Just less than a month ago, World football lost one of it,s greatest sons.I am talking about the death of Portugese legend Eusebio. After his death, tributes were paid from all corners of the soccer world and beyond.Kings,Queens and Governments played homage to the hero of the 1966 World Cup Finals.I never got to see much of Eusebio when he played,but according to all reports he was a genius on the ball .Eusebio,s death got me thinking about our Irish legend John Giles.When people pass from this football pitch to the big soccer stadium in the sky tributes are paid from everywhere.Well before anything happens to our John,I want to pay tribute over the next couple of lines to a man who in my opinion changed the face of Irish soccer forever.
John was born in Dublin on the 6th of November 1940.Little did his parents know on that day that John would go on to greatness in the football world.John played football for a schoolboy team in Dublin called Stella Maris.This club over the years sent many an Irish player across the sea to England to set out on a football career.One of the English clubs that showed interest in John,was the great Manchester United managed by Sir Matt Busby.John found himself going across to Old Trafford and into there youth set up.He eventually made his way into the Manchester United first team and won an FA Cup winners medal in 1963,when United beat Leicester at Wembley . Goals from Denis Law and David Herd who got two, saw off Leicester.John had just done what every boy dreamed of .He had won the FA.Cup.John was now a big player in the United set up and expected to be paid well.The great Don Revie had sounded out Giles about going to Elland Road,and was even prepared to pay him more wages than United.John approached Sir Matt and told him about the Leeds offer,possibly hoping to squeeze a few more quid out of the Scotsman.Busby told Giles,to take the Leeds offer,in which I can only feel was to try and find out was Johnny bluffing.Right if that is the way you want it,Giles accepted Leeds offer and was off to Elland Road and was set to become a member of one of the best teams ever to have graced our game.
Everything about Leeds, fitted so well around John Giles.He became part of a midfield partnership that was set to dominate in English and European football for the next ten years.He teamed up with the fiery Scottish midfielder Billy Bremner and the rest is history as one says.In his time at Leeds,John was known as a hard man , but to be honest,yes he could look after himself,but in those days you had to.Whilst at Leeds the trophies came flooding in for the Irishman including winning the old first division twice.As like all things,you can not go on forever and when Don Revie left to become England boss,John probably did not realise,but he would be moving on in the near future.In fact when Revie left to take up his post as England manager,it is rumored he told the board to give Giles the job.They ignored his advice and turned to Brian Clough,that in my opinion was the start of a great club heading for problems.In 1975 Leeds reached the European Cup Final in Paris.They outplayed,out fought and battered Bayern Munich only to be beaten by two break away goals by the German side.This game was to be John,s last game for Leeds United and in the summer of 1975 he accepted an offer to become West Brom,s player manager.
In 1973 John took control of the Republic of Ireland side as player manager.he brought a professional attitude to the team that had never been seen before.Things on and off the pitch improved under Giles and this is what probably helped him to get the West Brom job.The thinking from the West Brom board,must have been,if the little Irishman could do it at international level,they would give him a go at there club.He led the Baggies to promotion in 1976 and they managed to finish seventh in there first season up.John has always said he really enjoyed his time at the Hawthorns although not winning any trophies.John resigned in April 1977 at West Brom and returned home to manage Irish side Shamrock Rovers.John again brought his experience and professionalism to the Miltown outfit, and it in return brought new life into a League Of Ireland which had been struggling.John stepped down as Ireland manager in 1980 and left the Rovers post in 1983.The little Irishman then went on to spend two years at Vancouver Whitecaps before returning for a short spell back at West Brom to help them avoid relegation,a job he succeeded in doing.
Nowadays John works in the media and can be found on the Irish national station,passing on his views about what he has seen on the pitch by whatever teams are playing.If you ask anybody involved in football in this country they will tell you he is the best football pundit on TV.John calls it as he sees it and holds nothing back when he is expressing his views.
I do hope you have enjoyed my little tribute to John Giles and as I said from the outset,we should pay tribute to these guys when they are still alive as it shows them how much they have meant to us over the years.In April of 2010 I got to meet John and I was so thrilled to meet the man who changed the whole direction of football in this country.John Giles you are truly an Irish Soccer Legend,Thank You.