You may have heard by now that we’ve been working closely with a number of Leeds fans and collectors, to pull together an unmissable Centenary Exhibition to celebrate 100 years of Leeds United. As part of the exhibition, we’re taking a look back at various moments in the clubs history and reliving memories with historians and the players involved.
The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust are delighted to announce that Paul has been made our latest Honorary Member. When we awarded Paul with his Honorary Membership, we got the chance to chat with him about his legacy with the club.
From target balls to the “smiley” badge, Marching on Together to sock tags, has anyone had a bigger, more lasting effect on Leeds United fan culture as Paul Trevillion? His contributions at a time when Leeds were at their most prominent have had an indelible effect on the club and helped to change the image of English football as a whole. The recognition that much more could be done to engage with Leeds’ ever loyal fan base and the creation of the iconic smiley badge in order to appeal to a wider audience beyond that of West Yorkshire, was a marketing stratagem way ahead of it’s time. His friendship with Don Revie shaped some of the most celebrated moments in Leeds United’s history and changed English football forever. Football has never looked back.
It’s late summer and I’ve been lucky enough to have secured thirty minutes with Paul to discuss all things Don Revie and Leeds United. I’ve done my research and prepared plenty of questions. An hour and forty minutes later, I didn’t need a single one.
Paul is as warm and charismatic as they come, his stories and his passion for football and for a time when Leeds United reigned supreme is a wonderful walk through the golden years of our club. His knowledge and enthusiasm is second to none and, on a more personal note, boy does he talk fast!
“I spend a lot of time in America, I’m normal there, I’m not normal here” Paul warns. It’s not long before his attention turns to his old friend Don; “He said to me “Paul, you never quite finish your sentence because you’ve already started the next one.” ”
To go back to the very beginning, their working relationship began when Paul wrote Revie’s life story along with some signature illustrations, in his inimitable style, for a newspaper back when Leeds were still in the 2nd division. He took to Revie immediately; “I suddenly saw a family. It was Don Revie’s family that played because he knew every single one of them personally. That team was a family. Even then he had huge self-belief, you could see it, he was convinced that they were gonna go up that year. He loved the drawings I did and we met a few times after that at PFA dinners and what not but nothing too significant.”
It would be the prestigious Spurs manager Bill Nicholson who would eventually change all that.
In the late 1960’s, while working in America, Paul was invited to go see the Cleveland Indians baseball team and was amazed at how well the fans in the stadium were treated on game day; “the result was secondary, it didn’t matter, you still had a bloody good day out. People giving out free t-shirts to the crowd… fireworks… dancing girls… people on the pitch at half time… it was a great occasion and you wanted to come back for more! Then you’d come back to England to the football and see that the railings and fences were up and I couldn’t help but notice how badly treated the supporters were, there had to be something that we could do to change that”.
After witnessing first-hand the game day experience and the different approach towards sports fans and spectators in the USA, Paul arrived back in England with a raft of revolutionary ideas. “I came back and went to see Bill Nicholson at Tottenham Hotspur with some ideas as I was convinced that there was so much more football could do with the fans. After listening he said “I tell you what, I’m a good friend of Don Revie, why don’t you go see Don, because Don’s club has got the wrong image, that’s a team full of internationals and they play football from the Gods. I’m telling you Paul; They. Are. The. Best.” So off I went, up to Leeds”.
“You’re gonna win! You’re too good to finish 2nd!!”
Paul arrived in Leeds just as preparations for the 1971/72 season were getting underway. Don liked what Trevillion had to share with him and the pair wasted no time in getting started on his ideas; “you’ll have to convince the players Beaver [Trevillion’s nickname], let’s go talk to them”, Revie said, the players were equally as enthusiastic to put on a show.
Paul first wanted to make the crowd feel closer to the team and to do this he had the players wear sock tags that they would sign before each match and give out to the crowd at full time. He also had the players kick “target” balls into the crowd, each with one of the player’s numbers on, for fans to take home and play with when they unsurprisingly wanted to try to emulate what they’d seen at Elland Road.
After observing a few training sessions the sheer quality of the team brought Trevillion’s ideas to life; he wanted to showcase the significant ability of the players in a more relaxed setting. This started with having the players come out 15 minutes early before kick-off (normally the teams appeared only 3 minutes before the game got underway). He had them run through a Les Cocker choreographed routine he called “the drill”, with players peeling off at full speed toward each corner and jinking through each other like the Red Arrows. Then he had them exhibit their skills with a series of warm-up exercises, which included the players dribbling the ball, shooting at goal and passing it around at speed. For all this to have maximum effect Paul arranged for each of the player’s names to be sewn onto the tracksuits the team wore over their kit before the match. The crowd could then easily identify their heroes and see who was who, even from the back of the stands.
“The other teams called them a dancing troupe, but they couldn’t see it, they couldn’t see that they were the fittest team in the league by a country mile! But that suited them, Don didn’t want the opposition to see how good his team was before they played. Nobody gave players like Jack Charlton credit, they thought he was all black leather, booting the ball up field but he was the brain that organised that defence, he was unbelievable at reading the ball in flight. There were games when Jack never lost an aerial battle.
Peter Lorimer could hit the ball from the half way line and hit the back of the net without it touching the ground BANG! Even in the pouring rain when those old leather balls were like lead, it didn’t make a difference BANG!
Eddie Gray could curl a corner kick into the goal, 5 at the front post, 5 at the back, from both sides. Allan Clarke was the best finisher in the league, by far! Don said to me “but Paul don’t emphasise that”, he didn’t want the other teams to know before they played them. The whole camouflage of what Don did then was so clever, so clever. They carried that “Dirty Leeds” tag because of their physicality but make no mistake about it; they were much more than that. What I saw that those players could do was absolutely sensational; the ability of those players was out of this world.”
The season ended with Leeds as winners of the FA Cup for the first time in their history, beating Arsenal 1-0 in the final. Allan Clarke scored the all-important goal in front of 100,000 people at the old Wembley.
This achievement coincided with what is perhaps Trevillion’s most lasting contribution. In the lead up to the cup final it was tradition to release a commemorative cup final record. Revie came to Paul to with a special assignment, he was a big fan of Tom Jones and wanted Trevillion to convince legendary song writer Les Reed, who regularly penned hits for the likes of Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, to record his first ever football song. (Yes, Don Revie was a Tom Jones fan).
“I’d waited outside his house all morning continually ringing the door bell which played Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘The Last Waltz’ and Tom Jones ‘Delilah’. Finally Les came to the door, telling me “No, I don’t do football songs” but as soon as he saw the poster I had done for the record he said, “oh wow” I said “Yeah, it’s for the Cup Final but we’re going to release it before the Semi Final and thousands of people are gonna hear it.” Les then picked up the phone and called Barry Mason over.
The resulting record was ‘(We Love You) Leeds, Leeds, Leeds’, an original composition by Reed and Barry Mason, popularly known as ‘Marching on Together’. The record stayed in the UK Singles chart for 3 months. The lyrics embodied Revie’s unshakable belief in his team and the pride and affection the fans felt for their club. It has remained the city’s anthem ever since.
“The doors of self-believe are always open”
Given his unparalleled access and knowledge of Revie and his footballing philosophies, I asked Paul what he thought about the team today and what advice he thought Revie would offer the team and the manager.
“If he was around now, I know what Don would say, I know his words and the advice he would give the team. Perhaps Bielsa wouldn’t need it, he seems pretty good at that himself but Don would have them sitting in that dressing room, or around the training ground and say; “the doors of self-belief are always open and the only person who can close them is yourself. Go out there and believe in your ability.” It’s all about self-belief and how big you can build that self-belief within the team. Don had 20 or more lines I heard him use talking to individual players to build their self-belief and make them a better player. I’ll give you one line that Don always liked, they’ve got to go out there and think; “This team does not deserve to play on the Elland Road grass, they’re not good enough. They’re not good enough! They should be playing on the car park outside!!” And that’s the answer, that’s what they should believe when they go out; this team’s not good enough to be playing on our pitch. Kick ‘em off! Put the ball in the net!
I love that man on the bucket, love him to death. I really think he’s the closest thing to Don Revie that I’ve seen and them boys have got to believe. They’ve got to win all their personal battles, whatever battles they have they’ve got to win ‘em”. Don always said to me “the greatest players always play within their ability. Johnny [Giles] plays within his ability and that’s why he rarely makes a mistake. You can never trace a goal you’ve conceded to a Giles error. Johnny [Giles] ‘persuades’ things to happen. Billy [Bremner] is a mini explosion of energy – he ‘forces’ them to happen.”
Me though, I don’t want to win a medal. I’m an artist, I just want to draw. And I just want to look back on my memories with Don Revie, and the greatest players I’ve ever seen play football, and a team that if they were in that Premier League now, I’m telling you, Liverpool and Man City wouldn’t know which day of the week it was. Don could see where football was going, it was going to be an all passing game and we’re gonna have goalkeepers coming out of the box and collecting the ball. The day when the man does it all on the ball is gone, he could see it then and do you know what, I’ve seen everything that we talked about come true. Everything.
I’m 85, I’ve seen a lot of football in my time; the  Tottenham team that won the double, the Busby ‘Babes’, the great Everton team with the ‘Holy Trinity’ midfield of Harvey, Ball and Kendall. I’ve seen them all, but let me tell you when I look back at some of the great teams I’ve seen, if I ever had to stake my life on one side to win a match, any match, one team; it would be that Leeds team from ’72. Every time. They were something else.
I love football, I love it. I’ve been blessed to see Pele and I’ve been blessed to see Paul Gascoigne, the best player ever to play in a Tottenham shirt. Now I want to see Leeds go up. I’m just so happy that they’ve got a good manager, he’s the man and that’s why I drawn him. I love him, he’s got self believe, he doesn’t care what people think; he wants to win. I think this will be the season. They just have to believe too.”
Tickets are available for the centenary celebration evening with Paul and Leeds United legend Allan “sniffer” Clarke here.