| 13.2°C Dublin

John Giles: Ex-pros not to be messed with

JOE Jordan wasn't the most obvious professional footballer to the untrained eye. Big, raw-boned and, believe it or not, shy, he arrived at Elland Road and immediately became a target for Billy Bremner's sharp tongue.

For years, Billy would slag Joe's big brown coat: "There he is, the big chuka [culchie!] with the big brown coat," he always shouted when Joe would arrive for training. He would just grin and let it wash over him.

Most of us grew up on the streets in big cities and Joe had a small town background. He was less sure of himself in the bright lights than he was under floodlights. On the pitch, he became another person, an aggressively competitive battering ram with a fantastic attitude.

His willingness to learn everything Leeds had to offer characterised him as a special player from day one. He would admit himself he didn't have great talent but he had a remarkable commitment to improving himself and was foolishly brave.

It is not generally known that the collision which left him with that huge, gap-toothed grin happened in a reserve game -- just his second outing in Leeds colours. He started as he meant to continue.


I had to laugh when Gattuso took umbrage with Joe in Milan the other night. I wonder did he realise that he was dealing with a real legend of the game and a man who did some service for AC Milan in his day?

Joe is a fluent Italian speaker and I'm pretty sure he gave as good as he got. He may even have stoked the fire a bit himself.

But there is a line which all footballers observe which is based on respect for ex-players and in all the years I've been involved in the game, it's a tradition which I've rarely seen broken -- anywhere in the world.

Or should I say, was rarely broken. These days anything goes and I can recall Cesc Fabregas having a go at Mark Hughes not so long ago.

I note that Gattuso will be investigated by UEFA, which is the very least which should happen. They should throw the book at him.

In other circumstances, I might have had some sympathy for Gattuso, an ageing player, who just hasn't got it anymore -- and knows it.

He remembers days when Spurs would have been nothing more than an irritant on the way to bigger things for AC Milan and he could not contain his frustration.

The aggression which served him so well when he snapped at the heels of the best midfielders in Europe is now a liability and will probably earn him a lengthy ban.

For me, Spurs' performance in midweek was as good as Arsenal's win over Barcelona and if I had a choice, I would rather be Harry Redknapp than Arsene Wenger for the return legs.


He's no fool, Redknapp, but up until now, he's had mixed fortunes in Europe and this season, in the Champions League too.

But he learns fast and he hasn't been idle while Alex Ferguson and Wenger worked their way through what was a tough and often humiliating Champions League apprenticeship.

Redknapp leans naturally towards the type of football which suits European competition and I am confident that they will make it through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

After that, who knows? Redknapp has plenty of quality in his squad and he's been very successful with underdogs in Cup competitions over the years.

Wenger has a much harder task in front of him and I wouldn't be too hopeful for Arsenal fans.

Barcelona may have lost their way at the Emirates and were definitely guilty of complacency but that won't happen in the Camp Nou.

I'm not sure what another defeat at this stage in the Champions League would do to Wenger and Arsenal.

It would be very difficult indeed to face Gunners fans on the morning after and even more so if Spurs make it into the hat for the next round.

There was a great deal of talk before the first-leg about how this battle with Barcelona could define this Arsenal team and it all seemed a bit premature to me.


Wenger got caught up in the hype and made some big claims for his team and players and, to be fair to him, they delivered an impressive comeback and a win which keeps their season fully intact.

But I wonder will the same people who wanted to define Wenger by one Champions League game in the Emirates, seek to do the same in Spain in two weeks time?

The media machine demands endless confrontation and Wenger cannot be judged on a couple of games. Like Joe Jordan in Milan, he deserves more respect.