Billy Bremner was rejected by Arsenal and Chelsea as being too small to play football – but went on to star 773 times for Leeds United and win 54 Scotland caps.
A combative and tigerish midfielder, the Stirling-born dynamo represented Scotland Schoolboys before unsuccessful trials with the London clubs saw him join Leeds in 1959. He made his debut aged just 17 years and 47 days, with the Yorkshire Postnoting that he showed “enthusiasm, guts, intelligence, most accurate use of the ball and unselfishness”.
For the next 27 years he would prove an inspiration at the centre of the park for the Yorkshire club, scoring 115 goals as they won two league titles, the FA and League Cup and two InterCity Fairs Cups.
Made captain in 1965 aged just 23, he forged a fearsome partnership with Johnny Giles, picking up his first silverware with the 1968 League Cup and following it up a few months later when Leeds defeated Ferencváros over two legs to win the InterCity Fairs Cup. He was also named the English top flight’s Player of the Year in 1970, with The Sunday Timesdubbing him “10st of barbed wire” due to his tenacity and tough tackling.
Billy captained Scotland from 1970 onwards, including the side’s undefeated appearance at the 1974 World Cup. His last cap came against Denmark in 1975, and three years later he hung up his boots for good after two seasons with Hull City. Managerial spells followed with Doncaster Rovers and his beloved Leeds, whom he guided from mid-table to the Second Division play-offs and FA Cup semi-finals.
He retired from football in 1991 and died six years later, aged just 54. A statue was erected in his honour outside Leeds United’s home ground, Elland Road.
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