Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Terry Yorath opens up about tragedy of son's death and battle with alcohol for ITV documentary

Terry Yorath

Former Leeds United star Terry Yorath has opened up about his battle with drink problems following the death of his son for a new ITV documentary.

The 67-year-old, who also managed Bradford City, talks about his life on and off the pitch in Terry Yorath: Life on the Edge.

The documentary revolves around the impact on his father of son Daniel's death in 1994. The 15-year-old collapsed as they played football together in the family's garden.

“When Dan collapsed I thought he was taking the mickey,” Yorath said. “I said, 'Come on Dan, get up'.

“But when I got to him there was nothing there. He just made a noise, a kind of last breath. I tried my hardest to get him back to life.”

Daniel’s death was caused by an undetected heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

At the time, Yorath made an impassioned appeal for greater awareness of the disease, saying: “Make sure that more young people are screened. So we can at least help them and not have to pick them up off the grass.”

But those tragic events in the back garden were to cast a long shadow.

“Daniel’s death definitely increased his misery,” said Yorath’s daughter, the broadcaster Gabby Logan.

“His down days became longer and he was reaching for a glass of whiskey at the end of the day to try and numb the pain. It’s self medicating isn’t it? And you can understand when somebody’s lost a child, how that happens. But I think that kind of spiralled.”

Gabby Logan

In 2004 Yorath narrowly avoided a prison sentence after knocking down a pedestrian while over the drink drive limit.

“It cut me up. A lot,” he said. “It’s bad enough having an accident but when there’s somebody else involved, it’s bad. And it did get to me. I’d lost my son and I didn’t want anyone else to lose theirs.

“The best thing I ever did was to give up the Scotch.”

Although born and bred in Cardiff, much of Yorath’s sporting career was spent at Yorkshire clubs, including Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday.

Yorath played for Leeds from 1967 to 1976

In 1985, he was coaching at Bradford City and had steered the club to promotion to the Second Division. On 11th May that year, during the final game of the season, a fire ripped through the main stand at Valley Parade. Yorath only escaped by throwing a chair through a window in the players’ lounge and jumping down to the street below.

Fifty-six people lost their lives that day. Gabby Logan, who was also there, says the disaster shook her family.

“My parents were just numb,” she recalls.

“I don’t think my dad slept that night and probably didn’t sleep very well for a long time after. It was a terrible, terrible tragedy and it was never going to be something my father just walked away from.”

Yorath retired from football in 2009 and remains proud of his distinguished sporting career. He still has a huge following at his Leeds United, and is often called on to share his memories and expertise with fans on match days.

But he admits that he’ll never fully be able to come to terms with the death of his son.

“A woman came to the house about a week after Dan died,” he remembers.

“She said, ‘when people say to you time’s a healer, it’s not.’ And I thought, why would she come to the house and say that? I didn’t have a clue.

“But she’s dead right though. It’s not a healer. It’s something you never get over.”

To watch Terry Yorath: Life On The Edge click here.