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Paul Reaney

Personal information
Full namePaul Reaney
Playing positionRight-back

     Home | Football | Paul Reaney

Paul Reaney (born 22 October 1944 in Fulham, London) was a long-serving full back with the Leeds United team of the 1960s and 1970s.

Reaney wore the No.2 shirt for Leeds and in a team renowned for its hard approach to the game, he more than held his own.

He moved to West Yorkshire from London as a child and left school at 15. He was briefly a car mechanic before signing for Leeds as an apprentice, making his debut shortly before his 18th birthday . He impressed quickly and made 35 League appearances in his first season, and was part of the team which won the Second Division in 1964.

Reaney settled into top-flight football, missing just one League game and scoring his first of six League goals for the club as Leeds challenged for both the League championship and FA Cup. But, in what would become a recurring scenario for Leeds under manager Don Revie, they lost out on both. Manchester United would win the title on goal difference and Reaney would feature in the side beaten at Wembley in the FA Cup final by Liverpool.

Over the next three seasons, Reaney would miss just a handful of appearances as Leeds made further progress. Their classic back four was formed by 1967 Reaney alongside Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter and Terry Cooper with utility man Paul Madeley frequently stepping into any of their positions when needed. In 1968 Leeds won the League Cup and the Fairs Cup; in 1969 they achieved their goal of the League championship. Reaney was an unsung but truly vital part of what had now become a feared, indeed disliked team; and to round off the decade, he won his first England cap when he came on as a substitute in a match against Bulgaria in 1968. Reaney's appearance has assumed greater importance in recent years as even though he was regarded as "white" during his playing career, he is viewed by many as "black" or mixed race now. His England debut was nine years before that of Viv Anderson, who is widely credited as the first black man to play for England.

Leeds progressed in 1970 towards a unique "treble" of League championship, FA Cup and European Cup but Reaney suffered twice the heartbreak. Not ony did Leeds miss out on all three trophies the League went to Everton; the FA Cup was won by Chelsea after a replay; and Celtic F.C. ended Leeds' European Cup bid in the semi-finals but Reaney suffered a broken leg in a game against West Ham United and missed the run-in, including the FA Cup final. Madeley deputised for him for the rest of the season and Reaney missed the summer's World Cup in Mexico.

Leeds started the following season without Reaney as he battled back from what was the first serious injury of his career. He eventually returned to make 18 League appearances and be part of the team which won its second Fairs Cup, but missed out on the League championship on the last day again. He did however, win two more England caps, though no more would follow.

Reaney was in the side which went yet again for the "double" in 1972 and this time was partly successful. They finally won the FA Cup in their third final, defeating holders Arsenal at Wembley, but then lost the League title after a last-day loss to Wolves. In 1973 there was more disappointment for Reaney as Leeds lost the FA Cup final to Sunderland and a highly controversial European Cup Winners Cup final to A.C. Milan.

Reaney's career at Leeds passed 500 appearances in 1974 as Leeds embarked on a record 29-match unbeaten start to the season to earn the League title for the second time under Revie, who then quit to take over the England job. Reaney was in the team which duly progressed to the European Cup final a year later, but yet again Leeds were defeated, and no more honours would come their way as the great team assembled by Revie began to age and split up. One consolation for Reaney was that in 1976 he was granted a testimonial by the club. Another was that he became known during his peak years as the only player who could mark George Best, a fact acknowledged by Best himself.

He continued to play at Elland Road until 1978 when he was given a free transfer after 745 appearances. He joined neighbours Bradford City and then completed his playing career in Australia. On returning to England, Reaney became a coach at soccer schools and continues to coach schoolboys to this day. In 1993, burglars broke into Reaney's home and stole a safe containing his collection of medals, though left behind his trophies, caps and other honours.

He is remembered fondly by Leeds fans for his pinpoint crosses, goal-line clearances, overlapping runs and just for being there as the player whose profile was possibly the lowest of all Revie's players, yet who ended up third in the club's all-time appearance list behind Charlton and skipper Billy Bremner. Football remembers him as the strong, silent, untroublesome one in a very controversial team.

Reaney can now be found during half term holidays running coaching sessions for kids at Potters Leisure Resort, Norfolk.

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