Pleat had joined his local side, Nottingham Forest, as an apprentice and his international caps at Schoolboy and Youth level were evidence of his great potential. He had only made six appearances for Forest when he was signed by Luton Town, for a £ 8,000 fee. Unfortunately Pleat had joined Luton at a bad time as they had just been relegated to the Fourth Division and then he broke his leg in training during his first season. His return to the team was premature and this caused him to have back problems. This affected his natural speed which he had used well and after the injury he became a more studious and constructive player.
For the next few years Pleat moved around the lower divisions, his best spell coming at Exeter City, where he scored 13 goals in 66 League appearances. In 1971, whilst still only 26, Pleat joined Nuneaton Borough as player-manager, then the following year rejoined Luton as a coach after a period of unemployment. His role at Kenilworth Road involved coaching the juniors, visiting the local schools to coach, and selling lottery tickets.
Harry Haslam, the Luton manager, had promoted him to chief coach in December 1978 and when Haslam moved to Bramall Lane to manage Sheffield United, Pleat was appointed manager. Luton struggled against relegation to the Third Division in his first full season but after that they challenged for promotion and won the Second Division championship in 1981-82, in convincing style, with 88 points, eight clear of runners-up Watford.
Pleat established the Hatters as a First Division club, although there were seaons when they struggled against relegation. Luton avoided the drop in 1982-83 after winning their last game at Manchester City, with a goal from Raddi Antic, a result which relegated City instead, the images of Pleat galloping across the pitch to hug his players are well remembered.
Luton were desperately unlucky to lose 2-1 to Everton in the 1985 FA Cup semi-finals and in the following season they reached the quarter-finals of the League Cup in 1985-86, again losing to Everton. It was at the end of that season Pleat was offered the manager s job at Tottenham Hotspur which he accepted in May 1986.
Pleat introduced a style of play which used five midfield players and one front-runner. It was a style of play enjoyed by the fans but it just failed to bring trophies to the club. In 1987, Spurs lost in an FA Cup Final for the first time in their history, to Coventry City 3-2, finished third in the league and also reached the semi-final of the League Cup where they lost to their local rivals, Arsenal.
In October 1987, Pleat lost his job at White Hart Lane after disclosures about his private life, and after a couple of months out of the game he became the manager of Leicester City. It was to be Pleat s most uncomfortable time as a manager where despite spending £ 4m on 25 players, he was unable to find a winning combination and the fans became disillusioned. He was sacked in January 1991 with Leicester on the brink of relegation to the Third Division. In June 1991, he returned to Luton Town as manager but despite playing attractive soccer, the club were relegated to Division Two after ten years in the First Division.
Luton were almost relegated for the second season in succession. Luton had always survived on low gates which resulted in Pleat having to sell players to survive.
If you have any comments, or are aware of any errors / omissions then please email me :- Stuart Jackson