Weekend Interview: Resilient Leeds United the perfect fit for Joe Jordan

Joe Jordan on the night Leeds United lost the European Cup final to Bayern Munich in 1975.

Joe Jordan on the night Leeds United lost the European Cup final to Bayern Munich in 1975.

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Bouncebackability, powers of recovery, mental fortitude, resilience….call it what you will, Joe Jordan has loads of the stuff.

An ability to thrive in the face of adversity stood him in good stead during his career as he came to prominence in Don Revie’s Leeds teams that jousted with Liverpool and Derby for the top honours in the 1970s.

In his later years on the coaching side. Jordan spent much of his time as an assistant to Harry Redknapp, pictured together at QPR

In his later years on the coaching side. Jordan spent much of his time as an assistant to Harry Redknapp, pictured together at QPR

But he had to overcome a painful start to life in Yorkshire to make his mark as he lost his front teeth in a reserves game, an incident that gave rise to nicknames such as ‘Jaws’.

Jordan is not overly keen to discuss dental health and an unfortunate incident that would give him a trademark look but it also illustrated why the young Scot was like that Leeds teams from that era in a microcosm.

That’s because he had that uncanny knack of being able to shrug off disappointments, a characteristic that made Leeds United such a force in the Revie era, following Jordan’s £15,000-move from Morton in October 1970.

“We had more than our fair share of disappointments at Leeds and it was bouncing back from those setbacks which was the club’s and players’ main strength,” Jordan told The Yorkshire Post from his Bristol home.

“There was a tremendous resilience. As well as the silverware we won, there were lots of near-misses but they only ended up being near-misses because we were competing for honours on so many fronts, year in, year out. Even well before I arrived when they fell at the final hurdle, so to speak, like in 1970.

“I went to Parkhead when they played Celtic in the semi-finals of the European Cup and came off second best.

“That was the case throughout the 1970s. They were always in the race for honours right until the end of the season.

“Leeds were a top club and I count myself fortunate to have gone there.”

Jordan helped Leeds win the 1974 Football League title but would also come within touching distance of top European honours.

“Elland Road was a model of consistency and there was an air of professionalism about the place – on and off the field – which really helped me develop,” said Jordan.

“Being at Leeds gave me a good grounding and provided me with an invaluable insight into what was required to be a proper footballer, like discipline, attention to detail, practice and preparation.

“The fact that we were able to shrug off disappointments was down to the make-up of the players the boss had signed, because character mattered to him as much as ability.

“It didn’t matter whether it was a year when we had made an achievement or there had been a big disappointment. It was always a case of ‘okay, let’s move on, let’s go again and try to maintain the standards we’d always set ourselves’.

“That was it; it was finished and that was down to the manager but also down to the culture that was in the dressing room. We re-focused...sharpish.”

That was particularly hard when Leeds moved to within touching distance of the European Cup under Jimmy Armfield in 1975.

“Losing the 1973 European Cup Winners’ Cup final against AC Milan in Salonika and the European Cup final in Paris against Bayern Munich both hurt,” said Jordan.

“I try not to think about it too deeply because that doesn’t do you any good but suffice to say the Bayern game was a travesty of justice.

“It was tough to take because you’re talking about the biggest game in club football, the chance to reach the pinnacle of European football.

“But you’ve got to be professional and get on with your career and get on with life rather than dwelling too much on events, good and bad.”

Jordan, brought up in the Lanarkshire village of Cleland, was as an apprentice draughtsman, when he came to Leeds’s notice as a teenager after coming through the ranks at Morton.

That was down to the recommendation of the former Leeds player, Bobby Collins, who was alongside Jordan, who idolised Celtic great Jimmy Johnstone in his childhood days.

“I could not have picked a better club,” he said. “That’s not just because there were a lot of fellow Scots there but also because the club was so well-run and there were so many great players fighting for places.”

He spent seven and a half years at Leeds, leaving with “many memories, some painful and also very emotional ones”.

All good things have to come to an end, though, and Jordan eventually headed to Manchester United in a £350,000 deal in 1978 without “much of a fuss”.

Jordan spent two years at Old Trafford when the club flirted with success, living in the shadow of Liverpool, near-misses still a common theme for the Scot.

“We played an exciting brand of football,” he said. “We lost 3-2 to Arsenal in a classic FA Cup final.”

Jordan would eventually hit the road and headed for Italian giants AC Milan.

“I got the chance to go to Bayern after the European Cup final but wasn’t allowed to leave,” he continued.

“I had another chance which fell through which would have taken me to Ajax but thankfully the AC Milan move came off because I’d always had a burning desire to play abroad.

“The trouble was that it was difficult for footballers in that era because there was no freedom of movement. You couldn’t control your own future due to registrations that were held by the club, so whether you were in or our of contract you couldn’t control your own destiny.”

On his return to England, Jordan joined Bristol City where his playing days finished and a new chapter began in the world of coaching and management.

“You can never match either going out training as a player or donning the jersey and playing a match at a packed stadium on a Saturday, or a match under floodlights,” he said.

“But I count myself very fortunate because when I left QPR last year, I’d gone from starting off as a 16-year-old part-timer to going without a break. The game’s been kind to me.”

Nowadays, Jordan is busy enjoying the quiet life in Bristol but his boyish enthusiasm for football remains apparent.

“I still enjoy my football,” he said. “I get to plenty of matches and keep in contact with the game.

“I really can’t complain about anything, I’m still fit enough to walk our dog, Rosie, who’s a boxer, and I go to the gym every day to keep myself ticking over. Life’s good.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Leeds come down to Bristol next week. It would be nice if that’s a Premier League fixture in the not-too-distant future.”

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