Happy Birthday Johnny Giles

06 Nov 2019 09:31am, by YorkshireSquare

Today is Johnny Giles 79th birthday. Giles is one of Leeds United’s greatest ever players but he began his English career with Manchester United, joining them in November 1957. He was given an early first team debut in 1958 after eight of the team tragically died in the Munich air disaster. He was a right winger at Old Trafford and won his first cap at eighteen years three hundred and sixty-one days, the youngest Eire International at the time. Giles was a regular first team player over the next four years, playing alongside Bobby Charlton and Denis Law. Manchester United won the FA Cup in 1963, and it was Giles' defence-splitting pass which started the move towards the winning goal by David Herd.

Shortly after he won his FA Cup winners medal, he asked for a transfer and joined the then Second Division Leeds United for £33,000 in August 1963. He soon showed his worth, as Leeds won the Second Division title in his first season. In 1965 he was in the team which came close to a League Championship and FA Cup double but unfortunately missed out on both, to Manchester United and Liverpool respectively. Once Giles took over Bobby Collins role of midfield general, his career took off and for Leeds the glory years began in earnest. Giles formed a glittering partnership with Billy Bremner as Leeds manager Don Revie built a new team around them. The players had similarities in their styles and were a tremendous foil for each other.

Giles was known as the creative force and Bremner as the ball winner, but each was capable of doing the others job. Despite his craft, Giles was later pinned down as one of the tougher and dirtier players in what was an often uncompromising Leeds United side. It is said that Giles could place the ball on a sixpence from a distance of fifty yards with either foot. He was a master of the passing art and he and Billy Bremner crafted a partnership which became the envy of football. He was the complete midfielder and added to that the ability to score his fair share of goals, particularly from the penalty spot. In the 1967-1968 season Leeds won both the League Cup and the Fairs Cup. That was the first season in which Giles was affected by injury.

In 1970 Giles again had a magnificent season as Leeds chased three trophies but lost all three, the League went to Everton on the last day; the FA Cup to Chelsea after a replay; and the European Cup campaign ended at the hands of Celtic in the semi-finals. In the fifth round of the 1971 FA Cup when Leeds were unexpectedly beaten 3-2 by Colchester United, Giles scored Leeds's second goal as they almost came back from 3-0 down. Leeds regained the Fairs Cup but lost the League title on the last day, with Arsenal getting the victory they needed to earn the championship and form one half of a successful double bid. Leeds won their first FA Cup and Giles his second when they defeated Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley in 1972, yet again they missed out on the League on the final day of the season after a 2-1 defeat at Wolves.

Sunderland and AC Milan beat Leeds in the finals of the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup in 1973, rendering Leeds trophyless again. Jack Charlton’s retirement in 1973 also left Giles as the most senior member of the squad. In the same year he started to combine his Leeds duties with a spell as player-manager of his country. In 1974, a twenty-nine-match unbeaten run at the start of the season helped Leeds coast to their second title, but then controversy reigned around Giles after Revie quit to take over the England team. Revie recommended to the Leeds board of Directors that Giles, nearly thirty-four and approaching the end of his playing career, should be his successor. The board instead appointed Brian Clough, a brilliant manager but a controversial choice as he had been publicly critical of Leeds in the past and was not an admirer of Revie.

Clough and the players never got on, the players had wanted Giles too, and the board realised their error, dismissing Clough with a big pay-off after just forty-four days in charge. Giles still didn't get the job though , that went to Jimmy Armfield, and concentrated on playing as Leeds chased a place in their first European Cup final. Giles was outstanding in Leeds European campaign but was no longer an automatic fixture in the side. After appearing in the 1975 final, which Leeds lost 2-0 to Bayern Munich, Giles accepted an offer from West Bromwich Albion, to become their player manager, while still playing for and managing the Irish team. He left Leeds for £48,000 after twelve years, five hundred and twenty-one appearances and one hundred and fourteen goals, a quantity of which came from the penalty spot.