Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Tony Currie (49)

Goal.com are counting down England's greatest players of all time and at number 49 is the man hailed as Sheffield United's best ever player, and Leeds United's most creative, Tony Currie...
50 John Terry

Born1/1/1950, Edgware, London, England
England17 caps, 3 goals
ClubsWatford, Sheffield United, Leeds United, Queens Park Rangers, Torquay United

Tony Currie was a showman who stood out even in an era of larger-than-life entertainers. He was a crowd pleaser whose extravagant skills and buccaneering style made him a hero to a generation of Sheffield United fans who’ve been waiting for someone of comparable stature ever since.

In one of football's classic errors of judgement, Chelsea discarded Currie as a youngster, but Watford saw his potential and snapped him up. He'd made just 18 first-team appearances for the Hornets, scoring nine goals, before Second Division Sheffield United signed him just after his 18th  birthday.

When the Blades won promotion in 1970-71 with an attacking team put together by manager John Harris, their inspiration was Currie in the iconic No. 10 shirt.


Promotion with the Blades
Going up into the top-flight was one of three great personal peaks in Currie's career. He was 21 at the time, and he dictated the tempo of a team that always tried to go forward when he was pulling the strings. Blades fans will tell you it was Currie who conducted the orchestra from midfield, spotting the openings and spraying the passes that captured
their imaginations. He fitted the times perfectly.

In full flow he was a memorable sight. Fleet-footed with a powerful physique, long blond hair flying in his own slipstream, shirt flapping outside his shorts, he made the ball do exactly what he wanted. His game combined speed and strength with visionary passing over any distance. He could bend a moving or dead ball spectacularly, coax it with subtle chips and flicks or hammer it into the net with venomous force before blowing kisses to the crowd. Yet there was nothing of the prima donna about him: he protected his talent with a robust physical presence and could win the ball as well as use it. He was a gladiator; and Bramall Lane, still open then on one side because of its summer usage by Yorkshire Cricket Club, was his arena.

Playing on the First Division stage afforded Currie greater exposure, and having represented England's Youth and Under-23 teams, he was finally picked by Sir Alf Ramsey for the seniors against Northern Ireland in 1972. Playing for his country was another personal milestone; yet he was to win just 17 caps between 1972 and 1979 - a total which did scant justice to his ability. At that time in particular, England managers seemed unwilling or unable to build teams around their most inventive players, so
Currie was too often wastefully overlooked.

It might have been different had he moved earlier in his career to a bigger, more 'fashionable' club. There was no shortage of admiring suitors; but he stayed to play 376 games for the Blades, scoring 66 goals, before making the glamour move to Leeds United for £240,000 in June 1976. Although not able to emulate the dominance of the Don Revie era, Leeds were still a major power, and Currie, filling the role vacated by Johnny Giles, was virtually ever-present in his three seasons at Elland Road, where the fans idolised his mix of flamboyance and commitment.


"This bloke was so good in the 1970s that I know people who chose Sheffield University just so they could watch Currie every other week. Well, it certainly wouldnt have been to watch Wednesday!" - Robbo | Durham
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Currie's time at Leeds was encapsulated in a cameo that coincided with the first game of Jock Stein's brief reign as manager. Leeds were at Highbury on the opening day of the 1978-79 season against Arsenal, and on the sunlit, manicured pitch, two artists were at work, one for either side. Liam Brady and Currie were determined to outdo each other in a compelling battle of creative wits. Brady curled home an unstoppable effort from 20 yards for the Gunners. In response, ‘TC’ took the ball almost to the goal-line, shaped to cross then lashed it into the net from the tightest of angles. Even a packed North Bank felt obliged to applaud.

After 102 League appearances for Leeds (11 goals), Currie moved to QPR for £450,000 in August 1979, and with Rangers he enjoyed what he described as his best moment in football, playing at Wembley in the 1982 FA Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur. It was an extended moment, too - QPR held Spurs to a 1-1 draw after extra-time, and Tony was captain for the replay in place of the suspended Glenn Roeder. Fate ruined the script, though, Currie conceding a penalty from which Glenn Hoddle scored the only goal for Spurs.

A crippling knee injury soon followed, wrecking his first-class playing career prematurely. As he struggled to rehabilitate himself there were spells in Canada, with non-league Chesham United and Torquay United as a non-contract player. But the injury proved too serious and he was invalided out of the game. For the next five years he found himself in a despairing sort of twilight zone until Sheffield United came to the rescue in 1988 by making him their Football in the Community Officer - a role he still performs today with great enthusiasm.

There is an enduring feeling that his skills deserved greater recognition. At international level England, who seemed rudderless for much of the 1970s, never really knew where to play him or how to get the best out of him. Players with a fraction of his lavish talent went on to win three times as many caps. Yet those who watched Currie play remember a  brilliant, audacious and unorthodox original who was, first and foremost, an entertainer.


Second Division runner-up (promoted) (1970-71)
FA Cup finalist (1981-82)

Leeds United Player of the Year (1978)
Nominated FourFourTwo's best ever Sheffield United player (2006)

DID YOU KNOW ... That Tony Currie's nephew Darren Currie has played more than 400 League games for various clubs including Barnet, Wycombe, Ipswich, Derby and Luton, and is currently with League Two Chesterfield?

Graham Lister, Goal.com

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