John Giles – Irish Soccer Manager
In October 1973 John Giles became the manager of the Republic of Ireland football team succeeding Liam Tuohy. Better known now as a TV soccer pundit, Johnny Giles was still playing football for English First Division side Leeds United. Although Mick Meagan had played one match for Ireland as team manager Giles was the first player-manager that continued in that dual role for a sustained period.
Giles is credited with bringing Irish international soccer into the modern era by employing methods on, and off the field, employed by the more successful international football teams at the time.
John Giles Football Background
Details of John Giles, the footballer, are dealt with in more detail elsewhere on this site. Giles was born in Dublin 6th November 1940. He signed for Manchester United in 1957 making over 90 appearances and winning the FA Cup in 1963. Following a disagreement with manager Matt Busby he was transferred to Leeds United.
At Leeds United he formed a formidable midfield partnership with diminutive Scot, Billy Bremner. Based on this axis Leeds went on to dominate English football for a number of years winning the League title and reaching a European Cup final.
John Giles became player manager of West Bromwich Albion (WBA) in 1975. Although he enjoyed some success
with WBA he quit his role in frustration at the lack of real power that football managers had in the English game. He returned to Ireland to initiate the Miltown project at Shamrock Rovers. This was an ultimately doomed attempt by Giles and Eamon Dunphy to bring full time professional soccer to the League of Ireland. In 1983 he quit Glenmalure Park in frustration at what he felt was the small-minded nature of the FAI and Irish football in general.
Johnny Giles – International Career
Johnnny Giles made his Irish international debut against Scotland on the 1st November 1959 in a friendly match against Sweden. Ireland won the match 3-2 at Dalymount Park with Giles scoring one of the goals. He went on to win a total of 59 caps (24 as player-manager) scoring five goals along the way. Unfortunately for the very talented Giles he never had the opportunity to play in a major football finals competition.
John Giles as Republic of Ireland Manager
John Giles was appointed Republic of Ireland manager in 1973. He was only 32 and still playing football for Leeds United at the time. It was a radical appointment as Giles had no previous soccer management experience at the time.
Following decades of mismanagement and under achievement Giles set out to build upon the efforts of Liam Tuohy to bring a more professional approach to the manager’s role both on, and off, the pitch. One of his first initiatives was to schedule Irish international matches for midweek and to coincide with England’s matches as this would ensure that Irish players would be available to him. Unlike previous managers, John Giles could regularly field his strongest team.
John Giles – First Match as Irish Manager
Giles’ first match as manager of the Irish team was a friendly game against (yet again) Poland at Dalymount Park on 21st October 1973. The match ended in a 1-0 victory with Nottingham Forest’s Miah Dennehy scoring the winning goal – his second goal in successive matches.
Following a seven month break Giles then took the Irish team on a three match tour of South America in May 1974. Ireland lost to Brazil 2-1, Uruguay 2-0, and beat Chile 1-2. While the results may have been disappointing the performances were very positive and clearly showed that the Republic of Ireland team was competitive in a World context.
1976 European Championship Qualification Campaign
Expectations were quite high as Ireland and John Giles began the 1976 European Championship qualification campaign in October 1974. First up at Dalymount Park was the powerful USSR side who were favourites to win the group. John Giles team did not disappoint as they thrashed the Soviets 3-0 with of QPR’s Don Givens scoring a sensational hat trick. Ireland won their other home matches against Turkey and Switzerland with Givens scoring the fastest Irish hat trick in the process of scoring four goals against the Turks. Ireland lost by a one goal margin away to Switzerland and the USSR, however it was an away draw against Turkey, who were the cannon-fodder of the group, was to prove costly. Ireland finished the group one point behind the USSR but with a superior goal difference.
1978 World Cup Qualification Campaign
Because John Giles had taken Ireland so close to qualification for the European Championships there was widespread optimism about Irelands chances in the 1978 World Cup qualifiers. This campaign was to be marked by poor decisions by the match officials. Ireland were drawn with France and Bulgaria in a three team group and played the French away in the first match. At 1-0 down Frank Stapleton had a good goal disallowed and the French went on to win 2-0. Ireland got back into contention with 1-0 win in the return match at Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium). The away match against Bulgaria in Sofia was a catalogue of errors by the referee including not giving an obvious penalty against Don Givens and a ruling out a perfectly good goal by John Giles for offside. The match ended in disarray with four players, including Mick Martin and Noel Campbell, being sent off. A tame 0-0 draw in the return match left Ireland in last position in the group.
John Giles’ Term as Ireland Manager Comes to an End
The 1980 Euro Finals qualifiers were even worse with Ireland, under Giles, picking up just 7 points out of a possible 16. Results include losses to England, Northern Ireland and Bulgaria again. By this time John Giles was back in Dublin as player manager with Shamrock Rovers. Many people in the Irish soccer world resented Giles and his big ambitious ideas for Rovers and the League of Ireland.
Being back in Dublin intensified media coverage of Giles and he came under pressure from sections of the media and the public particularly as he continued to pick himself in the Irish team. He also came under fire for his methodical possession playing style which could involve many passes across defence and midfield but made little territorial ground. There were occasions when John Giles was booed at home games when his name was announced.
Following the poor Euro campaign and an uninspiring 3-2 defeat of Cyprus in the opening match of the 1982 World Cup qualifiers John Giles resigned as the Republic of Ireland team manager.
John Giles’ Record as Irish Manager
In 2010 John Giles launched the John Giles Foundation to give children an opportunity and focus with the help of football.
Republic of Ireland Football Managers – Irish Manager’s Records
Mick Meagan – Liam Tuohy – Sean Thomas – John Giles – Alan Kelly Snr – Eoin Hand – Jack Charlton
Irish Football Players
George Best – Packie Bonner – Liam Brady – Shay Brennan – Noel Cantwell – John Carey – Gerry Daly – Mal Donaghy – Derek Dougan – Damien Duff – Tony Dunne – Johnny Giles – Shay Given – Don Givens – Harry Gregg – David Healy – Denis Irwin – Pat Jennings – Robbie Keane – Roy Keane – Alan Kelly – Con Martin – Mick Martin – Kevin Moran – David McCreery – Paul McGrath – Sammy McIlroy – Jimmy Nicholl – David O’Leary – John O’Shea – Niall Quinn – Frank Stapleton – Billy Whelan – Ronnie Whelan – Norman Whiteside