In our continued series of interviewing Leeds United fans, players and heroes we continue with one special hero to several fans in the most recent decade; Simon Grayson.
Ushering in the salvage of Leeds United from the third tier of English Football, Grayson a former youth prospect at Leeds became one of the clubs most favoured managers with promotion to the Championship on a picturesque final day of the 09/10 season.
To start us off; who or what got you interested in football?
My Dad, he played to a good level at non league and was heavily involved in school n county football teams with him being a teacher.
Did you have a favourite Leeds player who you modelled your game on as you started your football career?
Unfortunately not really as during the 80s Leeds weren’t a great team with no real outstanding players. I was just too young to see n appreciate the golden years of Revie, Bremner Gray etc. I did have a soft spot for Kenny Dalglish n Glenn Hoddle as a teenager , trying certain things they did.
What was your proudest moment during your time at Leeds as a player and manager?
I had many to choose from but making my debut as a 17 year old v Huddersfield on a Tuesday night in September is probably my proudest one.
Like many kids my dream was to be a professional footballer and to achieve this for the club you supported was a night I will never forget. As a manager winning at Old Trafford, The win v B Rovers and nearly every game I was manager of Leeds were proud moments but probably walking down the tunnel on Boxing Day for my first game v Leicester City was a unreal surreal moment. I never once thought I would one day return to Leeds as manager n follow in the foot steps of the likes of Revie , Wilkinson n many others. A very proud day for me n my family
A player you thought “not him again” when it came to play him or as a manager?
As a player who played a few years in the premier league you would come across great players every week but when I played right back I would probably say playing against Ryan Giggs was always tough. He was just as quick running with the ball as he was without it. Shearer was always hard to play against as he wouldn’t give you any time when I played C Back and when in midfield take your pick from Keane Viera n Scholes. I can’t really think of a player I’ve managed where I’ve thought that
One player or manager, above them all who you hung on their every word?
I was really privileged as an apprentice to clean Billy Bremners coaching room , which ment clean all there kit up, wash the floors and clean his boots. I would deliberately take my time doing this as Billy would be in there talking to his staff about the present squad but more interesting he would be telling stories from his playing days, as u can imagine what stories they were.
A player who joined Leeds you just couldn’t ‘gel with’ or you just thought he didn’t ‘get’ Leeds?
I can’t say I can think of any but maybe some of the loan players found it really tough to understand what it ment to play for Leeds.
Whether it was in league one or the Championship some players who had come on loan from the premier league probably thought it was going to be easy but I’m sure after a game or two they realised what it was like to play for Leeds n what it ment to the supporters. The expectations can be high but also the backing the players would get was unbelievable
Beckford or Becchio. Who did you rate highest, not for the goals they scored but how they played the game and helped the team?
I think they complimented eachother really well. Bechio with his strength, hold up play, aerial ability n work rate ment Jermaine who was the more of a goal scorer ment they were perfect for each other. Jermaine would make something happen out if nothing, he would try things that other lads wouldn’t even see. His pace also had defenders worried, as they knew he could beat most of them.
I took Jermaine with me to Huddersfield and Preston where he did really well for me so I would say Jermaine but they were a great partnership together
Man Utd or Bristol Rovers were amazing games do you have a favourite or another game that you watch on a regular basis?
I haven’t seen the above games that often but when you see clips of them they certainly bring back good memories.
Your team of 2009/10 or Bielsa’s team 2019/20 starting XI; who would win?
We’d like to thank Simon for his answers and the work he did with our club. For many fans he will go down in Leeds history as one of our best managers and a respected member of the Leeds family.
Simon now works with several organisations under the Simon Grayson Charity that often supports charities like Prostate Cancer UK, Parkinson’s UK And MS Society.
By Keith Ingham