Born 9th December 1942
Billy Bremner, who died
at Doncaster Royal Infirmary aged 54 following a heart
attack, was a footballer consumed not merely by a passion
for playing football but by the desire to win them.
Between 1959 and 1976 he made 585 appearances for Leeds
United in the league alone. He also played in four FA
Cup finals, a League Cup final and four European finals.
In 1970 he was voted Footballer of the Year by the Football
Bremner's honours, two
FA Cup-winner's medal, two Fairs Cup medals and a League
Cup tankard, reflected neither his qualities as a footballer
nor the strength of Don Revie's Leeds team in the late
1960s and early 1970s. When Bremner's autobiography
was published in 1969 it had an apt title: 'You Get
Nowt for Being Second'. Between 1964 and 1972 Leeds
finished runners-up in the league on five occasions.
It was a similar story
at international level. Capped 54 times by Scotland,
he gave one of his finest performances in the goalless
draw with Brazil in Frankfurt early in the 1974 World
Cup. Through Bremner, Scotland dominated the midfield
but was unable to turn chances into goals and eventually
went out of the tournament without losing a match.
Bremner's passing was as
important as his tackling. In
fact the most abiding memory of him is running at opponents
with the ball at his feet and then passing to right
or left without breaking stride. Bremner was the master
of the disguised pass, with the foot dragged over the
ball at the last second.
Arthur Rowe, architect
of the push-and-run style, which won Tottenham the championship
in 1951, was among Bremner's admirers. "When he
makes an early pass," Rowe observed, "he has
his hands flung wide with a theatrical intensity. The
crowd think he is posturing and call him a big head.
In fact, by his balance and concentration he is ensuring
absolute accuracy when so many others are too casual
over the undemanding."
It is often said Revie
taught Bremner to say his prayers.
Certainly the quick-tempered
Scot, brought up in the tough Raploch district of Stirling,
acquired a degree of inner discipline under Revie's
influence once the Leeds manager had made him captain.
Bremner's playing career
at Elland Road began shortly before Revie took over
as manager. Leeds were heading for the Third Division,
but by 1964 they had won promotion to the First and
soon Bremner with his friends and team mates were making
the sort of impact English football had never really
Some felt the Leeds style
took gamesmanship beyond
the acceptable limits of fair play. Bremner's philosophy,
set out in his autobiography, encapsulated the growing
sourness of the English game in the 1960s and 1970s:
"Gamesmanship is something which is practiced and
accepted as part of the stock in trade by most teams
these days," he wrote.
"I despised what they
stood for," wrote Brian Clough, "systematically
putting referees under intolerable pressure with their
violent behaviour, both physical and verbal, their over-reactions,
and the unsavoury spectacle of skipper Billy Bremner
running alongside the harassed referee constantly yelling
in his ear." As Revie's successor, Clough thought
he had to reform Leeds, but left after seven weeks.
The modern game simply
would not tolerate the gamesmanship with which Revie's
Leeds teams were associated. Yet when Leeds United won
the championship in 1974 their passing and movement
reached levels, which few sides have attained since.
There is an amusing picture
of Bremner that shows him with wide-eyed innocence as
Tottenham's Dave Mackay grabs him by the front of his
Leeds shirt. Bremner, in fact, had just kicked Mackay
up the backside, which was never a wise thing to do,
but provocation was inherent in his style.
In 1976 Billy left Leeds
United to play for Hull City, shortly afterwards he
was appointed Player/Manager for Doncaster Rovers. In
1985 Billy returned to Elland Road as Manager in the
hope he could bring back the good old days. The best
Billy could do, was In 1987 when he took his old club
then still in the second Division, to the FA Cu semi-finals
where they lost to first Division Coventry City. The
following year he was sacked. A second spell at Doncaster
lasted until 1992, whereupon Bremner, who was always
a good talker, went on the after-dinner circuit with
Bremner wrote at the start
of his autobiography, "Maybe I'll grow old myself
one day" "Maybe I'll look back on football
as I knew it and say that the game isn't like it used
to be in my day." Indeed it isn't, and the sad
thing is that Billy did not live longer to enjoy the
differences as we see today.
For myself, I will always
remember Billy Bremner as our proud battling Captain,
who stood for words such as Bravery, Leadership, Passion
Sculptor, Frances Siegelman