When Brian Clough arrived at Leeds United in 1974 and infamously told the champions of England that they could throw all their medals in the dustbin because these had been won through cheating, he singled out Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles and Eddie Gray for various criticisms. The upshot was that he was to last for no more than 44 days. The fate of this most controversial of football managers was settled by the quietest member of the outstanding team, Paul Madeley.
Madeley said little but every word counted. When the directors called a crisis meeting of the team following a string of disastrous results, Madeley told them bluntly that the manager was “no good.” He did come to appreciate his talents, as did the more vocal Giles, when Clough twice won the European Cup with Nottingham Forest but what he could not abide was the impugning of his integrity. He played his football fairly.
“My father was a private man of principle and respect. To be told he had been cheating did not go down well with him,” said his son, Jason Madeley. “He did not talk about Clough afterwards, believing this was no-one else’s business, and he would not criticise him personally, but he would not have liked anyone questioning his integrity. “
By contrast, Madeley, as with virtually all the Leeds players of the 1960s and 1970s, adored Don Revie, who had left Elland Road to be manager of England after Sir Alf Ramsey was sacked. It was altogether a turbulent period: Madeley, who played international football for both of them, was extremely upset when Revie, who had wanted him to captain England, defected to the United Arab Emirates in 1977. ‘The ten Pauls ‘ as he was known for his astonishing versatility in playing in every position in Leeds’ team bar goalkeeper, was still in his prime.
Madeley won 24 England caps – there would almost certainly have been more had he not pulled out of England’s squad for the 1970 World Cup and settled on playing in two rather than ten positions – was booked only twice in a 724 -match club career. Although Leeds had a reputation for being an over-aggressive team, officials in this era failed to cut out over-the-top and bad tackles by numerous clubs. “My father would not have done anything not by the book,” his son said. “He never mentioned ‘dirty Leeds ’ to me. He remained good friends with all the players.”
Paul Edward Madeley never moved away from Leeds. He was born in Beeston, a suburb near Elland Road, to John, a book-keeper who worked in the family’s D-I-Y business, and Gladys. At Parkside School he played both football and rugby. He was approached by several clubs when he was 15, but his parents were keen for him to take his ‘O’ levels. He then started work at a Leeds insurance brokers before Revie spotted him playing for a local team, Farsley Celtic.
Revie, who took Leeds from the old second division to the summit of English club football, described Madeley as his ‘Rolls-Royce’ in reference to the way he appeared to glide elegantly and speedily over the ground, adding: “When Paul quits it will be like losing ten players.” Nonetheless, Giles, the most influential member of the team, thought initially that Madeley would not make the grade. He changed his mind when he and Billy Bremner would be overtaken as they attempted to reach an opponent in possession.
“Paul worked harder than anyone I have seen in football, trimmed down and became a great athlete,” Giles said. “His speed would become one of his more remarkable attributes. It would be hard for a newcomer to form a true opinion of Paul because he was so quiet and did not show any emotion. We called him ‘Mr Spock’ because he never seemed to get excited about anything. He was a strong character with a mind of his own.”
In 1972, when the team made a record to mark their appearance in the FA Cup final, the lyric included the line “The 11 Pauls are never far away.” The 11th referred to Paul Reaney, Madeley’s lifelong friend and right back, who in 1970 was to withdraw from the England squad through injury. Ramsey asked Madeley to take his place, but the offer was rejected. As he not been included in the original party, Madeley felt it would be a waste of his time to spend a month in Mexico and not be given a game.
“I don’t think Alf realised just how good Paul was in that position, simply because he played in so many other positions as well,” Giles said. “Paul listened to me but he had made up his mind not to go to Mexico. You could only admire the strength of the man for sticking to his football beliefs in such a situation. “
Jimmy Armfield became the manager of Leeds in succession to Clough and during contract negotiations with Madeley proposed a figure for his new salary. Madeley said he had no intention of leaving Leeds so the boss could fill in the details after he had signed. Armfield asked if he wanted a two-year or three-year deal. “Either way, I’ll leave it to you,” Madeley told him. “I just want to play for Leeds.”
Such a footballer, so compliant and so versatile, was a manager’s dream. “He never drank, he never smoked, he said very little and he looked after himself perfectly,” said his teammate Mick Jones. Although Ramsey did not hold anything against Madeley for not wanting to go to Mexico, picking him the following year, England failed to reach the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. “My father was pragmatic,” said Jason Madeley. “He was not one to look back with regret.”
Madeley retired in 1980 and, thoroughly self-effacing, continued to support Leeds from a season-ticket holder’s seat rather than go into the boardroom. He had worked for the family business when he was a young player – fans were delighted when he delivered paint in person to their front door – and he also set up a sports shop in the city which in due course became a fashion store. When the D-I-Y chain of 13 shops, the business driven by Nick, his brother, was sold for £27m in 1987, Leeds were struggling financially. There was speculation that Madeley might invest some of his new-found wealth in the club. He stressed, however, that reports of his own share were exaggerated. There were plenty of other shareholders.
He remained, in retirement, modest and patriotic. “My parents always went on holiday within the UK. He loved Devon,” Jason Madeley said. “He loved animals and would donate to charity.” He had met his wife Ann (nee Telford) through mutual friends in Leeds when he was a young footballer and she worked in sales at the Yorkshire Post. Jason owns Hatch, a Yorkshire-based public relations firm which does much work for Leeds United, and another son, Nick, is a chartered surveyor.
For such a fit man, who drank only a little red wine when his footballing days were over, Madeley suffered unluckily from ill-health in later years. He had a heart attack, a brain tumour removed, and in 2004 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, which led to his becoming president of a Parkinson’s society. In 2003 he collaborated on a biography, the proceeds of which were donated to the National Heart Research Fund.
As befitting the strong, silent footballer he had been, he was not one to wallow in self-pity. As he had over Clough, he retained his ability to cut the discourse to a conclusion with a deadpan comment. He followed numerous sports and Jason Madeley asked him before the Grand National earlier this year what he would like to bet on. “A horse, obviously,” was the dry response.
Paul Madeley, footballer, was born on September 20 1944. He died of pneumonia on July 23 2018, aged 73.