Book bonus: Lucas Radebe

By Drum Digital
03 November 2010

In September 1996 Howard Wilkinson was sacked and a day later Leeds United announced that George Graham was their new manager.

Graham’s arrival at Elland Road lifted the fans, especially when he promised to bring back the glory days. The players were given notice that life was going to change: “I’ve got to stamp my way of working onto my staff and players and if I get it right we can join the giants of football. Sometimes people get a bit stale and you need new blood,” he said.Lucas only knew of the Scot by reputation but he was delighted with what he heard at the first team meeting. Graham made it clear that everyone started with a clean slate and would be given a fair chance to show what they could do.

Lucas remembered: “That was just what I needed to hear. I wanted a fresh start, an opportunity to prove myself.”

The new manager added that he was going to build from the back and true to his word, when they went out on the training pitch for the first time, the whole session concentrated on defence. Lucas felt renewed optimism. He was determined to work as hard as he could to win over the new manager with his ability.

He was enjoying his football again and each training session saw him growing more confident as he polished his defensive skills under the tutelage of Graham and assistant manager David O’Leary. Lucas was starting to blossom.

“I’ve got a new lease of life and I intend to make the most of it,” Lucas said in an interview with a local newspaper.

A bond of mutual respect had quickly grown between Lucas and Graham, so much so that the rest of the squad joked that Lucas must be George Graham’s long-lost love child. Lucas smiled at the memory.

“From the first day I knew I would get on well with George. He treated me with respect and the same as any other player. There were no references to the fact that I was a low-cost buy from South Africa. If I got something wrong, he explained it and helped me get better.”

For the manager, Lucas was an ideal person to coach. Perhaps the pair’s shared experience of growing up in a large family with not much money and in a place where prejudice was an everyday experience, played a part in their friendship.

Certainly Graham looks back on their time working together with true affection: “Lucas was a joy to work with,” he said. “He had a great attitude and he loved training. Coaching is teaching, imparting knowledge, and as any teacher will tell you there are some pupils who are good at absorbing information and some who are not. Lucas was one of the best. He listened carefully to everything he was told, took it in and tried to incorporate it into his game. He was a quick learner.”

Read the full article in DRUM of 10 November 2010

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