President pays tribute to ‘best of the game’ John Giles

Former player and manager ends a 31-year association with RTÉ as a football analyst

RTE paid tribute to long serving sports commentator Johnny Giles with an emotional montage, including a message from President Higgins. Video: RTE

 

Football pundit John Giles “represented the best of the game, in its roots, in its performance,” President Michael D Higgins said on Monday.

The President paid tribute to the panellist, who brought his more than 30-year association with RTÉ TV football analysis to a close after the European Championships final on Sunday night.

Mr Higgins said Giles “represented the origins of football”.

Fellow analyst and friend Eamon Dunphy spoke of Giles’s career as a player and a manager, describing him as “the greatest football man we’ve ever had”.

“There will be no past tense here because John’s career has been… is, brilliant,” Dunphy said.

Giles’s playing career spanned more than 20 years. It began in 1957 when, at the age of 15, he was signed by Manchester United.

He made his debut with the club and the Irish team two years later in 1959.

Following their 1963 FA Cup title, Giles made the decision to leave United for Leeds, a move lauded by Dunphy as an indication of his courage and foresight.

“He had the wisdom to leave Manchester United, who were a top club, to go to Leeds United, who were in the second division, to believe in Don Revie (manager), who was building a great team, which John largely led,” Dunphy said.

It was at Leeds that Giles enjoyed some of his best years in football scoring 87 goals for the club as they won the League Cup in 1968, the UEFA Fairs Cup in 1968 and the FA Cup in 1972.

Giles is one of the few Irish footballers to ever play in a European Cup final.

Dunphy praised Giles’s integrity and insight, highlighting in particular his decision to manage West Brom at a time when he was in high demand from Leeds and Tottenham.

“Intellectually, he knew that was the time. Don wanted him to succeed him at Leeds, Bill Nicholson wanted him to succeed him as coach of Tottenham,” Dunphy said.

“He went on to manage West Brom - won promotion, fifth in what’s now the Premier League. The hottest young manager in the game, he walked away because he didn’t like the way it was run and the responsibility without power”.

When Giles returned to Dublin he spent almost six years managing Shamrock Rovers and led them to victory in the FAI Cup in 1978.

“He came home to try and create a great club at Shamrock Rovers. Brave, courageous, foresight. It has always been his hallmark,” Dunphy said.

Throughout this time Giles played a central role in the Irish national team, captaining 24 matches before going on to manage the team from 1973 to 1980.

“He managed the Irish team and changed the culture over seven years. He gave Liam (Brady), Mark Lawrenson and all these players their debuts and changed it forever” Dunphy said.

His contribution to the game was recognised in 2003 when he was awarded UEFA’s Jubilee Award as the best Irish player of the past 50 years.

“He’s a great, great friend of all of us, a joy to work with and a great, great figure in the history of Irish sport. Soccer’s man.”