Giles memoir a surprise success

The appetite among sports books fans for more tales of Leeds United shows no sign of being satisfied.

At least six notable additions to the biggest single-club genre after Manchester United appeared during 2010.  The failure of Anthony Clavane’s excellent Promised Land, a superb personal history of the Elland Road club, to make the William Hill prize contenders suggested the appeal of the subject might be in decline but the chart of the year’s best-sellers contradicts that theory.

Trailing behind only Kenny Dalglish’s latest memoirs and Patrick Barclay’s biography of Sir Alex Ferguson is the life story of the former Leeds midfield supremo, Johnny Giles.

Giles, of course, was the lynchpin of the Don Revie team that continues to divide opinion and which by doing so has kept interest alive for so long.  The little Irishman who partnered Billy Bremner in the ‘engine room’ of the Leeds team at its peak himself has had to live with two reputations, remembered by some as one of the finest midfield orchestrators the game has seen but by others as the cynical on-field agent for Revie’s desire to win at all costs, a footballer who would wreck an opponent’s ankle ligaments as readily as he would hit a pinpoint 50-yard pass.

John Giles: A Football Man - My Autobiography is an attempt to set the record straight, at least in terms of how he sees himself.  It is written with honesty, not pretending that the darker side of his game is entirely a myth but pointing out that Revie’s Leeds team evolved at a time when every successful club had its enforcers, from Ron Harris at Chelsea and Jimmy Gabriel at Everton to Arsenal’s Peter Storey.

So much has been written about the Revie era that much of the ground Giles covers is familiar but his recollections are relevant as coming right from the heart of the story. He is particularly strong on the Brian Clough episode, railing against at the fictionalised account of Clough’s 44 days as manager that brought so much kudos to novelist David Peace but revealing a certain sympathy for Clough’s insecurity.

Click on the link to order John Giles: A Football Man - My Autobiography.

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