The Last Days of Don Revie

Murrayfield… home of rugby, ice hockey… tennis… cricket… Also the former home of Chris Hoy, and an area with an unexpected connection to another major sportsman – Don Revie. As readers may, or may not know, I am not much of a “heidbaw” fan. However, Revie is actually one of the more interesting characters in the history of the game, and the subject of a surprisingly good novel and film.

The Damned United

David Peace’s The Damned United (2006) is a fictionalised account of Brian Clough’s time at Leeds FC. It’s a brilliant work of fiction, much better than most of the trash which lines the football shelves in most bookshops. It is written from Clough’s POV, and tends to exonerate him. Revie, on the other hand, comes off as the villain of the piece (Peace?) and Clough’s rival.

This in turn was turned into the 2009 film. Colm Meaney played Revie, and Clough was portrayed by Michael Sheen, an actor who turns in a decent performance in just about everything he’s in. Meaney is a seasoned actor himself, having appeared in two incarnations of Star Trek, the Commitments etc.


While Clough is remembered as the Cheeky Chappie of English football, with soundbites to rival Muhammad Ali, Revie’s memory is more tarnished.

Revie, an ex-England player, managed various English premier league teams in the sixties and seventies. He was Clough’s predecessor at Leeds, and during his time the side was nicknamed “Dirty Leeds”. He also had a penchant for selecting Scottish players (it was a lot harder to bring in overseas players back then) Later he went on to manage England, but his later life was marred by allegations of corruption and a bizarre stint in the Emirates. His wife, Elsie was originally from Fife, and in the mid-eighties they both moved to Kinross to retire. Sadly, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1987. He was admitted to Murrayfield Hospital in 1989*, and according to Wikipedia (who else?):

“He died [there] … on 26 May 1989, aged 61, and was cremated four days later at Warriston Crematorium in Edinburgh.[120] Though his funeral was well attended by representatives of Leeds United, The Football Association did not send any officials to the funeral.”

Alan Patullo in the Scotsman writes:

 ‘Just as Brian Clough steals the show in The Damned United, Revie was overshadowed even in death, at the age of just 61, by a collision of big football occasions; he passed away in Edinburgh’s Murrayfield private hospital just hours before Liverpool took on Arsenal in a last-game shoot-out to decide the destiny of the English title in May 1989, weeks after the tragedy of Hillsborough. The following day saw Scotland host England in the Rous Cup for the final time.

‘”I was with Don in the Murrayfield the night before he died,” recalled Dave Duncan, Revie’s brother-in-law, earlier this week. “To cheer him up I said: ‘Tomorrow you will be able to watch the big game between Liverpool and Arsenal on TV’. He shook his head, as if to say ‘no I won’t’.”

‘Two decades on and many have been re-awakened to the former Leeds United manager’s memory, while a new generation has been introduced to Revie. Whether it is the real Revie is debatable. Clough is granted a reprieve in the film version of The Damned United, having been cast as a psychotic drunkard in David Peace’s original book; Revie, depicted as stern and humourless in both, is not.’


* On Corstorphine Road. Murrayfield Hospital is now Spire. It was, I think, a BUPA hospital back then. Private anyway.

Picture Credits

The cover picture falls under copyright, but hopefully is considered fair use, as it promotes said item. No infringement is intended, and it will be removed on request.

External Links


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