A Football Man, My Autobiography – John Giles

This is an early contender for my book of the year – a terrific read. Maybe it’s because I’m a Leeds fan, and have been since Gilesy was in his pomp. Maybe it’s because the first Rep of Ireland games I ever went to were when he was player-manager. Maybe it’s just because it all recalled my youth. Whatever the reason this is just a great read. Full of interesting wee insights into the life of footballers. Like the stories of growing up in poverty in Dublin, his early days in the Ireland squad when they all met in a Dublin hotel and then caught a bus to the ground. Or the practical joke on Jack Charlton when he went to the outside loo at Elland Road. Interesting anecdotes too. Like how all the great managers of the 60s and 70s like Revie, Shankley, Nicholson and even Busby were shafted by the clubs at the end of their time. Or the sad story of how Shankley used to visit Anfield after he was retired and had to be asked to stay away.

Johnny doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff either. He admits he could look after himself on a pitch, but was sly about it. There’s an interesting run through the hard me of English football at the time. He’s up front about the move from Uniturd, the heartbreak of missing out on the double when Leeds had to play an FA Cup final on a Saturday and the critical last game of the season the following Monday. And of course the infamous Clough era and his anger at the book/movie ‘The Damned United’

If you have even a little interest in football you’ll love this book. Through it all Giles confirms his generally held reputation as one of the nice guys. In fact, unlike other memoirs, Giles hardly has a bad word to say about anyone – maybe Busby excepted – even though he speaks honestly and straightforwardly about relationships with managers and money and incompetent football adminsitrators.

My tenuous connection is that I played against his son Michael after he moved to play for UCD following spells at West Brom and Bradford City. I marked him in midfield in a UCD game and could hardly get near him.

Quite justifiably Ireland’s sports biography of the year last year.

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