December 3, 1977
Don Revie is earning his prince’s salary the hard way. Jimmy Melia, the former Liverpool and England star just back from the Persian Gulf, paints a picture of a frustrated Revie struggling to come to terms with his new job.
Melia, who as been coaching in Sharjah for the last two and a half years and now wants to return to management in England said: “Revie has been out there for three months and it’s hard to see what he as done so far. The team hasn’t played at all yet, and he is talking about needing 10 years to get them up to a reasonable level.”
Revie and his assistant Les Cocker have been given four-year contracts by the United Arab Emirates F.A. and are based in Dubai, which is about 10 miles from Melia’s club in Sharjah.
“I have been a bit disappointed with Revie myself,” said Jimmy. “I met him soon after he arrived and he was asking about which teams played with a sweeper at the back. When everyone else is talking about attacking football, the first thing he is thinking about is the defence, and who plays with a sweeper.
“People ask me how he is doing, and I have to say that he’s doing well because he hasn’t played any matches and so he hasn’t been judged. They are involved in an under-20 tournament in Saudi Arabia shortly, but I don’t know why he hasn’t arranged something before now.”
Judging from Jimmy’s description of the set-up in the U.A.E., Revie is bound to be having problems adjusting to the new way of life. After years when everything was laid on for him with Leeds United and England, he now has to contend with a host of basic problems, many of which are well beyond his experience, even in the days when Leeds were a struggling Second Division side.
Said Jimmy: “The first match Revie went to watch, one of the teams failed to turn up. Another time, he held a trial match and was impressed with three players, but when he asked them to come for training they refused.
“There is not a lot he can do about that kind of thing. Players out there are basically amateur, and you can’t demand that they come training.
“The most important thing you need is patience. That is what I learnt in my time here. If you have achieved one thing at the end of the week, you have done well.
“There are a lot of foreigners coaching there – Egyptians, Germans, Czechs, Sudianis and so on, and I don’t think Revie’s arrival has gone down too well with many of them.
“People who come from the area or who are used to the conditions may have ideas which are more suitable than Europeans. The biggest things we can give them are discipline and work-rate.
“When I first went out there I used to go mad because they didn’t turn up for training and they were lazy. It takes a lot of time to accept their way of life. They don’t eat good food and they don’t live very well.
“In terms of skill, the players are equal to those in our First Division, but fitness and discipline is where they fall down.
“But things have improved in the last year or so, and they will get better still when they all get pitches. At the moment only one club have got a grass pitch, and even that isn’t in full use. They play on hard sand, and that does nothing for the standard of football. Arsenal came out on tour, and they didn’t look at all good in those conditions.
“The players do not have such a good position in society as English players do. They get promised a lot, but they don’t get what they are promised. They are helped with accommodation and maybe a job, but they don’t go overboard like they do in Kuwait, giving out cars and so on.
“The gates are very small, and the game is not advertised at all.
“I have heard recently that Revie is not very happy about things. I suppose the money compensates for a lot, but it does take a long time to get things going.
“You earn your money through frustration more than anything else. The players don’t turn up for training; you try to have a meeting with your committee and they don’t turn up; you go to watch a match and sometimes the referee doesn’t turn up.”
It is clearly a world of problems as well as riches, and even the cash-flow, Jimmy feels, is in danger of slowing down in the near future.
He is now back in England for a month, during which time he hopes to land a job in club management, either here or in America. If that fails, he will head back to the Gulf, resuming the fight to establish football in a country which, for all its wealth, seems singularly ill-suited to its demands.
(Source: Liverpool Echo: December 3, 1977; via http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) © 2018 Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited