After moving across West Yorkshire to Elland Road from Huddersfield Town in an unexpected deal, Roy Ellam played 21 times for the first team in his two seasons at the club. However, when you look at the players he was competing for a shirt with, that tally of appearances is pretty impressive.
Roy was born in Hemsworth in January 1943 and after trials at Queens Park Rangers and a spell in amateur football, he joined Bradford City where he turned professional in 1960 before a move to Huddersfield in January 1966:
“I really enjoyed playing football and had some great times throughout my career. At Leeds Road I formed a fine partnership with Trevor Cherry at the heart of the defence and I was an ever present as we won the Second Division title in 1969/70.”
Huddersfield’s time in the top flight was brief and following relegation in the 1971/72 season, the side started to break up. The flamboyant Frank Worthington, who later played for Leeds, moved on to Leicester City. Goalkeeper David Lawson signed for Everton and Ellam’s central defensive partner and good friend, Trevor Cherry made the short journey to Leeds, one which Roy would soon make himself:
“There was a lot of unrest at Town following relegation and naturally some of the lads wanted to be back in the top flight for the sake of their careers. I spoke to the manager, Ian Greaves, and informed him that I wasn’t totally happy with the situation and even if it meant staying in the second tier I wanted to move on:
“We returned for pre-season and I found myself training with the juniors, I was completely out of the managers plans.”
Following one training session and with the season fast approaching, Roy got a call that left him totally speechless:
“Mr Revie telephoned me one evening to inform me that he’d agreed a fee with Huddersfield and asked if I would be interested in signing for Leeds United.
“I couldn't believe it, I was ecstatic. How could I turn a man like Don Revie down? He asked me to keep the conversation to myself, deny any knowledge of it if I was approached by the media and report to Elland Road by 8:30 the following morning.
”I was put through a rigorous medical but following the previous problems the club had had with Asa Hartford, it was no surprise. Luckily, I was fine; I signed the forms and couldn’t wait to get started even though I knew I would have one hell of a challenge to get into the team.”
The legendary Jack Charlton was nearing the end of a distinguished career and Roy was originally seen as the natural replacement.
“I’d barely found my feet at the club and the campaign had started. Don gave me my debut in the season’s opener against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the 12th of August.”
It was a debut that would turn into a nightmare:
“Big Jack and Norman Hunter weren’t available for selection so I got the nod to play alongside Paul Madeley in the centre of the back four. Chelsea benefited hugely when we lost David Harvey through injury. Peter Lorimer had to go in goal and we were beaten 4-0. Earlier, Mick Jones had been forced to leave the field injured and it was far from the ideal start to say the very least.”
Roy next appeared in the league at the end of October as goals from Eddie Gray and Lorimer secured a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, he did start both legs against Ankaragucu as Leeds embarked on their first and only European Cup-Winners Cup campaign. It was a campaign that ended in disgrace due to events in Salonika involving the referee and corruption.
In total, Roy made 10 appearances, including one as a sub, during his debut season but he admits he did suffer a blow:
“Don signed Gordon McQueen from St Mirren. Gordon was a brilliant defender and he went ahead of me in the pecking order. “
The following season saw McQueen partner Norman Hunter for much of the season as Leeds made history by going 29 league games unbeaten from the start of the season as they marched to their second league title:
“I started three games in the league when Norman was unavailable and I did play in that game at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground when the run came to an end with a 3-2 defeat. It was very disappointing, especially after being two goals up.”
At the end of the season, Roy Ellam returned to Huddersfield Town:
“I had a word with Don and advised him that I needed to be playing. Bobby Collins was manager at Huddersfield and it was agreed that I would return there.
“Unfortunately, Bobby got the sack a few months later and I was on my way to play in America, which was an unbelievable experience.”
Roy looks back at his time at Elland Road with a great sense of pride:
“What a tremendous place. Look at the brilliant squad that Mr Revie had put together. Everybody around the place was a good person and whether you were Billy Bremner or the lady in the laundry room, Don gave you respect. The club was run in a completely professional manner.
“My greatest memory of my time at Leeds is the world class players that I trained with every day and played alongside.
“It’s a tough call but I would say that Billy Bremner was the greatest player who I ever played alongside but Johnny Giles isn’t far behind. They were unbelievable talents and like I said it was a brilliant squad.
“Look at Leeds now, it is heart breaking. What has happened in the last decade or so is a tragedy and the clubs supporters deserve so much more. Let’s hope that the good days return sooner rather than later.”
Thank you to Roy Ellam for giving me his time and the opportunity to write this article.