United Greats

LUFC Matchday Magazine, 12th April 1999 v Liverpool

Paul Reaney

As David O'Leary's side attempts to surpass the seven match top flight winning sequence set up for Don Revie's side in the 1973-74 title winning campaign, Yorkshire Evening Post soccer correspondent Don Warters turns the spotlight onto one of the Revie boys.

What wouldn't David O'Leary give just now for a right full-back in the Paul Reaney mould? Long term injuries to Republic of Ireland international Gary Kelly and his fellow Irishman, Alan Maybury, left the United manager without a recognised right-back and he has had to play other players out of position in a bid to cover the problem position.

During his years as a member of Don Revie's successful side in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Reaney was as durable as they come, playing 746 first team League and Cup games for United, a record that was bettered only by Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner, who had 772 and 771 first team outings respectively.

Nicknamed 'speedy' because of his ability to get down the flank on the overlap, Reaney was as reliable a defender as you could come across and he also earned some recognition for his knack of being able to be in the right place at the right time when goal-line clearances were needed.

He was also accomplished as a man- marker - as Manchester United genius George Best often found to his cost!

Like several present day United players, Reaney made his debut as a teenager. He was 18 when he was brought into the United side for a Second Division game away to Swansea in September 1962.

United had hung on to Second Division status by the skin of their teeth when they finished in 19th place in the 1961-62 campaign and they had made an indifferent start to the 1962-63 season.

Revie's decision to give United a chance in that game at Swansea was generally regarded as being a turning point in the club's fortunes. Certainly it was for Reaney and Hunter, who both stayed in the side from then on.

"One of the things that helped us was the fact that a lot of us grew up together as players and stayed together for most of our careers," said Reaney, who is delighted at the form being shown by the current United side.

"From what I have seen they look to have some very promising young players and on the occasions I have gone along to Thorp Arch to watch the juniors I have been impressed too," he added.

No one can predict whether the present United side will go on to emulate the Revie team. "It will be important that they stay together at the club. When I was a player that is what we did. We played at one club and got a testimonial match at the end of 10 years.

"But these days players tend to move around a lot more to make money and it may not always be as easy to keep them," he added.

Born in Fulham, Paul was only a few weeks old when his family left London for Leeds. He went to Cross Green School and joined Middleton Park junior soccer side.

All the time, Reaney was being encouraged in his football by his late father Joseph, who would mark out an area in East End Park specially to time his running against another youngster who was also destined to become a member of the Revie side Paul Madeley.

Reaney took up employment as an apprentice motor mechanic before he joined United in October 1961. In the 17 years he was to play for United, Reaney picked up two League Championship medals, an FA Cup winners medals, a League Cup winners medal, European medals in the forerunner of the UEFA Cup, the Fairs Cup, and a Second Division Championship medal.

He made five appearances for England at Under-23 level and won three full England caps.

It was not all plain sailing for Reaney. He broke a leg at West Ham towards the end of the 1969-70 season which kept him out of England's World Cup squad for Mexico. He recovered fully from then and played on for United until he joined Bradford City on a free transfer in the summer of 1978.

Three years later he went to Australia to play for new SouthWales side Newcastle and was named Australia's Player of The Year. When he returned to England he began coaching in schools and holiday camps and still coaches schoolboys.

Where are they NOW ?

Published in the Daily Mirror, Saturday, January 14, 1995

Paul Reaney.

Paul Reaney played in three FA Cup finals for Leeds United - but he doesn't have a medal to show his two-week old twin grandsons Joshua and Jacob.

Reaney's collection of 13 medals from the Elland Road glory days where stolen from his home two years ago. Every day he dreams of seeing them again.

"The thieves ripped out the safe containing my medals but they didn't take any of my other trophies or caps that were elsewhere in the house," said Reaney, 50.

"So they were probably looking for something else. Surely somebody must know where they are.

"Now I'm a grandad I'm looking forward to sitting the twins on my knee and telling them all about the good old days at Leeds. It's such a shame that I don't have the medals as well as the memories."

At least son Neil's youngsters can be guaranteed expert coaching when they pull on their first pair of boots.

Reaney, who made over 745 appearances for Leeds before moving to Bradford City in 1978, runs coaching courses for kids for the World in Sport organisation.

From April to November that means trips to holiday camps all over the country. "I love it," he said. "We're not talking about the kind of kids who attend courses at Lilleshall. Just ordinary youngsters, girls and boys, who want to play football."

And Reaney, for so long the strong silent type of Don Revie's macho line-up, also runs his own coaching courses for girls in the Leeds area.

In his playing days Reaney tasted all the bitter-sweet emotions the FA Cup has to offer, missing the 1970 final against Chelsea - not to mention a place in Alf Ramsey's World Cup squad in Mexico because of a broken leg.

" It happen in a league game at West Ham," said Reaney. "That was a bad time."

Two years later he was back at Wembley, helping Leeds to a 1-0 win over Arsenal in the Centenary Final. In 1973, Second Division Sunderland were waiting under the Twin Towers to ambush Leeds 1-0.

"We believed we only had to turn up to win," he recalls. "But twelve months later we won the championship for the second time.

"My first final was 1965 against Liverpool. We lost 2-1 in extra-time after missing the championship on goal average."

Reaney never faced Manchester United in a Wembley final but he will always be remembered as the man who could tame George Best.

In a string on titanic clashes the great Irishman hardly got a kick. What was the secret ?

"Every player has a Nemesis," recalls Reaney, "I was Bestie's.

"When we played United, my only job was to mark George out of the game. Nothing else. Everywhere he went, I went, too. I was quick. He couldn't lose me.

"I keep saying that one of these days I'll pop along to see his road show with Rodney Marsh. Do you think he'd be pleased to see me?"

Andrew Collomosse.