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Cherry On The Top

Only a week after the Leeds United family were robbed of legendary centre-back Norman Hunter by COVID-19, his Don Revie era team mate Trevor Cherry, or Churry as my dad’s West Yorkshire dialect would sell you, has also passed, at the age of 72.

As I write, I’ve absolutely no idea whether coronavirus precipitated Cherry’s sudden death. Regardless of cause, the sadness at his loss will be as wrenching among the British football community, who within the last few weeks have lost three England internationals from that era. Cherry, Hunter and ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Bonetti.

As well as within Leeds United’s hallowed corridors, Trevor Cherry’s demise will bear particularly poignancy at West Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield Town and Bradford City. Clubs he also graced with aplomb amongst muddied 1970’s/80’s footballing battlefields.

During a decade (1972-1982) at Elland Road, Leeds, he represented the club on over 400 occasions, acquired 27 England caps (one as captain), won the first division championship, also appearing in the 1973 European Cup Winners Cup and FA Cup finals.

The latter seeing his diving header being the first of Sunderland goalkeeper Jim Montgomery’s stops during his legendary double save. An episode I witnessed on the Strachan’s first colour TV which my old man’d acquired to watch, what he’d convinced himself, would be his beloved Leeds United win their second FA Cup in two years.

To add further to chez Strachan’s celebratory anticipation, it was dad’s birthday and we’d family staying, upping the excitement ante a notch. Sadly for us, though, Montgomery had other ideas, his heroics between the sticks for the second division side a catalyst to the biggest FA Cup Final shock in history.

I was only a ten year old boy at the time. However, the indelibly imprinted scars consequential from Montgomery’s double save, along with final whistle disenchantment at Leeds’ capitulation, still run deep forty seven years hence.

‘If only’s” are visitors rarely welcome amongst my neurological corridors. To my mind, they’re pointless notions bearing no positive emotional value to their recipient. That being said, I do allow myself this worthless indulgence if evoking memories of several early 1970’s cup finals. Particularly, matches where my footballing amours so often fell at the final hurdle.

Consequently, on numerous occasions over the last four decades, it’s not uncommon for yours truly to experience thoughts such as:-

“If only Cherry and Lorimer’s close range efforts had have found the net in the 1973 FA Cup Final!”;

“If only Gary Sprake had kept out Peter Houseman’s woefully weak shot in the Leeds v Chelsea 1970 FA Cup Final”;

“If only ref Christos Michas, who was banned from refereeing for match fixing years later, hadn’t have adjudicated the 1973 Leeds v AC Milan ECWC Final with such shameful bias!”; and

“If only Peter Lorimer’s perfectly good ‘goal’ had stood (as it should) when the scores were 0-0 in the 1975 European Cup Final v Bayern Munich, at the Parc De Princes.”

As alluded to earlier, utterly worthless regressions. Yet such are the overwhelming feelings of my team being defrauded, or lacking a jot of serendipity during that era, these reflections cannot be fully suppressed. Despite the sheer pointlessness of the act.

Anyhow, as is my want, I’ve inadvertently rambled down an avenue called random. I started this prose wanting to pay tribute to a man who, along with his team mates, added significant colour to the canvas of my fledgling years.

RIP Trevor Cherry – March On Together with Don, Billy, Paul M and Norman, to make the best darned footballing team they’ve ever seen up there!!

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