I was saddened yesterday to read of ex-Leeds United utility man Paul Madeley’s death at the age of 73.

A consummate professional footballer, Madeley displayed career long loyalty to the team who played a few hundred yards from his childhood home. For eighteen years, a class act on and off field, representing both club and country with distinction, loyalty and skill, earning him manager Don Revie’s laudation of displaying the style of a Rolls Royce.

Selflessly, so enamoured with his hometown club he was prepared to sign an almost blank new contract in 1975. His desire to remain at Leeds Utd usurping any thoughts of what financial recompense was ‘on the table’. No longer being able to represent the West Yorkshire club an utterly unthinkable scenario for the lad raised in the Beeston area of the city.

Madeley equally accomplished regardless of outfield position, earning him the nickname of ‘The Eleven Pauls’. He never turned out in goal for his beloved side, but would probably have been an adequate replacement for Gary Sprake, particularly on one of the Welshman’s bad days at the office.

The Leeds lad an archaic breed of footballer now more or less extinct in the den of iniquity of contemporary top-flight football.

As with all of the Revie boys, Paul Madeley’s contribution towards the synergy of joy I experienced during my fledgling years is inestimable. The late 1960’s/early 1970’s a period of my existential journey I dub utopia in sock tags. The stocking adornments quirky kit additions worn by Leeds in the early 1970’s, of which me and many of my peers felt the need to mimic.

eleven pauls

This a wondrous time in my life; set in a warm, loving environment where my youthful obsession with playing/watching football and cricket was born. A pre-puberty phase where everything in the garden was rosy, apart from the roses whose flowers were regularly removed during games of football.

Also manifesting at this time, the start of a 50 year love affair with Leeds United football club. Even though my family had moved from Leeds to Gateshead by then, as a wide eyed boy, the pride in the all-conquering side representing my city of birth was immeasurable.

On a Saturday afternoon in May 1972, it was Madeley, lean of limb and long of stride, who started the move that manifested into the goal that saw Don Revie’s much maligned team win the FA Cup for the first (and thus far only) time.

Playing left-back for the injured Terry Cooper, he surged forward, feeding the white ball to Peter Lorimer just inside opposition (Arsenal) territory. Lorimer surged a dozen yards, passing to striker Mick Jones on the right who fleet of foot rounded a defender before crossing into the box from the by-line.

At the end of that cross (12 yards from goal) was the diving head of my boyhood hero Allan Clarke, who arrowed the ball into the bottom right corner of the Arsenal goal. An event I joyously witnessed via a BBC broadcast on our monochrome TV. My company that day my mum, brother and a mate from Dartmouth Avenue called Nidgy. My dad not with us as he was attending the Football Association’s showpiece final inside Wembley Stadium that day.

In tandem to BBC commentator David Coleman exclaiming “Clarke, 1-0” as the ball darted past helpless Arsenal keeper Jon Barnett, our living room morphed into a scene of unmitigated elation. If Mexican Waves had been invented then, and there’d have been more than four of us in the room, in the giddiness of boyhood I may have started one……. With this in mind, I look back with great relief that Mexican waves didn’t make an widespread appearance in football crowd culture until 1986.

That moment around 50 minutes into the 1972 FA Cup Final was probably the most elated I’ve ever been at witnessing a Leeds United goal. An incident all started by Paul Madeley and his surging run from defence, a catalyst for one of the most important goals in the club’s 99 year history. As was his away goal in the 1968 Fairs Cup final against Juventus which contributed to ‘The Whites’ winning their first European trophy.

My boyhood enthusiasm for Leeds United extending as far as reverential excitement if my dad drove past Madeley’s DIY shop during that era. Sadly, I could never persuade my old man to nip inside to see if ‘The Eleven Pauls’ was serving in the store.

Neither could we coax dad into buying a tin of emulsion from the footballer’s shop. Robbing my brother Ian and me of the opportunity to brag our living room wall paint was sourced from Paul Madeley’s DIY store.

Despite his major contribution to the most successful period in Leeds United’s history, if the team was injury-free many people’s, including my, oft recollected starting line-up of Don Revie’s side from the era doesn’t include Madeley.

If I was asked to name the Leeds Utd starting eleven from the early 1970’s, I respond “Sprake or Harvey, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Clarke, Jones, Giles and Eddie Gray”. A response I suspect many football fans would concur with.

Those in the know, though, fully appreciate Paul Madeley was anything but a bit part player. As his 18 years at the club, 727 appearances and 24 international caps would reinforce.

His footballing contribution every bit a part of the Don Revie team story as Bremner’s dynamism, Lorimer’s hotshot, Big Jack’s black book, Joe Jordan’s missing teeth, Cooper’s white boots, Norman Hunter’s cannibal tendencies and Trevor Cherry’s excessively flared nostrils.

To say his passing is like losing a family member is over-egging my sadness. However, I’m melancholic at the loss of someone who gave such happy childhood memories – Thanks Paul for your contribution to my utopia in sock tags phase.

RIP Paul Madeley