Dubai: Don Revie was a target figure for the tabloids when he came to the UAE in 1977, the year of the queen's jubilee with England awash in patriotic fervour. He had just walked out on the English national team in controversial circumstances.

But he was not scared of new challenges or of making predictions. He told soccer officials that the UAE would have to wait 10 to 15 years to play in the World Cup finals. This raised some eyebrows as many thought this was too long to join football's elite.

But Revie, the man who turned Leeds United from a near bankrupt second division team to champions and then walked out on England before he was sacked, signed a a four-year contract with the UAE Football Association (1977-81) and was proven right.

Thirteen years after Revie's announcement, the UAE reached the World Cup finals in Italy for the first time in 1990. Revie died the year before.

The signing of Revie by the UAE Football Association (FA) irritated the English FA and the media. He was still England's coach when on July 11, 1977, Daily Mail readers read that Revie had left the England manager's job.

They were the first to know: Revie had sold his story to the Mail for £20,000 (about Dh152,086) and his resignation letter arrived after the FA's Lancaster Gate headquarters closed the previous night.

In the summer of 1977 he was convinced that the FA was set on replacing him and not unreasonably he was determined to secure his financial future.

Revie claimed that the pressures of being in a job when "nearly everyone in the country seems to want me out" were simply too unbearable for him and his family. Being England manager, he said, had brought "too much heartache to those nearest to me".

England had lost to Italy in Rome in a crucial qualifier and though the teams finished the group on the same number of points, the Italians had a superior goal difference. The Rome defeat sealed Revie's fate.

Main rival

"Italy was our main rival in the group, which also included Finland and Luxembourg. We beat both of them home and away, we beat Italy at home but before that they had beaten us in Rome. I realised that Italy would top the group and qualify for the finals in Argentina because their last match was an easy one against Luxembourg," Revie said on his arrival in the UAE.

He signed a contract with the UAE FA for a £5,000 monthly salary in addition to a villa and car.

The English FA filed a case against Revie. They claimed that he brought the game into disrepute. He was fined £40,000.

Revie's period in the UAE was not successful. He stayed two years preparing the team for the Gulf Cup in Baghdad where they lost 7-0 to Kuwait and 5-0 to Iraq. They also lost to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Revie was sacked immediately after the Gulf Cup in April 1979, but was paid up to the end of contract in July 1981.

After that he signed with Al Nasr club, staying two years with them.

In 1981, they lost the league title in the last match against Oman club (now Emirates). He left the UAE in 1981 and went back to England. He died of motor neurone disease aged 61 on one of the most famous days in English football when Arsenal beat Liverpool in the final match to win the championship at Anfield.

A fitting day to depart for one of football's great masterminds.

A very special man

During one of his visits to Dubai, Duncan Revie described his father Don as a "very special man who believed in right and wrong".

As the son of one of the greatest coaches to have made an impact on the beautiful game, Don was special wherever he went. "He believed in people and their ability and that is one of the reasons for his success as a manager," Duncan Revie told Gulf News.

Now running several business ventures, including the highly successful Soccerex, Duncan went down memory lane. "Everyone thought he was foolish when the story was all over the English newspapers. But the poignant memory for me is all about the secrecy behind the move from England to Dubai," Duncan said.

"My father took up the job in Dubai due to a fresh challenge it would offer him. He even took a journalist along with him while travelling to Dubai so he could time the release of the story only after he was well on his way to Dubai," Duncan said.

Duncan's heart, like his father's, is with Leeds United and he has even tried to buy the club.

His aim, of course is to return Leeds United to the Premiership and bring back the success that it enjoyed during his father's time as manager at Elland Road.

- Alaric Gomes, Staff Reporter