rush equalised in the 82nd minute at Anfield to salvage a point.

The following week with Liverpool still six points clear of Arsenal (who had two points deducted due to a mass brawl at Old Trafford in October against Man Utd) were to travel to Highbury.  Dalglish decided to play a more defensive team with six defenders on the pitch despite Arsenal getting battered 6-1 by Manchester United in the league cup.  Houghton, McMahon, and Beardsley were dropped for the game with the latter not even making the bench.  Liverpool were unable to get into their stride as Arsenal won the game easily 3-0 with World Soccer declaring that Dalglish ‘had backed the wrong horse,’ with regards to his team selection.

Two home wins against Sheffield United and Southampton followed after the defeat but the football did not appear to be slick as previously.  This was particularly so as the Christmas period drew scant rewards with a draw away to QPR and a defeat at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace.  Although a convincing 3-0 win against Leeds United on New Years day at home the second half of the season was to bring more erratic results.

In January Liverpool completed the signings of Jimmy Carter and David Speedie hoping that they would provide an extra boost in the challenge for the title.  Even back then the two transfers had raised eyebrows.  Although a decent player for Millwall, Carter didn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary whilst the purchase of the thirty one year old Speedie from Coventry would have made more sense a few years back.

The concerns over the defence had still not been addressed and as the season progressed there was continued bemusement over the non selection of Peter Beardsley in the starting XI.

Liverpool’s began the FA Cup with a third round tie against Blackburn Rovers with Liverpool making hard work of it as they needed a replay to beat the Second division side.  It was the same in the following round as the reds needed a replay were they beat Brighton at the Goldstone 3-2 to face Everton at Anfield in the fifth round.

It was to be a key defining moment in Liverpool’s history which caused a shock throughout the football world when Kenny Dalglish dramatically resigned as manager.

Nobody was aware that Kenny Dalglish was contemplating leaving Liverpool never mind that one of Liverpool’s greatest player’s and manager had decided to resign.  After drawing 0-0 at Anfield (which was only notable for Steve McMahon having to come off injured and join Ronnie Whelan who had been injured in the Derby the week previously in the league) Dalglish had decided for the sake of his sanity that he had to step down for his health.  Regardless of whether Liverpool won or not, Dalglish had decided that he would inform the Chairman Noel White and the Chief Executive Peter Robinson at the annual meeting which was scheduled for the next day.

The Hillsborough disaster two years previously had played a major impact on Dalglish’s health.  He had provided much support to the families and supporters as well as acting as a figurehead for the club.  In the summer of 1990 Dalglish had ‘wanted a break, there and then,’ but felt that he owed the club a debt.  ‘Liverpool had been so good to me and my family,’ he stated in his autobiography ‘I felt obliged to carry on.’

From a footballing point of view it may have had an impact on Dalglish’s decisions with regards to the team and tactics.  This was something that may have had some substance as Dalglish later admitted again in his autobiography that he was starting to second guess himself on decisions.  Even on the night of the 4-4 draw he had allowed himself to be talked out of making a positional change by wanting to move Molby to sweeper when leading 4-3.  Retrospectively Dalglish believed that had he been one hundred percent he would have made that decision.

Either way Dalglish decided that for once he had to make a decision for himself rather than Liverpool handed in his resignation.  The aftermath and shock was on a par when Bill Shankly had suddenly resigned in the summer of 1974.  Even the grim pained body language of both Shankly and Dalglish looked familiar as a stone faced Chairman read out the resignation statement.  Nobody could quite believe that Dalglish had decided to leave such was his affinity and respect that Liverpool supporter’s had for their manager.

As the ripples of the aftershock continued to reverberate, Ronnie Moran was put in temporary charge whilst the club looked to find an adequate replacement for Dalglish.  The league was still a realistic prize and with a second FA cup replay against Everton at Goodison it was important to try and get back some stability.

The wheels though had already started to skid as Liverpool entered 1991 and they would now start to come off the road.  A 3-1 away defeat to Luton Town on their plastic pitch followed after Dalglish’s resignation as well as going out of the Cup to Everton 1-0 in the replay.  Up next was Arsenal at Anfield.  Both teams had played twenty four games with Liverpool three points ahead.  Consequently whoever won the game would take a huge advantage.  As it was Liverpool lost to a Paul Merson goal who secured the three points for the Gunners.

Liverpool picked up three wins afterwards against Manchester City, Sunderland, and a 7-1 demolition of Derby County at the Baseball ground.  It was to be a short lived revival with the season now hitting a crucial time as the games were running out Liverpool were outplayed and well beaten by QPR 3-1 at Anfield.  The ascendancy was now with Arsenal as Liverpool slipped again away to Southampton 1-0 then drew 1-1 against Coventry as they then beat Leeds United 5-4 in a thriller at Elland road.

With Dalglish resigning the priority for the club was to find a replacement.  Much has been discussed since on whether the club should have waited until the summer before making a decision.  Dalglish himself stated that he might have returned to Liverpool in the summer.

Ronnie Moran had made it clear that he did not want the pressure of the hot seat and would only act as the caretaker manager until a permanent replacement was found.  The club it seemed wanted stability as soon as possible began the hunt.

John Toshack a former red seemed high on the list especially as he was an experienced manager who had won the league with Real Madrid the year before.  Alan Hansen was also touted as a possible replacement but the job went to Graeme Souness who had enjoyed much success as his time as a Liverpool player.

There wasn’t any disapproval to the appointment of Souness.  He had brought success back to Glasgow Rangers since taking charge in 1986.  Furthermore there was a link to Liverpool during his time as a player who would understand the Liverpool way.

A 3-0 win against Norwich at Anfield brought a good start to Souness’s career with another 3-0 win against Crystal Palace ensured that Liverpool would be at least be playing in the UEFA Cup after serving a extra year ban following when English clubs had been allowed to compete in Europe after Heysel.

Liverpool though did not push Arsenal and after two away defeats to Chelsea and Nottingham Forest, Arsenal won their tenth league title.

Graeme Souness in his match day notes in the final home game against Spurs expressed his disappointment at not making it as hard as possible for Arsenal whilst questioning the desire of his players by stating “I think some have fallen into the habit of losing and accept that far too readily.  The history of this Club is one of fighting to the very end and we did not do it this season.”

Liverpool beat Tottenham 2-0 courtesy of goals from Rush and Speedie in the final game of the season.  All eyes were on the future with many fans knowing that there would be no quick fix to an ageing team that needed re-building.  Much talk was on the need to sign a quality centre-half and to start the process of phasing out the faded player’s who had brought much success to the club.

The 1990/91 season was a pivotal one for Liverpool when it started to unravel.  The lack of quality signings especially in defence, the stress and pressure of managing Liverpool that led to Kenny Dalglish resigning all strongly shone a large beacon light on the problems Liverpool faced.

For the following year Liverpool needed a steady hand to sail the club through what was going to be very stormy waters.  Instead Souness tried to change things too soon and signing too many inferior players who were simply not good enough to wear the red shirt.  The likes of Paul Stewart, Julian Dicks, and Istvan Kozma with the latter nicknamed ‘Lord Lucan’ due to the lack of first team starts highlighted the poor quality of signings made by Souness.

With the dawn of the Premier league and the money that it brought Liverpool still allowed itself to fall behind Manchester United not just on the pitch but off it.  United had realised its market potential and was subsequently cashing in on that whilst Liverpool stood still.

It was a challenge despite the emerging talent of Mcmanaman, Fowler, Redknapp, and Rob Jones that the following managers of Souness, Evans, Houllier, and onwards were unable to meet.  At times and certainly with the former the club lurched ever backwards that even now they are no closer to matching the dominant success that Liverpool enjoyed in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

 

Brian Benjamin

Send the gunboats up the Mersey.

Liverpool and the 1911 General Transport Strike

Liverpool_transport_strike-1911

Mass strikes, troops sent onto the streets, protestors getting shot, gunboats being sent up the Mersey with the guns positioned on the City itself, and the country seemingly on the verge of revolution it is a period despite all this instability that is hardly ever scrutinised with information about that era hard to come by.

Nevertheless it is a story that sounds eerily familiar in the sense of wages failing to keep up with the rising cost of living, poor workers rights and contempt for Trade Unions. Poverty was also rife despite Liverpool being the second richest City behind London. In short people were struggling to live and simply wanted a decent standard of living.

Tonypandy riots

The initial seeds of discontent broke out amongst miners in the Rhonda mining areas of South Wales which later became known as the Tonypandy riots. Miners went on strike over the poor working conditions. This was inflamed even more by the lockout at the Ely Pit in Penygraig on September the 1st 1910.  Miners were accused of deliberately working slow, when it was the new equipment that slowed them down.

Mass picketing was organised with all mines being shut apart from the Llywnypia pit which resulted in the Tonypandy riots. Trouble had broken out when miners tried to prevent strike breakers from entering. This resulted in miners being forced into Tonypandy square with the controversial decision by Winston Churchill to send in troops. Further rioting broke out within the area with the 18th Hussars being dispatched on the 9th November to quell the trouble. There was one casualty Samuel Rhys who died after being struck by a Policeman’s baton.

Sadly the miners were forced back to work in August 1911 but it resulted in further strikes with the miners gaining success when they striked in 1912.

The 1911 Transport Strike

GT striike

In Liverpool the general transport strike stoked up a huge amount of unrest that led to yet another infamous decision by Winston Churchill.

It started with the seaman’s national strike with a huge demonstration by the TWF Union demonstration taking place in Liverpool May 11th 1911.

With the strike strongly supported the companies had to agree new terms with the union. Encouraged by this the dockers who also went on strike with yet again companies having to agree better working hours and pay.

It was the Transport strike during August that was to see matters escalate even further and near pushed the country to revolution. This incidentally was a national dispute with the railways going out on strike. This in turn was supported by dockers and other transport workers that saw the transportation of goods being brought to a grinding halt.

Tensions were rising with the shipping companies stating that the docker’s were in breach of their contract and declaring a lockout. To add fuel to the fire they also tried to call the military in as strike breakers.

For the authorities they were in essence alarmed at what they saw as a virus of support for the strike and were determined to stop it before it spread even more. Consequently when a mass demonstration at St. George’s Plateau in the City centre was planned (the prominent Trade Unionist Tom Mann was speaking) they quickly added troops and extra Police from other parts of the country. To feed the hysteria even more Winston Churchill sent a gunboat HMS Antrim up the Mersey with its guns facing the City.  Another gunboat incidentally was also sent up the Mersey.

Liverpool_transport_strike-1911

Looking back at the photos of the 13th August 1911 with the masses of people thronging the plateau it reminds you of the Arab Spring protests. As you look at the faces it dawns on you that these are ordinary people. All with their own hopes and dreams, skills, family and their own stories to tell. But above all though, it was a show of solidarity, of wanting steady work, better wages and living conditions plus a better future for their children which in some respects would be us.

1911

Reading Fred Bower’s account of workers marching from all over Liverpool must have shaken the establishment. ‘From Orange Garston, Everton and Toxteth Park, from Roman Catholic Bootle and the Scotland Road area they came. Forgotten were their religious feuds. The Garston band had walked five miles and their drum major proudly whirled his sceptre twined with orange and green ribbon.’

‘Never in the history of this or any other country had the majority and might of the humble toiler been so displayed. A wonderful spirit of humour and friendliness permeated the atmosphere.’

Bloody Sunday

Tom Mann speaking at Liverpool 1911
Tom Mann speaking at Liverpool 1911

On all accounts it was a nice hot sunny day. Indeed you can imagine marching with the other thousands feeling proud and excited. After all this is your chance to air your voice that you want steady employment, a decent wage and decent hours. Tom Mann a prominent orator is about to speak about your cause. It is a jovial and friendly atmosphere.

Then there is maybe a sound of alarm amongst the crowd. You look around puzzled only to be alarmed as Police on horseback charge indiscriminately. Chaos ensues as people try to flee to safety.

There are no records of why the Police decided to charge a peaceful crowd which resulted in a mass panic with 186 people being hospitalised and 95 arrests.

Fred reports how after the carnage caused by the Police that it resembled a battlefield with wounded men, women, and children, lying singly in heaps over a vast area.

One record states that the Pathe Picture people had been taking a moving picture of the charge. Somehow they got away with the negatives but Pathe were warned by the Government that under no circumstances were the pictures to be shown in public knowing a public outcry would ensue.

S35C-109081411090

More disturbances broke out that night but rather than try to stem the damage already caused with Bloody Sunday the authorities continued to try to break the strike by bring in over 50,000 troops across the country and using brutal force. Troops even opened fire on civilians in Great Homer Street but far worse was to follow.

Following Bloody Sunday a convoy of prisoners who had been arrested on that day were being escorted by thirty-two soldiers of the 18th Hussars on horseback fully armed with live ammunition along with mounted Police. A magistrate was also present carrying a copy of the riot act. However before it could be even read a disturbance broke out on Vauxhall road with troops opening fire, injuring five people, two fatally. The victims were John W. Sutcliffe and a twenty-nine year old docker Michael Prendergast. Five days later, on the 19th August two more civilians were shot by troops in Llanelli. These are the last occasions in history when British soldiers have killed civilians on the streets of mainland Britain.

2012-04-26-14

By now the situation was at breaking point not just in Liverpool but right across the country. Birmingham Police who had been dispatched to Liverpool had now been recalled back home to deal with disturbances there and due to the railway strike had to march the 40 miles to get a train to take them to Birmingham. Soldiers were also starting to desert rather than fire on their fellow-man.

The Government was shocked to the core as the dispute was steadily getting out of hand. Anymore fatalities or disturbances for that matter could be the powder keg to it erupting into full revolt.

It was with this point of view that Lloyd George persuaded the Prime Minister Asquith to call in the railway owners and force them to quickly come to a swift settlement with the Trade Unions. Not surprisingly the Unions won the concessions for their members to bring an end to a very troubled but united strike.

Despite calls for a public enquiry into the fatal shootings in Liverpool and Llanelli the Government did their best to sweep it under the carpet. Parliament adjourned on the 22nd August so further questions could not be raised whilst it was still fresh in people’s minds. Churchill himself (as Home Office files later revealed) ensured that minimum publicity was given to the Court Martial of a Llanelli soldier who had refused to fire on civilians and had deserted on the spot.

Not many people probably realise how unsettled that period actually was. This though is the history of ordinary people.

They shaped history by fighting for decent working conditions and a fair wage. Furthermore they also wanted better living conditions. All of our working rights such as maternity, the minimum wage, maximum working hours, various health and safety legislation are all thanks to people like those who took part in the 1911 strikes.

In turn it could be argued that they led the way into ensuring better housing was provided for people as well as the establishment of the NHS. After all the establishment were well aware of what working class power could achieve and probably viewed it as best to give in to some concessions. Nevertheless it is a fascinating part of history that should be discussed so that we can not only paint a true picture but find out how we got here today.

 

 

Brian Benjamin