Football was again mourning the loss of yet another member of that legendary Leeds United side of the sixties and seventies. The club’s all-time record goalscorer, Peter Lorimer, has died at the age of 74 after a long illness.
He was said to have the hardest shot in football, hence the nickname, ‘the lash’ or ‘hotshot Lorimer’. His death has had people again reminiscing about the glory Leeds days. He follows Jack Charlton, Trevor Cherry, Norman Hunter, all of whom have passed away within the last twelve months.
He became the club’s youngest ever player when he made his debut against Southampton, 76 days short of his 16th birthday in May 1962. That day he lined up alongside the legendary John Charles. It would be Charles’ goalscoring record Lorimer would go on to surpass.
He retired just before his 40th birthday at the end of the 1985-86 season. During a stellar career he scored 238 goals in 705 appearances, during two spells at the club. He won 21 caps for Scotland including appearances at the 1974 World Cup.
A statement from the club read;
“Peter’s contribution to Leeds United will never be forgotten and his passing leaves another huge hole in the Leeds United family.
‘He will always remain a club icon and his legacy at Elland Road will live on. Our thoughts are naturally with Peter’s wife Sue and the rest of his family at this difficult time.”
Born in Dundee on 14th December 1946, Lorimer said he was never going to play in Scotland. “It was always about playing in England, for me”.
English football first heard about him during the 1965-66 season when he was the club’s top scorer with 19 goals. He became a prominent member of Don Revie’s side which came out of the Second Division to lift the First Division title in 1969. A year earlier Lorimer was in the side which won the 1968 League Cup against Arsenal. In the same year they won the Inter Cities Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup, now Europa League).
It seems remarkable for a club the size of Leeds United, that the 1968 League Cup was their first major honour. That season ‘Lash’ was prolific, hitting 30 goals in 60 appearances.
Throughout his career he would often be seen scoring spectacular goals. He was such a clean striker of the ball. One penalty was reputed to be measured at 107mph.
Yet for all his goals, he wasn’t a striker. He played wide midfield, not as a winger, but often cut in to shoot as the defence were preoccupied with the likes of Allan Clarke or Mick Jones.
He won seven major trophies at Elland Road, including two old First Division titles in 1969 and 1974 and the FA Cup in 1972. Despite being the dominant club for many years straddling the sixties and seventies, Leeds were runners-up far more often than their legend would suggest.
One such occasion was the fractious 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich, in Munich. Lorimer smashed in a trademark volley only to find it controversially ruled out. Sepp Maier in the Bayern goal never moved, such was the ferocity. As Leeds players celebrated, the referee ruled it out for offside. Leeds lost 0-2 and their fans rioted at the injustice of it all.
In the 1973 FA Cup Final, as defending champions against Second Division Sunderland, Lorimer was involved in the moment of the match. Jim Montgomery pulled off some incredible saves in that game, especially against ‘hotshot’.
11 days after that shock FA Cup result at the hands of Sunderland, Lorimer and Leeds suffered more disappointment. They were up against Milan in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final. They lost 0-1 but were exasperated at many of the debatable decisions by Greek referee, Christos Michas. He was later banned for life for match-fixing, although this game wasn’t one he was suspected from. The Milan goal came just four minutes into the game direct from an indirect free-kick!
Another moment of ‘injustice’ for Leeds fans was when he scored a thunderbolt from a free-kick past Peter Bonetti in the Chelsea goal during an FA Cup Semi-Final at Villa Park in 1967. It was from about 25 yards out but celebrations soon turned to anguish as the goal was ruled out. Referee Ken Burns became infamous for that decision. His argument was the wall had not retreated ten yards. Looking back it would seem an odd decision as the ball was rolled several yards right to Lorimer, surely taking the wall out of contention. Leeds players surrounded Burns but he was unmoved. What made it worse was it came in the dying moments of the match with Chelsea leading by a goal. That looked as if it would take the game into extra-time, but Mr Burns thought otherwise.
Lorimer’s international career began against Austria in November 1969. He was capped 21 times for his country. It would’ve been more had he not spent a summer in South Africa playing for Cape Town City during the Apartheid era, for which he received an international ban.
He played all three of Scotland’s group matches during the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, scoring in their opening game against Zaire. It was one of four goals he scored for his country.
He left Leeds in 1979, having two spells at Toronto Blizzard and a short stint at York City. He also turned out for Vancouver Whitecaps under former Leeds team-mate, Johnny Giles, before making a return to Elland Road in 1983. At the time one of his best mates, Eddie Gray, was the manager and it was an emotional return for the Scot.
Gray has some wonderful memories playing alongside Lorimer. He remarked how Peter was never one to bother with warming up before a match. He would just ‘lash’ a couple of shots at whoever was in the Leeds goal, then go off. By his own admission he wasn’t keen on waiting in the dressing room either. He acknowledged many of his team-mates would be nervous and so he didn’t want that to rub off on him, so he would spend the build-up in the bar or the club lounge.
Gray spent a lot of his career alongside Peter, particularly when they were young lads. He recalled an occasion in a local cup match against Halifax when he was playing up front with him.
At the kick-off Lorimer noticed the keeper was a way off his line, so he asked Gray to roll the ball to him and he proceeded to kick it straight over the keeper into the net from the kick-off.
He retired as a player in 1986 and was later appointed as a director to the Leeds United board. In 2013 he was named as the club’s first ambassador.
Lorimer’s former Leeds United team-mate, Eddie Gray, paid tribute to Peter;
“Peter was a truly great player, but he was also a great man. He could do anything. He could go by people; he was a great crosser of the ball. People think about him and his tremendous shot, which he did have, but he was also a great goalscorer and great footballer.
“He will be sorely missed by all the Leeds United fans.”
Current Leeds captain Liam Cooper paid tribute to Lorimer, tweeting:
“Fly high Peter. A legend that we all aspire to be like. Sending all our love to Peter’s family.”
Leeds midfielder Stuart Dallas also wrote on Twitter:
“After the high of last night, we learn of such sad news this morning. My thoughts are with Peter’s family and friends at this difficult time.”
Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani tweeted:
“Another Legend left us. My prayers with the family – it has been an honour to meet you and host you at Elland Road, your home.”