Obituary: Billy Bremner

Billy Bremner, football player and manager: born Stirling 9 December 1942; played for Leeds United 1958-76, Scotland 1965-75 (54 caps), Hull City 1976-78; manager, Doncaster Rovers 1978-85, Leeds United 1985-88, Doncaster Rovers 1989-91; died Doncaster 7 December 1997.

Billy Bremner was one of Britain's most fiery, skilful and industrious footballers of the post-war years. An essential cog in the pragmatic, often over-robust yet frequently wonderfully entertaining Leeds United team of the Sixties and Seventies, he was also the red-haired dynamo in Scotland's inter- national side, winning 54 caps.

He was only 5ft 5in tall yet his stature, at a time when football was more physical than it is today, allowed him to become not only the inspiration and captain of the championship, Fairs' Cup, FA Cup and League Cup winning Leeds side that Don Revie produced, but also the driving force in the 1974 Scottish World Cup side that was among the best that country has raised.

Leeds saw his footballing potential when he was a schoolboy in his home- town of Stirling, where he played for Gowanhill Juniors. He was only 17 when he made the first of his 585 appearances over 16 years for Leeds. When he arrived at Elland Road Revie was himself still on the playing staff and took him under his wing. At first Bremner seemed a natural inside right but over the years he developed into one of the toughest and most constructive goalscoring half-backs in the country. With Johnny Giles and Bremner, Leeds had a magnificent midfield.

As with many players of his time, he mixed a hard, enthusiastic attitude to the game with an almost equally dedicated approach to enjoying the pleasures that comparative riches brought, yet he remained astonishingly fit into his mid-thirties.

As an international, he won his first cap in 1965, not long before England won the 1966 World Cup. He took enormous pleasure in playing his part in beating the world champions at Wembley the following year.

After several disappointments, Leeds finally won a European competition (the Fairs' Cup) in 1968, which was also the year Bremner guided them to League Cup success. The following season he won an elusive championship medal. By then Revie's team had the reputation for being cynical and over- professional. It was a criticism that too often ignored the skills of Bremner and his colleagues and cost them a lot of sympathy when further major honours slipped from their grasp - until they won the championship again in 1974, beating a fine Liverpool side by five points.

In the World Cup of that year in Germany Scotland were Britain's only representatives and Bremner, then 32, had to deal with a lot of behind- the-scenes arguing over payments. He disliked the responsibility and after bad-tempered exchanges with the Scottish officials there was even a threat that he and the controversial winger Jimmy Johnstone would be sent home. He not only stayed but led the Scots to a draw with Brazil. Scotland were unfortunately eliminated without losing a match and Pele was full of praise for Bremner, who nevertheless began the following season with an incident that put a shadow over his career.

In the Charity Shield at Wembley he and Liverpool's Kevin Keegan were centre-stage in a foul-laden match seen on television. They exchanged punches and, rightly, were sent off. Had that been an end to the matter it would not have been so bad but both petulantly threw away their shirts. A spectator tried to have both players charged with breach of the peace. No civil action was taken but both missed 11 matches through the ensuing suspension.

Bremner's international career ended in unfortunate circumstances in 1975, when he and four other internationals were banned for life from playing for Scotland after being accused of unruly behaviour at a Copenhagen night-club and in the team's hotel. Bremner denied the allegations but Leeds too warned him about his future conduct. His illustrious career at the club ended a year later when he moved on to captain Hull City.

In the early Eighties he led Doncaster Rovers out of the fourth division, then returned to Leeds in 1985, where he had three years as manager before again returning to Doncaster.

Charlie Nicholas, a contemporary player, accurately embraced Bremner's contribution to football by saying: "His determination and love of the game made him such a difficult opponent. He could tackle, score goals and spray passes all over. That Leeds team would play 30 or 40 passes without an opponent touching the ball. Billy Bremner was some player."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick