By Rob Atkinson
History, they say, is written by the winners. In last night’s “Match of the Day”, the BBC provided ample evidence to show that it is also rewritten by hypocritical sycophants who should know better.
The events of the afternoon had not panned out as the scriptwriters would have wished, though all looked well ten short minutes from the end of Man U’s match at West Brom, S’ralex’s last game as manager. The Plastic Champions were 5-2 ahead, and John Motson had purred, gasped and chuckled his way through 80 minutes of exhibition football, punctuated by comical home defending, and it looked very much as though another team was going to roll over meekly for the men from Salford.
Then S’ralex brought on Paul Scholes for the Ginger Minger’s own last appearance before his latest retirement. The cameras prepared to adjust to soft focus, Motson drew in another breath preparatory to more shudderingly orgasmic tributes as he was consumed by an ecstasy of highly marketable sentimentality. The stage was set for the Govan Guv’nor to stump off into the sunset, his purple-blotched features lacerated by a parody of a smile.
Then it all went wrong. West Brom struck three times in the last ten minutes, Ferguson’s smile dropped to the floor quicker than a Gareth Bale dive and the mighty Man U were holding on at the end to avoid saying goodbye in the face of a last blast from a defeated Hairdryer. 5-5 it finished, and the BBC were denied their expected valedictory stroll in the sun; the Baggies had pooped the Corporation’s party.
Maybe it was this that prompted the spite and small-minded pettiness of the montage which prefaced the Match of the Day highlights late last night. More likely though that it was always going to be yet another calculated slap in the face to the memory of a great man, a man whose boots the assembled hacks and ex-pros on the MOTD couch are not fit to lick, a true great of the game that the Establishment seem determined to pretend was never there. Ferguson was painted in admiring and rose-hued tones, to a background of his many achievements as compared to the other “managerial greats.” Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Jock Stein, Bobby Robson, Ron Greenwood, Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Bill Nicholson; all these legends were held up as examples of managerial excellence to be rightly lauded for their achievements and the mark they left on then game.
But no mention of the greatest of them all: Donald George Revie OBE.
This was no mere oversight. It’s been going on for years, and it’s a premeditated and vicious attempt at the excision from public memory of football’s greatest manager, a cowardly and shameful act of malice aforethought. It reflects ill on the researchers who put these things together; aren’t they aware of their history, we in the know might wonder. Don’t they have access to Google? But they know all about the Don, they know he transformed a tired old joke of a football club into the most feared and respected force in Europe; they know he did it without massive financial backing and without paying obscene wages; they know how he did it all to the dubious background of an initially apathetic support, fans who had only ever known mediocrity at best, and expected nothing else. Out of all this, Don Revie wrought a miracle – a team that respected judges of the game have described as the finest club side in English football history.
The accidental omission of Revie’s name for any TV item concerning itself with managerial greatness would be unforgivably slipshod; the act of a clueless nincompoop. But this was much, much worse than that. It was an exposition of hypocrisy underpinned by malice and the bile of fifty years’ accumulated resentment. It was a crass attempt at revisionism, a blunderingly clumsy try at pretending Don Revie never existed. It was wishful thinking in its bitterest and most destructive form, a playground insult to a giant of the game. The BBC cowards and toadies have exposed themselves as classless fools, deserving only of contempt and ridicule.
“And Leeds will go mad. And they’ve every right to go mad!” – as Barry Davies memorably put it back in the day, in more realistic times before the game turned plastic, when everybody knew who the heroes were and we weren’t fed a diet of pap and lies. And Leeds should go mad again. The city, the club, the fans – none of them should continue to lie down and accept this disgraceful treatment, this attempted erasure of an iconic figure whom we all worship as “Simply The Best.” There should be a loud outcry, a vehement protest. This is my small contribution, but the fans as a body have form for hitting back at media and establishment when they feel one of their own wronged.
In 1994, the FA handed down a mandate that all clubs should observe a minute’s silence in respect for the late Matt Busby. They did this because it’s what you do when a respected figure dies – except of course they’re not consistent. They failed to mark the death of Don Revie, a tragic and cruel end from Motor Neurone Disease. They failed even to send a representative to his funeral, although – to his eternal credit – Alex Ferguson was there, and Denis Law, as well as most of the Leeds United greats and other proper football men. But none of the hypocrites in suits from the game’s ruling authorities saw fit to get off their backsides and pay tribute. Revie was dead; let them get on with pretending he never existed. So in 1994, when they were supposed to lapse into a respectful silence, the Leeds fans at Blackburn Rovers’ ground exploded in a raucous and repeated cry of “One Don Revie! There’s only one Don Revie!!”The great and the good of the sport were scandalised. People pursed their lips and shook their heads sadly. How dare these yobboes ruin our tribute to our Chosen One? But I’m so, so glad that it happened. We should not knuckle under to the official view; we should never bow down before such blatant hypocrisy.
They’re getting wise to rebellion now. There tends to be a minute’s applause these days, lest any disrespectful mob should see fit to assert their unwanted point of view the next time some officially-beloved figure keels over. But the fans will be heard, believe me. And if the media – typified by these contemptible fools in charge of the increasingly poodle-like Match of the Day – continue so determinedly to ignore and try to obliterate the legacy of The Don, then I hope that defiant cry will be heard again, loud and proud. While ever Leeds United fans are prepared to stand up and be counted, happy to raise their arms and voices and be heard – then Don Revie will never be forgotten, whatever the wishes of the pompous suits and deluded TV types.
Don Revie, “The Don” (1927 – 1989) A true legend and a great of the game. Whatever you might think of him – and God knows, I’m no fan – just ask S’ralex.