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The master of movement

By Andrew McKenzie


BBC Sport meets You Are The Ref creator Paul Trevillion and watches him turn an elephant into Pele

What have Sugar Ray Robinson, Pele, Jack Nicklaus, Muhammad Ali, George Best, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods got in common - apart from their status as sporting legends?

They have all had their portraits drawn by Paul Trevillion.

If you do not know the name or the face, you will almost certainly have seen his work.

When Winston Churchill talked you listened, but he nailed you with his eyes

Paul Trevillion
For more than 50 years Trevillion has been drawing sport's biggest stars.

Some would argue you have not made it unless your face has been on the end of a Trevillion brushstroke.

"I've had the best life I could have had, met people I could never have dreamed of and been to places I could never have imagined," he said.

"I get up in the morning and the first thing I do is look in the mirror and if I see my face then I know I've got another day," he says.

Born in Love Lane in Tottenham on 11 March 1934, he used to draw his Spurs heroes while he stood on the terraces at White Hart Lane.

Paul Trevillion works on his drawings of Tiger Woods
Paul Trevillion works on his drawings of Tiger Woods
He got his first big breakthrough when The People newspaper started publishing Hey Ref!

The comic strip, later to become You Are The Ref, poses strange refereeing scenarios and has featured in numerous national newspapers, as well as Roy of the Rovers and Shoot magazines.

More recently it reappeared in The Observer newspaper as it celebrated 50 years since it first bamboozled readers.

The early success of the strip helped forge Trevillion's reputation as a top sports artist and he went on to draw the famous Roy of the Rovers comic strip.

His drawing of Winston Churchill in 1955, shortly after the Prime Minister's resignation through ill health, led to Trevillion getting an invite to visit the country's former leader.

Trevillion said: "He had a great voice and when he talked you listened, but he nailed you with his eyes. He looked at you, not through you and he never blinked.

"He loved the drawing and when he left I remember the words he said to me. Every no takes you one step closer to a yes. Just keep going forward, don't give up and have faith."

It is the only portrait Churchill ever signed and Trevillion was recently honoured when the drawing was assigned to be hung in the Churchill Museum.

Trevillion's unique talents earned him the nickname 'the Master of Movement' - legendary Disney animator Milt Neil once said it would take 20 of their drawings to produce the movement Trevillion captures in one.

Although Trevillion's abilities enabled him to work all over the world in some remarkable jobs, his talents were not limited just to canvas and among other things he had a spell as a stand-up comedian.

He is also credited with inventing the split-handed putting technique now widely used - though Colin Montgomerie is said to have declined Trevillion's offer a a putting competition from four feet, with the winner donating 1m to charity.

Other notable achievements include earning a record deal, dressing up as DJ Bear the Panda of Peace to try and pacify football hooligans and becoming the world speed kissing champion - a title he defended.

But despite living a life story that would not seem out of place in a Hollywood script, there is one thing that stands out above all.

Introduced Leeds' sock tags and pre-match drills, working with Don Revie's 1972 FA Cup-winners
Worked at beloved Tottenham under Bill Nicholson
Co-wrote book on Bill Nicholson with Alan Mullery - Double Bill
Helped market among others Coca-Cola, adidas, Umbro, Hersheys, NFL, NBA and Nascar
Worked under the legendary Mark McCormack, founder of global sports management agency IMG
He said: "The reason I'm so proud of You Are The Ref, and why it means more to me than anything I've ever done, is because is a great memory of a great friend and a great journalist.

"In 1952 I worked for the Lilywhite monthly magazine. Ralph L. Finn was the editor and a terrific national journalist who took me under his wing, gave me lots of valuable advice and was instrumental in the start of You Are The Ref.

"To please Ralph, more than anything else, I came up with Hey Ref! In 1957 it was published in the Sunday People and that was the birth of YATR. It's been going, in one form or other, for the past 50 years.

"Every time I draw YATR I can hear Ralph saying to me: 'As long as football is played, nobody will know all the rules, because in one form or another, new rules or adaptations are written almost every new season'.

"He was right then and he is today. The strip is a great memory of Ralph, whose epitaph was: 'You must learn to kick with both feet, punch with both hands and play to your utmost ability the greatest game of all - life'."

Over the years top referees like Stan Lover and Clive Thomas have worked with Trevillion to provide the definitive answers to You Are The Ref.

Since 1981 that role has been filled by Keith Hackett and even now in his role as the Premier League referees' chief he still finds time to provide a solution to each one.

For the first time You Are The Ref was made interactive when it appeared on the BBC website during Euro 2008.

George Best by Paul Trevillion
Decades after the start of You Are The Ref it is going as strong as ever, while Trevillion, at 74, shows no sign of slowing down.

He is the sort of character that takes over a room the moment he steps foot in it. "I'm only normal in America," said Trevillion, who describes himself as a 'lunatic genius'.

We caught up with him as he opened the Jumpers for Goalposts exhibition at the National Football Museum in Preston.

It was a day of tales that would fill a series of novels.

But of all the stars he has ever met - from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, from Pele to Bobby Moore - who is the greatest of them all?

Trevillion holds dear affections for his former neighbour Paul Gascoigne, but there is one man who tops the lot.

"George Best was my favourite," said Trevillion. "He was the nicest guy and he was the best looking of them all. I met Elvis and George Best was better looking than Elvis.

"He was so talented but he was too nice and that helped shorten George's career. He couldn't say no to anyone. But he never let me down whenever we worked on a football feature. He was always late - sometimes he was days late - but he never let me down."

see also
Fifty years of Paul Trevillion
07 Jul 08 |  Football

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