Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton…

When I was a boy, at this time of year, you knew which players were going to be in the squads of the significant Association Football teams of the coming season. They were, in short, largely the same players as were contracted to the club the previous year. Growing up in Yorkshire a number of us at school followed Leeds United. The team we knew was Sprake (later Harvey)- Reaney-Cooper-Bremner-Charlton-Hunter-Lorimer-Clarke-Jones-Giles-and Gray. It was almost a playground chant. Anyway, we knew those names by heart. It came as rather a surprise to me a number of years later when I looked back on the line-ups for that era to find that the particular 11 mentioned with Sprake in goal only appeared in a grand total of 1 game for Leeds. That was in a game, in the FA Cup, against Mansfield Town on the 7th of February 1970 which Leeds won 2-0. The 11 mentioned never lined up at the start of a game in the Football League.

How can we account for this?

The answer to this seeming conundrum can be found in two simple words.

Paul Madeley.

Madeley sadly passed on the 23rd of July this year.

Madeley who Don Revie described as his Rolls Royce for his elegant way of playing the game, played in all ten outfield positions for Leeds United in the 725 games (including 13 as substitute) he played for Leeds.


When he made his debut against Manchester City on the 11th January 1964, he wore the number 5 shirt. He was given the number 3 shirt for the first time in the away game against Stoke City on the 10th of October of the same year. Four days later when the club was facing Aston Villa in the League Cup, he appeared for the first time wearing 4. The following season when the League game against Spurs came around in September, Madeley was given number 12 and had to wait on the sidelines for his opportunity which duly came. Substitutes had only been allowed for 4 weeks at that point and subs still could not be introduced for tactical reasons. On the 12th of February 1966, the opponents Chelsea must have been confused seeing Madeley wearing the no. 9 shirt but still managed to put Leeds out of the FA Cup. 7 months later in the League Cup, Madeley wore 8 when Leeds beat Newcastle and in a subsequent round against Preston North End, Madeley would wear number 10 for the first time. In between those two shirt debuts (I hope you’re keeping up), Mr Versatile donned number 6 for the first time in another game against Stoke. Number 7 was passed to Madeley for the away win against Arsenal on Fireworks day, 1966. This left only 2 and 11 as the spots that Madeley hadn’t graced. It would be in a European game against Valencia in 1967 that he made his first time at number 2 and he then completed the full set the following year with a March outing versus Chelsea, as he wore 11 as Leeds managed to grind out a 0-0 draw at the Bridge.


And all this before I ever got to stand on the terraces at Elland Road.

That team remains the best I have ever seen but now they are coming to the age when some are hearing the final whistle blow on their time in this world. Don Revie and Billy Bremner, of course, were taken a number of years ago. More recently, the hard-to-assess goalkeeper, Gary Sprake passed into eternity and now it is Mr Madeley’s time. His number is up (pun intended).

On the first game of the season in 1972 (about a month before I was to make my Elland Road “debut”), Leeds played Chelsea away from home. It was an even game in the first half but then David Harvey had to be removed injured and in those days with only one substitute available, the green jersey had to go to one of the other 11. Terry Yorath (no. 12, the substitute) slotted into the midfield and… Peter Lorimer was chosen to go between the sticks. Oh, if only it had been Madeley. Leeds were heavily overcome anyway in the second period of 45 minutes and came out losers four-nil. A different choice and Madeley’s career would be all the more remarkable.

Paul Madeley was a class act, who played frequently for England and a one club man. Jimmy Armfield (another recently-deceased gentleman of the English game) told the story of how during his tenure as Leeds manager, Madeley was called into Armfield’s office to arrange his new contract. In his autobiography, Armfield says that Madeley just put his signature at the bottom of a blank piece of paper and told his boss that he should fill in the rest later. Consequently, Madeley stayed at Leeds until the end of his playing days.

Madeley was an ever-present in the run that took Leeds to the European Cup Final under Armfield in 1974-75, coming up successfully against the likes of Cruyff and Neeskens, Muller and Beckenbauer – players who had graced the World Cup finals just months before. He was the only player to be part of every starting Leeds line-up in all the games in that competition that season.

In later life, he became a millionaire through the sale of the family DIY business but was cruelly cut down through ill health (Parkinson’s). As with everything else he did in his life, he dealt with this with quiet dignity.

Paul Madeley gave me lots of rich memories. I won’t soon forget them.

Madeley Paul

1 thought on “Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton…

  1. Remember those happy days, I could not fault anyone of those players they were all great players, and the best I have ever seen.

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