Peter Lorimer obituary: An 'explosive and influential member of the greatest Leeds side in history'

By Phil McNultyChief football writer
Peter Lorimer
Peter Lorimer became Leeds United's record goalscorer before retiring in 1986

Peter Lorimer, who has died aged 74, will be remembered as one of the most explosive and influential members of the greatest side in Leeds United's history.

Lorimer was not simply a key figure as Leeds enjoyed huge success at home and abroad in the 1960s and '70s but a spectacular symbol of a golden era at Elland Road that saw their ruthless, physical approach often overshadow the natural brilliance of one of the outstanding British post-war teams.

Under the leadership of legendary manager Don Revie, Leeds enjoyed great highs and bitter lows, big successes and heartbreaking disappointments, with Lorimer a pivotal character in all the twists in the plotlines.

Having made his debut for the club in September 1962 aged just 15 years and 289 days, his final appearance came 23 years later - in his second spell at Elland Road. He scored 238 goals in 703 appearances - a club record.

Lorimer's shooting from any range makes him a standout in any showreel of Leeds' glory era. It earned him nicknames such as 'Lash' and 'Hotshot', and the power and pace of his shots inspired a chant of '90 miles an hour' from the home support whenever he lined up a free-kick.

Leeds endured a rollercoaster of emotions during the Revie era; those who acknowledged the class and ability of the team assembled by this most complex of personalities justifiably questioning how and why they did not win more.

And, in a reflection of the ill-fortune Leeds often felt followed them around during their greatest days, two of Lorimer's greatest strikes rank among the most infamous goals they never scored.

In the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Villa Park in April 1967, as Leeds chased an equaliser in the dying seconds, John Giles turned a short free-kick to substitute Lorimer, who sent a rising right-foot thunderbolt past a helpless Peter Bonetti from 25 yards.

Referee Ken Burns ruled the goal out, the explanation apparently being the wall was not back the required 10 yards, causing scenes of chaos and confusion.

It was regarded by Leeds fans as one of many injustices their club suffered, before even more acute pain came in the 1975 European Cup final against Bayern Munich in Paris.

Leeds were chasing the biggest prize in European football, one which had always eluded Revie. He had left to become England manager in the summer of 1974 so it was the avuncular Jimmy Armfield who finally guided them to the final.

Lorimer, and pretty much every other observer, thought he had put Leeds ahead in the 62nd minute when he volleyed a clearance past Bayern keeper Sepp Maier, who was motionless as the right-foot shot flashed past him.

Leeds celebrated only for French referee Michel Kitabdjian - who had also refused penalty appeals in the first half when Bayern captain Franz Beckenbauer clearly upended Allan Clarke - to rule the goal out for offside.

Bayern made the most of the reprieves to score twice in the last 20 minutes, and the violent response of some Leeds fans present led to Uefa banning the club from European competition for four years, later reduced to two on appeal.

Peter Lorimer's goal is disallowed against Bayern Munich
Peter Lorimer played in five European finals for Leeds United

It was the last hurrah for a magnificent side but Lorimer stayed on, and remained one of the most important players and influences at Elland Road, his longevity and impact throughout his career meaning he will forever be a figure of huge significance in Leeds history.

Two years before that European Cup final controversy, Lorimer was thwarted by one of the greatest saves in FA Cup final and Wembley history, when Sunderland keeper Jim Montgomery made a miraculous stop to turn the Scot's shot on to the bar from five yards as the then Second Division side stunned the overwhelming favourites by winning 1-0.

These were disappointments but Leeds and Lorimer enjoyed huge successes during the Revie era as he took them out of the Second Division to claim a collection of the game's biggest honours - with the Dundee-born forward an essential ingredient in their recipe for success.

Lorimer came to prominence in the 1965-66 season and won a reputation as a player of creativity and menace, topped off with his ability to score goals of any sort, but so often of the thrilling and theatrical kind.

Leeds finally claimed silverware, winning the 1968 League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley as well as the Inter Cities Fairs Cup - forerunner of the Uefa Cup and Europa League - in the same year with a two-legged victory over Hungarians Ferencvaros.

It was the league title Leeds and Revie believed would cement their status as one of the great sides and duly arrived in 1968-69, the title clinched with a goalless draw at Liverpool and Lorimer one of the standout performers.

Lorimer patrolled the right side with his gifted fellow Scot Eddie Gray on the left, with Revie also establishing the deadly front line of Mick Jones and Clarke, all fuelled by the hugely talented and fiercely competitive duo of Giles and Billy Bremner.

Leeds were in the running for the three major trophies towards the conclusion of the 1969-70 season but ended empty-handed as the schedule caught up with them, Everton winning the title, Celtic sending them out in the 'Battle Of Britain' European Cup semi-final and Chelsea victorious after an FA Cup final replay.

Throughout it all, Lorimer was the model of consistency and reliability, claiming more honours when the Inter Cities Fairs Cup was won again against Juventus in 1971 along with the FA Cup finally won against Arsenal in 1972, Leeds failing to land the double by losing their last game at Wolverhampton Wanderers to give the title to Brian Clough's Derby County.

Leeds and Lorimer suffered bitter disappointment the following year when the shock loss to Sunderland was compounded by a hugely controversial defeat by AC Milan in the European Cup Winners' Cup Final in Thessaloniki 11 days later.

Milan won 1-0 but Leeds were infuriated, as were the neutral Greek fans, at a series of highly debatable decisions by local referee Christos Michas. He was later banned for life for match-fixing although this match was not included on the charge sheet.

Lorimer collected another title-winners medal in 1973-74 but with Revie gone, the Clough experiment cut short after 44 days and the great side suffering the ageing process, the club was about to leave its greatest era behind.

Leeds United team 1973-74
Peter Lorimer (back row, far left) won two league titles with Leeds United

As the club went into transition and often trauma under a succession of managers, Lorimer tailored his game to become the experienced elder statesman of the side, a guiding hand to his younger colleagues.

Lorimer eventually left Leeds in 1979, having two spells at Toronto Blizzard, a short stint at York City and also for Vancouver Whitecaps before making an emotional return to Elland Road in 1983 to play under the management of his old partner in glory Eddie Gray.

Leeds were in the former Second Division by this time. Lorimer became the club's greatest goalscorer before retiring in 1986.

Lorimer won 21 caps for Scotland, scoring four goals, making his debut away to Austria in November 1969 and playing his final game against Romania at Hampden Park in December 1975.

He was part of Willie Ormond's Scotland squad at the 1974 World Cup in Germany, scoring a typical volley in a 2-0 win against Zaire in a group game. It was a relatively narrow victory margin Scotland would later regret as they performed creditably to remain unbeaten against holders Brazil and Yugoslavia only to go out on goal difference.

Even after retiring, Lorimer was a permanent fixture at Elland Road and Leeds United games around the country as a pundit for BBC Radio Leeds. He also had a column in the Yorkshire Evening Post and the club's matchday programme as well as running a public house in the area.

Lorimer was also appointed as a Leeds United director under the boardroom leadership of Gerald Krasner and was the only one to continue in the role when Ken Bates assumed ownership in January 2005.

He acted as a fans' representative, although he was questioned by some supporters because of his public backing for chairman Bates during troubled times at Elland Road, and was announced as the club's first Football Ambassador in April 2013.

Lorimer, however, is one of the club's iconic figures and his death is another very sad day for Leeds United after the loss of his team-mates Norman Hunter, Trevor Cherry and Jack Charlton in recent months.

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