BEHIND THE PHOTOS
INTUITION CREATES ICONIC
Pelé described this photo as ‘very important for football’, while Bobby Moore considered it his favourite picture of himself.
This iconic shot was taken after a memorable match at the 1970 FIFA World Cup between England and Brazil. The game is famous for several incidents: Jairzinho’s goal, an incredible save from Gordon Banks, a fine tackle from Moore – and this photograph.
When interviewed for a BBC documentary, Pelé said: “That photo has gone around the world. I think it was very important for football. We demonstrate that it’s a sport. Win or lose, the example, the friendship, you must pass these on to other players, to the next generation.”
John Varley was the man behind the lens. Prior to the match, he decided he would follow Moore after the final whistle, hoping the England captain would interact with Pelé.
The players met very briefly and barely looked at one another before Pelé started walking away. Moore gestured for Pelé to look him in the eye – and at the perfect moment Varley was the man on the spot to take what many people regard as the most iconic football photograph of all time.
Black and white; defender and attacker; the home of football and the most successful footballing nation.
This photo will forever remain the most celebrated shot of John Varley’s illustrious career.
A MASTER AMONG HIS CREATIONS
In 1978, Henry Moore, the pre-eminent sculptor of the twentieth century, hosted an exhibition in Bradford to mark his 80th birthday. Hundreds attended the event in order to pay tribute to one of the world’s most famous artists.
John Varley arrived at the exhibition knowing exactly what he wanted. Quite simply, Varley desired a shot of the master sculptor among his creations. There was a throng of press and public, while Moore’s press officer insisted his client wouldn’t like the idea. But Moore was happy to oblige and – after getting hundreds of people out of the way – Varley only saw the sculptor and his creations through his lens.
The image earned Varley the 1979 World Press Photo Award in the arts and science category – an honour of which he was immensely proud. Varley particularly loved this photo due to the fact Moore could be mistaken for one of his creations.
Later, Moore wrote to Varley asking for copies of the photo. Varley was only too happy to oblige and sent extra copies for Moore to sign, along with a self-addressed envelope.
Forty-five minutes in and it was 1-1 in the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany at Wembley Stadium.
John Varley was tasked with taking colour photos – a novelty at the time – of what would turn out to be the greatest day in England’s football history.
However, there was a problem. Varley’s press pass was only good enough for a position in the stand. He desperately needed to be pitch-side, so when half-time came around, Varley hatched a plan to get closer to the action.
He grabbed a messenger and bribed him for his access-all-areas pass. Then mid-way through half-time Varley, ventured pitch-side and convinced a steward he was returning from the toilet…by speaking in broken German. The steward – perhaps fearing a diplomatic incident – allowed Varley onto the pitch and the rest, as they say, is history. Varley walked over to his preferred position and spent the rest of the afternoon documenting English football’s finest hour.
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NOT THE DUNN THING
In May 1976 Halifax-born fighter Richard Dunn entered the Olympiahalle in Munich to face the man known as The Greatest, Muhammad Ali.
Unfortunately for Dunn, the fight ended in round five. Despite a courageous effort, Dunn was knocked to the canvas five times and became the final knockout of Ali’s professional career.
After the fight, virtually the entire press pack followed Ali into his dressing room. John Varley though, had other ideas.
Varley wondered what Dunn would be doing after such a crushing defeat and instead of following the crowd, he ventured to the Yorkshireman’s dressing room. Varley opened the dressing room door and spotted a dejected Dunn, sat naked in the shower. Dunn was hunched over and clearly devastated after taking such a beating. The photo dominated the Daily Mirror’s coverage of the fight.
A ROYAL FLUSH
John Varley covered countless royal events during his career and, every so often, he grabbed a shot unlike any other member of the press pack.
When Princess Diana leant over to sign a guestbook, Varley quickly realised she had nowhere to put her handbag. Yet again his anticipation, not to mention intuition, took over. Diana secured the handbag between her legs and Varley quickly grabbed the shot. Seconds later, Diana turned around and gave him a knowing smile.
THE MORNING AFTER THE 1972 FA CUP FINAL
It’s a photo that would be nigh-on impossible to take in the modern era of professional football.
Leeds United captain Billy Bremner and World Cup winner Jack Charlton are lazing in bed. Full English breakfasts have been polished off and the morning papers devoured. Billy is enjoying his first cigarette of the day while Jack is yawning.
Incredibly, this photo was taken less than 24 hours after Leeds had won the 1972 FA Cup final. It remains the club’s only victory in the competition.
John Varley was a friendly face to many of that great Leeds team, led by the legendary Don Revie. So, when he knocked on Billy and Jack’s hotel room door, the players were happy to invite him in.
‘OK if I take a picture?’ said Varley. Neither man objected and an iconic football photo was made.
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FERGIE'S MARILYN MOMENT
This shot is an example of organisation, intuition and timing. When tasked with covering the visit of the Duchess of York to the city of her name, Varley took time out the day before her arrival to recce the route.
Halfway round, he realised it was highly likely the Duchess would walk over an air vent. Needless to say, Varley took a position near the vent and ended up being the only photographer to grab a shot of the Duchess’s dress blowing up, a la Marilyn Monroe. It turned out to be another front-page picture.
SHOOTING THE PRESIDENT (ON HIS DAY OFF)
When US President Jimmy Carter visited County Durham in May 1977, it was a photo opportunity that John Varley couldn’t resist.
The visit occurred on Varley’s day off, so he wasn’t down to cover this momentous occasion in the north-east of England. However, on the morning of the visit, he said to his ten-year-old son: “Come on David, let’s go and meet the President.”
Without official accreditation, Varley didn’t have the luxury of a photographer’s position. Instead, he stood back and blended in with the crowd.
The result for Varley, who was using a telephoto lens, was a fabulous shot of the President surrounded by an exuberant crowd. It had a different feel to every other photograph submitted that day and meant Varley – once again – had trumped all his peers.
TACKLING THE MASCOT
Total Football magazine once ran a feature entitled the ’50 Greatest Football Photographs’. John Varley had three shots in the top 25, including this one of former Leeds United midfield enforcer Vinnie Jones.
Varley was on the touchline as the teams came out at Elland Road for a Second Division encounter in 1989. Virtually every other photographer in the ground was sat behind the goal at the away end – but not John Varley. He was up and alert, and noticed Jones out of the corner of his eye. With his lens trained on the notorious midfielder, Varley quickly realised Jones was going to tackle the mascot. He stuck with Jones, snapped away and the result is a terrific photo that made every newspaper the next morning.
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'HAROLD WILSON'S FAVOURITE SAUCE'
The 1979 General Election campaign was in full swing and Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher was aiming to rally support during a visit to Yorkshire.
Mrs Thatcher had already met hundreds of people before stopping for lunch at Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley. She sat down to eat her fish and chips with the press pack surrounding her, including John Varley.
Thatcher was on the verge of tucking in to her generous portion of land and sea and went to grab a bottle of HP sauce – but Varley beat her to it.
‘You’ve chosen Harold Wilson’s favourite sauce!’ joked Varley, who was a staunch Labour supporter.
Mrs Thatcher was non-too impressed, and snapped: ‘My father was selling this sauce in his shop long before anyone knew of Harold Wilson, sonny.’
The whole Press pack howled with laughter, including Varley. For once, he had been put in his place.
LEEDS UNITED'S INTERNATIONALS
During Don Revie’s reign as the most successful manager in Leeds United’s history, it was practically a prerequisite for players to have represented their country.
It was a fact not lost on John Varley that almost every member of the squad at Elland Road – never mind the first 11 – was a full international.
Varley could smell a decent picture a mile off, so with the help of the club, in particular Jack Charlton, he organised a photo shoot for Leeds’s international players, who would all wear their national team kits and caps.
There was, however, just one sticking point. Charlton was concerned the photo would be a failure due to Billy Bremner’s terrible memory. ‘Billy will forget,’ said Charlton. ‘Mark my words – there’s no way he’ll remember his kit. He’s got the memory of sieve.’
Thankfully for Varley, Bremner didn’t forget and was happy to smile away on the front row. The only player to forget his kit was…you guessed it…Jack Charlton.
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