Lorimer of Leeds, hard shot in a hard team

THE LEEDS UNITED team of the club’s golden era under Don Revie has lost another of its shining stars with the passing of Peter Lorimer. He was an integral part of Leeds’ classic side, a group of highly-skilled and highly-motivated internationals that probably won less than they deserved during a marvellously consistent period.

Lorimer was renowned for his fierce shooting ability, said to be even harder and faster than a Bobby Charlton thunderbolt. Aided by regular drives of over 90 miles per hour, he became Leeds United’s record scorer, netting 238 goals in 705 appearances.

He was a player that any club would have liked to have had in their squad, a skilful and busy individual who scored spectacular goals on a regular basis. Manchester United were especially keen on signing him as a youngster.

It says a lot for the team spirit at Leeds that he never left the club during his peak years. “We were like a family and that’s how Don Revie wanted it. We still have great respect for each other and enjoy each other’s company. We’re like brothers. We never had any prima donnas even though we had some massive characters,” he said in an interview some years after his playing career had ended.

Like all of Revie’s men, he always retained great respect for his mentor, believing that he was ahead of his time in so many ways. “Don ran the whole club, making everyone feel part of things. He was one of the first managers to take the team away in advance of away matches – he even had us on special diets and wanted to know we were getting the right food and plenty of rest.”

Lorimer will forever be remembered for a disallowed goal in the 1975 European Cup final, a game that Leeds should have won. Similarly, a disallowed strike in the 1967 FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea not only underlined his shooting ability, but also Leeds’ habit of falling at the final hurdle. 

Born in Dundee on December 14 1946, Lorimer joined Leeds in May 1962 as a 15 year-old.  He made his Leeds debut in September of that year, but it was not until 1965-66 that he became a regular, scoring 19 goals as Leeds finished runners-up in the Football League. Leeds and Lorimer finally won their first trophies in 1968, the Football League Cup in March against Arsenal in a brutal encounter, and the Inter-Cities’ Fairs Cup later in the year against Ferencvaros.

Over the next six years, Lorimer won two Football League titles (1969 and 1974), the FA Cup (1972) and another Fairs Cup (1971). He also went close to winning more, including in the 1969-70 season when Leeds finished runners-up in the league and FA Cup and reached the last four of the European Cup.

Scotland recognised his talent and he won his first cap for his country on November 5 1969 against Austria, replacing Chelsea’s Charlie Cooke with 20 minutes remaining in a World Cup qualifier in Vienna’s Prater Stadium. Lorimer secured 21 caps in total, scoring four goals over a six-year international career. He played all three of Scotland’s games in the 1974 World Cup finals in Germany, netting against Zaire.

He proved to be one of the more durable members of the great Leeds side, staying with the club right through until 1979 initially, and then enjoyed a second spell that ran from 1983 to 1985. 

Peter Lorimer was, by all accounts, a likeable fellow who was respected by team-mates and rivals alike. Anybody who saw him in full flight, lashing home a trademark rocket shot would also confirm that he was a player worth watching. 

@GameofthePeople

Photo: PA Images

Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles – men of their time

IF YOU’VE watched the film, The Damned United, you don’t necessarily come away with a positive view of Leeds United under Don Revie or the two legends in Leeds’ midfield in the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles.

Along with Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter, no other players epitomised the stance adopted by Revie and his team in that period. Not for nothing did Leeds have a dressing room motto, “Keep Fighting”.

Giles was a supremely gifted player who could do wonders with the ball. Bremner was tenacious, often letting his fiery temper get the better of him. But there was no better player to rise to the occasion in a big game.

Foul magazine, the forerunner to the fanzine era and in particular, When Saturday Comes, loved nothing more than to snipe at Bremner. Foul was mostly penned by cynical journalists, and in its heyday (1972-1975), English football had become violent, often very defensive and full of “dirty tricks”. In one edition of the publication, Bremner’s disciplinary record was listed – 38 bookings (including two sending-offs) from 1962 to 1974.

John Arlott, a brilliant writer, described Bremner as “10 stone of barbed wire”. But he was also a great on-field skipper, as underlined by his place at the top of a survey to find the Football League’s greatest captain. Not bad for a 5ft 5in player who was rejected by Chelsea and Arsenal for being too small. Ironically, the Stirling-born Bremner enjoyed nothing more than a battle against the two clubs that failed to see his potential.

By the time Giles arrived at Elland Road from Manchester United, seemingly rejected by Matt Busby, Bremner had already played more than 100 games for Leeds. Starting out as a winger, he was converted to a midfielder by Revie, who saw Giles as his ideal partner, especially after similarly combative Bobby Collins was sidelined through injury.

Giles had been a regular at United and won the FA Cup with them in 1963, but he fell out of favour with Busby. He asked for a transfer and was sold for just £ 33,000 to Leeds. “I am going to haunt him,” said Giles upon leaving Old Trafford and to some extent, the loss of Giles did come back to bite United on the backside, especially in their early-to-mid 1970s slump when they were crying out for midfield leadership.

Bremner (207x300)The duo ran the Leeds midfield as Revie’s men upset the established order in the first division. Giles, many years later, told the Yorkshire media: “Billy and I had a natural understanding. It’s something you can’t teach or coach. If I picked up the ball in the centre circle, I knew where he’d be waiting to receive it. He was a joy to play with but easy to play with too. Billy and I hit it off straight away. It was a partnership.”

It was popularly believed that Bremner did Revie’s bidding on the pitch – the executioner of the Don’s OCD preparations – as evidenced by countless photos of intimacy between manager and skipper. But in truth, Giles was the brain in midfield and when Revie finally stepped down to manage England, his first choice as his replacement – and no doubt, keeper of the flame – was Giles.

There’s no doubt that Giles was the more cultured player, although he could also mix-it and call on some of the off-the-ball tricks normally associated with much-derided continental European teams from Italy or Spain. Bremner wore his heart on his sleeve and was easily recognisable as bring a little over-zealous at times. “A dirty little bastard,” said the late Dave Mackay of Tottenham, who was famously pictured grabbing Bremner by the scruff of the neck. A little agricultural he may have been, especially in his raw, younger days, but he was also a match winner. He scored the decisive goals in no less than three FA Cup semi-finals – 1965 (v Manchester United 1-0, 89 mins), 1970 (v Manchester United 1-0, 9 mins) and 1973 (v Wolves 1-0, 70 mins). He also scored in the 1965 FA Cup final for Leeds, although Giles 4 (214x300)they lost 2-1 to Liverpool. He also captained Scotland in the 1974 World Cup.

Ironically, Bremner and Giles both scored the same number of goals for Leeds (115), but Giles was also renowned for being the arch-creator. Don Revie described him thus: “John was a superlative soccer technician whose ability had no limits. He had great natural aptitude but was always working hard to improve. When we finished a training session he would go off to the gym to work on his own.”

Giles was ignored for the Leeds job on two occasions, once when Revie recommended him and then when the ill-fated Brian Clough era ended. But at the end of 1974-75, and Leeds’ unfortunate defeat in the European Cup final – Giles’ last game for the club – he accepted an offer to be player-manager of West Bromwich Albion. Bremner stayed until September 1976 when he joined Hull City. He would later manage Leeds but sadly, died at the age of just 55.

If you want to see just how good this great partnership was, look no further than a game that took place on March 4, 1972. Leeds destroyed Southampton 7-0 and put on a passing display that would not have looked out of place on the playing fields of Amsterdam or Rotterdam – this was in the age of Total Football with Ajax and Feyenoord in their pomp. And at the heart of it were Bremner and Giles, showboating their skill-set. Tough – yes, competitive – undoubtedly, but two terrific players who rank alongside the best of their era.

Main photo: PA