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This month marks 60 years since Leeds United legend Eddie Gray first joined the club. We speak exclusively to the man about his endearing love affair with the Whites, the highs, the lows and how the Gray dynasty is still burning brightly at Elland Road.

It was May 1963 and as the train from Glasgow Central pulled into Leeds station, a young 15-year-old by the name of Edwin Gray stared out of the window wide-eyed.

Waiting on the platform to meet him, as promised, was the Leeds United manager Don Revie, who just weeks earlier had travelled up to Scotland to persuade the youngster and his family that Elland Road really was the only place for him.

Eddie in action 1976

It was one of the most rewarding journeys north of the border that Revie would ever make and the smile that spread across his face as the kid from the Castlemilk council estate in Glasgow stepped off the train said it all.

Having worked so hard to convince the youngster to shelve his ambitions of playing for his beloved Celtic, Revie knew this wasn’t just the arrival of another promising youngster, it was the signing of a special talent who would go on to become one of the greatest Leeds players of all time.

It was the start of a love affair between Eddie Gray and the club that 60 years on remains as strong as ever and in an exclusive interview with beyond, the Leeds United legend looks back on those six decades which saw him voted the third greatest player in the history of the club.

Speaking at his home on the outskirts of Harrogate, the passion Eddie Gray still holds for Leeds is there for all to see and given the club’s current position, he is feeling the threat of relegation as acutely as anybody.

Having been at Leeds – as player and then manager – the last two times they dropped out of the top flight in 1982 and 2004, Eddie knows better than most the impact it can have on a club and like all Leeds fans he is clinging to the hope they can once again survive the drop.

For despite all his success at Leeds – two First Division titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups and a Charity Shield triumph, it is the disappointments he suffered at Leeds that still cut the deepest and the ones he reflects on more than his many notable achievements.

Now aged 75, Eddie says: “‘People talk about me winning the Championship twice and the FA Cup, but the games that stick in my mind are the finals I lost – against Sunderland and Chelsea, and the relegations.

“It hurts everybody terribly and it takes a long time to get back. When we went down in 1982, it took us eight years, then in 2004 it was 16 years.

“I remember in 2004, I was absolutely devastated that I couldn’t keep that team up and I always think about what I could have done differently and how I could have saved us, but that’s football and at the time the club was in freefall both on and off the pitch and we were losing players left, right and centre.

“It was a tough situation but that will always be my biggest disappointment and I’m just praying we can survive this time especially after all the years we endured in the wilderness and the hard work that went in to getting us promoted.

“There is no guarantee that any team will come back up and that’s why it’s so important now that the club maintains its position in the Premier League.”

Whether that will be the case, remains to be seen and as we go to print, the club are in a perilous position with just two games to go.

It’s a far cry from those heady days in the 60s and 70s when Leeds United ruled the roost with Gray, Bremner, Giles, Hunter, Charlton and Co dominating British football under Don Revie.

Gray’s medal haul may be the envy of his peers, but you would never know it sitting in his home of 50 years. “They are in a box under the ground somewhere, they are not on show,” he says in his distinctive Glaswegian drawl. “If you’ve played at the highest level and won things, you know you’ve won them. You don’t need a medal to prove it.

“What I am most grateful for is having had the privilege to play with such great players. Sadly a lot of the boys are no longer with us but I made some great friendships. They were terrific times and that was all down to one man – Don.”

Gray, as you would expect, speaks glowingly of Revie, in particular the personal touch he had with his players and how he brought the group together like a family.

He recalls how Don persuaded his mum and dad to let him leave school before he was 16 to come down and sign for Leeds and how he even went to see his headmaster to secure his release from school early.

Eddie laughs: “I don’t know if brown paper bags were invented back then but Don took me to school and told me to wait outside the head’s office while he went to see him.

“Two minutes later, the headmaster came out, shook me by the hand and wished me good luck with my new career as a footballer!

“But that was Don and he would do anything for you and your family. He used to come up to my house in Glasgow just to make sure my mum and dad were all right and if anyone was ill, he’d send flowers.”

After coming down for a week’s trial aged just 14 in 1962, Revie was so impressed by young Eddie, he made it is his goal to secure his signing and despite interest from his boyhood club Celtic, Chelsea and Manchester United, Revie persuaded the Gray family that Leeds was the club for him.

Eddie recalled: “Back then we were in the old second division, but Don was way ahead of his time and had gone out of his way to build an incredibly talented squad of young players with senior players like Bobby Collins and Jack Charlton the backbone of the team.”

Jack Charlton, Eddie Gray and Billy Bremner celebrate winning the FA Cup in 1972

By the time Eddie made his debut aged 17 in 1966, Leeds were already on the cusp of greatness and would go on to dominate the game for the next decade.

Eddie said: “Side before self was always the mentality and it was there for all to see. I remember for years we felt invincible and that was what he instilled into us – the belief that we could beat anybody.”

“I remember the night before home games we would often stay at the Craiglands Hotel in Ilkley and play carpet bowls or cards with myself and Peter Lorimer running the betting. It was a very special time and Don was the father-figure who brought us all together like a family.

The unique bond Revie shared with his squad was something Brian Clough could never achieve when he replaced him as manager in 1974 – an ill-fated spell lasting just 44 days.

Clough certainly got off on the wrong foot with Gray, telling the injury-plagued winger that if he had been a horse, he would have been shot.

“That was just how Cloughie was, but I don’t think the club gave him long enough,’ says Gray surprisingly. “He came in like a bull in a china shop and he did it wrong. He admitted that to me later in life. But I’d still have given him longer. He proved himself to be one of the greatest managers this country has ever produced.”

One manager though who Gray believes left at the right time was Marcelo Bielsa, the man who steered the club back to the big time in 2020 and who was so loved by Leeds fans.

Eddie said: “I don’t think any Leeds United fan – me included – will ever forget what he did for the club and his legacy will last for a long time but with Marcelo it was either his way or no way.

“He brought us out of the doldrums and took the players as far as he could, but he never really showed any emotion and he wasn’t the sort of manager to put his arm round a player and give them a boost. It was all about the coaching and I think if he’d stayed we’d have gone down.

“When you are struggling and you don’t have that personal affinity with the players, it becomes difficult. When things start going wrong, you need an arm around you and that wasn’t his nature.”

But with Sam Allardyce now at the helm following the failings of Jesse Marsch and Javier Gracia, would Eddie have answered the call if they’d asked him to come back to the club?

A grin spreads across his face, “Well you’d never say never but I think that ship might have sailed and besides I’m enjoying my life as a Club Ambassador and supporting the team in the best way I can.”

With six children and 17 grandchildren, he’s certainly got his hands full and he’s the first to admit it is the next generation of Grays who could soon be making the headlines rather than himself.

Eddie playing in 1978

His great nephew Archie Gray – grandson of Frank and son of Andy, both ex-Leeds players – is knocking on the first team door and has captained England Under 16s.

“Archie is doing very well,’ adds Gray, “But he doesn’t need me to tell him that, he’s got his dad and granddad to turn to but he knows I’m always here for him if he needs a chat.”

And with Archie’s 14-year-old brother Harry also in the Leeds academy, alongside two of Eddie’s own grandchildren – Jacob and Charlie – the Gray dynasty continues to burn as bright as ever.

He added: “Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing them come through the ranks because as a father and grandfather, what could be better?

“I’m often asked what my proudest moment is in football and while there were some incredible times as a player, nothing has ever made me prouder than seeing my son Stuart make his debut for Celtic – that was a very special moment.”

Sixty years on and the name Eddie Gray is still as revered at Elland Road as it always has been.

And if we do somehow dodge another relegation bullet this season, no Leeds fan will be happier than that kid from Castlemilk who stepped off the train in 1963 and never looked back.

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