John Giles: legend puts today’s footballers to shame.

John Giles in action for Leeds United Johnny Giles is a legend. A footballing career spanning 26 years and with more than 100 goals to his name, he is one of the undisputed giants of his generation. Player and player-manager for the Republic of Ireland; hero at Leeds United; acclaimed football analyst: Giles has had an undeniably brilliant influence on the world of the ‘beautiful game’.

His autobiography ‘Football Man’ was released this week, with all the profits (yes that’s ALL  the profits) going to his footballing foundation. ‘The John Giles Foundation’ is aimed at getting youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds into the game. It aims to “use the power of football to build community cohesion, promote health, and encourage lifelong participation and learning.” This foundation is just the latest flash of brilliance brought by John to the game of football. Currently an analyst on Ireland’s RTE, he has been a true football hero on and off the pitch. Forget your Wayne Rooneys, John Terrys and David Beckhams: Johnny Giles was and is a true gentleman and master of the game.

Giles was born in 1940 in Dublin, and by the age of 14 was such an accomplished footballer than he was signed with Manchester United in the Youth Team. Moving to England, he started playing for the first team in 1957 in the position of midfielder. Playing alongside greats such as Dennis Law and Bobby Charlton, Giles won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1963. He moved to Leeds United the same year: a  move which turned out to be the best of his career.

Leeds were in Second Division(today’s Championship) when Johnny joined them, but they won the  title the same year and narrowly missed out on the League Championship (today’s Premier League) and FA Cup the season after. Manager Don Revie paired Giles with Scot Billy Bremner, creating a midfield partnership second to none. The team, largely spurred on by Giles’ incredible passing, assisting and scoring ability, won the League Cup and Fairs Cup (a European Cup held between 1955-1971) in the 67/68 season and chased trebles in the two following seasons. They won the Fairs Cup again in 1971 and missed out on the League to Arsenal on the last day of the season. 1974 saw an outstanding season for the club as they started the season with a 29-match unbeaten run, resulting in them winning the coveted League Cup for the 2nd time.

Johnny Giles was a key part to Leeds United’s ‘Glory Days’. He was the backbone of the team, and nothing emphasised the point more than his record. Johnny left Leeds in 1975 to go to West Brom with 12 years, 521 appearances and 114 goals for Leeds to his name.

From 1959 to 1979 Giles was a hero in the Republic of Ireland midfield, coaching his national side in the role of player-manager between 1973-1980. Racking up 59 caps, he stepped up to the helm when formidable predecessor Jack Charlton retired. Also managing West Bromwich Albion between 1975- 1977, Giles showed that he not only was a master of the ball on the pitch, but was a force in the dressing room and a brilliant strategist.

I am singing his praises for many reasons. I believe he is one of the best footballers ever to have graced the game. I also think that if you want to analyse and take an interest in the game of today, you must have the perspective of footballing greats like Johnny, and the golden ‘Glory Days’ he played in. And my final point: he is one of the last true gentlemen left in the game.

For videos of Giles in action click here or here (2nd link selected Leeds goals).

For Footage of him giving England some stick on RTE click here.

And for his latest and most entertaining interview on Ireland’s ‘The Late Late Show’ click here.


2 Responses

  1. I would like to make a correction: Jack Charlton was not manager of the Republic of Ireland before Johnny Giles, but became manager in 1986. Apologies.

  2. good article but billy bremner = thug. leeds united – horrid team.

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