‘JAWS’ Jordan bares his teeth
When a gentleman in his 60th year and standing tall on two titanium hips took off his glasses to stand unflinchingly nose to nose with a ranting aggressor 26 years his junior, there was a reason why Joe Jordan had football fans smiling again.
For as the Tottenham coach dusted off a butt from Gennaro Gattuso, supposedly the grandissimo attack dog of Italian football, and just came back snarling at his rabid tormentor amid the San Siro furnace, it seemed to hark back to another footballing era when men were men and effete thespians tumbling to the floor crying foul even when they had not been touched would have been laughed out of the saloon.
Gattuso has served Italian football nobly, a rare tryer and a fine midfield battler. But a hard man? He is just the modern panto version, someone who makes a big song and dance with his machismo gesturing and niggling fouls.
But, somehow, his raving impotence in failing to dent the composed, cold fury in the older man's eyes told of how Jordan has never had to pretend.
One website listing the who's who of the hardest men in football cites "21 defenders and midfielders. Plus big Joe". He really was, and still is, a hard man. Even with his hip replacements and his falsies in.
Jordan inhabited a different game, one where he had to learn to look after himself in combat with centre-halves because referees never would. Asked how he felt he would fare today compared to the rough and tumble of his 1970s heyday, he has said:
"Not a problem. I wouldn't have to react as I sometimes had to in order to protect myself."
And how he could react. When, during an FA Cup tie in 1980, Tottenham keeper Milja Aleksic hatched a plan to stop the then Manchester United striker Jordan from terrorising defenders in the box by constantly trying to charge him and knock him out of his stride at corners, he ended up suffering a dislocated jaw for his trouble.
You could argue that it was that toothless visage, created when four got kicked out in a goalmouth scramble during a Leeds reserve match and which forever made him resemble a Spaghetti Western desperado, that did most to enhance the legend of intimidation.
But 'Jaws', unlike Gattuso, really has always been more bite than bark. The unblinking determination which saw him face down 'Rino' was always there in the working-class kid growing up in the Lanarkshire pit village of Cleland, steeled to dreaming there was life beyond being a draughtsman. There was; he ended up a national hero, scoring in three successive World Cups.
At 18, he was whisked from being a part-time player at Morton to Don Revie's mighty Leeds, a mean machine in which his stubborn ferocity helped him cope with the massive culture shock. And that refusal to back down has never truly subsided even since he has been coaching.
Just after Christmas, indeed, during Spurs' match with Newcastle, he became embroiled in a touchline row with Newcastle's goalkeeping coach Andy Woodman and ended up having to be restrained by Harry Redknapp as he screamed: "Any time you like, any f*****g time you like."
Presumably, Gattuso was subjected to the same refrain.
Redknapp chuckled later: "I think Joe can look after himself, he doesn't need me."
Similar bust-ups with Paul Ince and Roy Hodgson have ended with rapprochement drinks and it would surprise no one if Jordan, who enhanced an appreciation of fine wine during his spell at Milan, ended up making peace with Gattuso over a bottle.
Gattuso has apologised for his actions, saying: "I lost control. There is no excuse for what I did. I take my responsibilities for that. I was nervous. I didn't want to argue with players and I did it with him, but I was wrong to do what I have done."
Gattuso picked up a yellow card during the course of a petulant performance, which also saw him clash with Crouch.
The caution -- awarded for a rash challenge on Steven Pienaar after which the Italian repeatedly hit the turf in anger -- ensures the 33-year-old will be suspended for the return leg at White Hart Lane on March 9.
Moreover, he continued his misbehaviour into the tunnel, becoming involved in a row with Sebastien Bassong that had to be broken up by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
That ban is certain to be extended when UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body meet on Monday to discuss the case, and speculation is rife as to the length of the punishment that might be handed down.
UEFA rules stipulate a minimum three-match ban for assault, although the governing body have the power to dole out lengthier suspensions in exceptional cases.
For, even if, as is claimed, Jordan aimed the "f*****g Italian bastard" insult that Gattuso considered to be grievous, it was doubtless only uttered in the heat of battle.
Jordan, ironically, loves Italy, still has many friends in Milan from his playing days and his daughter, one of his four kids, even lives and works there.
This latest spat recalls the caricaturing of him as a player who seemed nothing much more than toothless muscle for hire. But Jordan was a much better player than that. "I didn't see myself as a caricature in any way," he has said, pointing out how ordinary players did not get to play for Revie's Leeds, get transferred for a British record deal to Manchester United and then sign for AC Milan.
As Redknapp says: "He is quiet, but when he says something, it is worth listening to. You could put your life on him." (© Daily Telegraph, London)