We went from Avramovic not being allowed to kick the ball, to Avramovic not allowed to throw the ball – and, that season, we survived. For Notts County, that was unbelievable.
We survived again the following season, and that’s when I got the phone call from Sheffield Wednesday – the club my dad had supported, and so the one I’d grown up supporting.
They were in the Second Division, but when I looked at the team I thought we had enough to get us out of it. We also had a plethora of good centre-halves, so I decided to play 3-4-3. The first in the UK, I think.
We played three strikers: one centre, right and left. I explained to them: “What you’ve got to do for us, I shouldn’t ask of a dog. You three are our front four.”
I wanted the full-backs to get wide, push on and get up the line. We’d press high. Play a very rigid offside.
That season, nobody could live with us. We should have won the league, but by Easter Monday we’d secured promotion and, after that, they stopped running.
We finished second, one goal behind Chelsea. After 14 years, Sheffield Wednesday were back in the top flight.
“You’re trying to relive the Revie era, but you haven’t got Revie players”
By the end of my third season there, it was clear we needed to invest in better players. We’d finished 13th in the league – eight places lower than the previous season.
After the final game, I found Nigel Worthington sitting alone in the dressing room. “Gaffer,” he said. “You need to leave here. You can only squeeze so much juice out of a lemon.”
I ended up staying for five years. Until a month or so into the 1988/89 season, I got a call from a reporter, saying he’d been asked to sound me out. Was I interested in going to Leeds United, who were at that time in the Second Division?
I blame Bobby Robson. When Leeds chairman Leslie Silver asked him who he should bring in, Bobby told him: “You’ve got to try very hard to get Howard Wilkinson.”
I drove up to see Leslie at his paint factory near Leeds. He asked me: “If you were me, what would you do here?”
“You need to change. You’ve got to change the approach and the culture. You’re living in the past, trying to relive the Don Revie era – but you haven’t got Revie players. You’re successful in the paint business. You haven’t done that by making the same paint the same way you were 15 years ago.”