It’s December 1974 and two of England’s top teams decide to thank their fans for their support by offering season’s greetings on the pitch before the start of a home game. The players of both Leeds United and Derby Country follow the same approach: a choreographed message spelled out in letters with each player responsible for holding up a board with one of the letters on it.
As befits a Don Revie side, Leeds United’s players show exemplary teamwork and carry out the simple exercise perfectly. The letter order is spot on, the space between Merry and Xmas is in the right place and there’s even a creative flourish with sprigs of holly at the beginning and end to earn extra style points. It’s as unthreatening a photo of Billy Bremner (far left) as you’ll ever have seen too.
Compare and contrast with the shambolic attempt by Derby County to bid a Happy New Year to their fans. The order of the letters is correct but they’re reading back to front – these top professionals haven’t worked out that if you display a message to one side of the ground, you can’t just turn round and do the same to the opposite side without the message being displayed in reverse. Confusion reigns and there’s no leadership to try to sort out this untidy rabble. Their manager, Dave McKay, famous as a player for leading by example, would have been furious.
You really wouldn’t have thought it but one of these teams showed the teamwork, discipline, character and intelligence to go on and be crowned English champions that season – and it wasn’t Leeds United.