Sunday, 9 January 2011

John Giles - a football man

One of the books that appeared under the 2010 Christmas tree was John Giles’ autobiography, “A Football Man”.  Giles was a pivotal cog in the great Leeds United teams of the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, and was one half – along with Billy Bremner - of the most formidable midfield partnership in the League.  Forget about Roy Keane, whose game was based on aggression and endless running,  Johnny Giles was Ireland’s best footballer ever.

But if the Christian brothers and the GAA had their way, he might never have had a career in professional football. I quote the following from his book:

“When I moved on to the primary school at Brunswick Street (Brunner), it wasn’t just the sums and the Irish language and the homework that got me into trouble, it was also my love of soccer, or the “English game” as it was regarded in schools run by the Christian brothers”.

The young Giles was busy setting the foundations for his football career by playing “the English game” whenever he could, but the Christian Brothers insisted he play GAA.  So much so, that his father had to sign a commitment to the school that his son would play Gaelic for it when selected.  If Giles’ father had refused to sign the commitment, young Johnny would not have been admitted to the school. 

Giles writes of the “level of hostility at Brunner to the ‘soccer men’, otherwise known as the ‘corner boys going up to Dalymount Park’…  in fact, the idea of soccer as the foreign game was drilled into us to such an extent that, for a few years after I left school, I didn’t feel Irish at all”.

So here you had an obviously supremely talented youngster, who played at under-fourteen level when his real age bracket was under-eight, being obstructed by his school from playing the game he loved so much.  The game that was to become his livelihood

Familiar territory for Gombeen Nation.  The all-pervasive influence of the Catholic Church who ran/run the State schools with taxpayers' money, and cultural organisations such as the GAA who monopolised the schools to play their sports, and Conradh Na Gaeilge, who had members on State educational boards along with the clergy.  All three organisations peddling a particular brand of reactionary “Irishness”.

It is no wonder that people left school at fourteen, or as soon as they possibly could.  Unfortunately, not all of them had the gift of football that John Giles had.  The gift that enabled him to prosper despite the very best efforts of the Irish educational system. 

You have to wonder how many lives were ruined by it.

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Ella said...

On a different, but not entirely unrelated matter I saw yesterday that Leeds nearly sent Arsenal home shamefaced from the FA Cup.

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes, Ella. Very close indeed - Arsenal only grabbed a penalty in the 90th minute. To be honest, I'd rather Leeds concentrate on getting promoted - it all nearly went pear shaped for them after they beat Man U in the cup last year.

If they get promoted they'll be playing teams like Arsenal and Man U on a regular basis.

Mind you, it would be nice to win the FA Cup - but that's not going to happen. Not this year anyway...

Anonymous said...

Good Old Irish Christian Brothers

This is a true story that many people in Monaghan over the age of 60 could collaborate. In June 1954 the Irish Christian Brothers in Monaghan forbade any of it’s pupils to engage in playing or watching soccer football. As television was just becoming popular, they were also forbidden to watch that Protestant Game.

The Lord Bishop of Clogher, Eugene O’Callaghan declared that it was a mortal sin to play soccer or to listen to Radio Luxemburg. (They were only for uneducated Protestants). It is sad that some people in Ireland (GAA) still think that playing soccer is an act of treachery.

On a summer evening in 1954 The Bishop arrived in his chauffer driven Humber Hawk limousine car accompanied by the superior of the local Christian Brothers School in Monaghan during a game of soccer football.

They marched across the football pitch. The Bishop was waving a blackthorn stick at the players, with the intention of breaking up the game. As it turned out, none of the players were from the Christian Brothers School and all the young players were protestant boys.

He had been ill advised (accidentally or purposely). However he made a proper of ass of himself and had to grovel an apology to the players and to the spectators, and creep away with his tail between his legs to the sound of sniggering and mocking laughter.

Shortly after then, a notorious character who had been given the sobriquet “The Devil”, used to play Radio Luxemburg through a loudhailer during soccer matches to enhance the mockery.

Finally as I live in Leeds, and remember Leeds United in it’s heyday with Johnny Giles. I salute him.

Anonymous said...


There it is again!, The long arm of the sinister and fascist Conradh Na Gaeilge is still around to interfere with free, objective and progressive thought, and logical reasoning.

Until Ireland rids itself of the disproportionate and unwanted influence of Conradh Na Gaeilge, The GAA, The Knights of Colombanus and of course Fianna Fail, it will remain a hostile, backward and bigoted society with nowhere to go. The influence of the Catholic Church and Conradh Na Gaeilge on the people of Ireland is finished!! IT IS MORIBUND!!

However we must thank Johnny Giles and all the other Irish people who defied the daft dogma of the Catholic Church and The Irish Christian Brothers. I am glad that I defied them, for which I am better educated, more accomplished in personal and social terms, and thankfully richer, than I would have been if I had remained in Ireland.


anon said...

Some years after John Giles, Liam Brady (former Arsenal) was apparently expelled from St. Aidan's CBS in Whitehall for choosing to play football for Ireland at under 15 level(i.e. real football and not the hybrid where one is preferbaly an Irish catholic with a pathological hatred of all things British)on a day when he was also picked to turn out for the school's GAA team.

The Gombeen Man said...

Yes David. I have a lot of respect for the likes of Johnny Giles, a genuine Irish star who was famous, not just in Britain and Ireland, but in World football - it being a truly international game. No lesser a figure than Pele rated our Johnny as being up there with the greats.

Didn't know that Anon, thanks. Another career that they didn't destroy... Yes, a game of skill played with the feet alone, in which toeing the ball over the bar is considered a miss ;-) And how the Christain Brothers hated it, the parochial gobshites.

Anonymous said...

Ireland is Proud

Johnny Giles, Don Revie, The Grumbleweeds and Jimmy Saville were frequent visitors to the Children’s wards at St James's University Hospital Leeds where I used to teach in the early 1970's. Johnny Giles was so ordinary and down to earth, without any pretensions or celebrity status. He didn't only visit, he spent time playing with and entertaining the children. They loved him. He was genuinely modest. By today's standards, a footballer of his stature would be a retinue of press secretaries, bodyguards and God knows who else. Johnny Giles was and IS an great man of which Ireland is proud. As for the Irish Christian Brothers; they are an embarrassment to Ireland and the world. There were: “The Sons Of Buggery, and the Beasts of Battery”.