IT may be an urban myth that Leeds United’s sizeable English and Scottish contingent regularly attempted to recreate the sporting equivalent of Bannockburn and Culloden in ferocious five-a-side training-ground contests in the Seventies, but it has not stopped it being perpetuated.
After all, a ringside seat to watch United’s Anglo brigade of Bremner, Lorimer, Jordan, Gray, and McQueen do battle with their ‘Sassenach’ counterparts in the likes of Hunter, Clarke, Charlton, Reaney and Jones at the club’s Fullerton Park base would have possessed massive appeal, without question.
Unsanitised, brutal, wonderful; it is easy to see how the myth grew. Joe Jordan v Norman Hunter. Jaws versus Bites Yer Legs. Pure box-office.
Speak to Jordan and the reality is somewhat different, sadly. Ever the pragmatist, Don Revie’s familial approach sensibly precluded any regular playing out of such contests, for fear of them descending into something akin to sporting warfare, which it very nearly did on one famous occasion before Revie called an early halt due to something akin to World War Three almost breaking out as the tackles flew in.
It said everything about the unflinching commitment of professionals at the top of their game – at a time when the training grounds of all of the leading teams of the First Division were blessed with footballing class and steel from both sides of the border.
Speaking ahead of the latest resumption of one of the most venerated international footballing rivalries in the game at Hampden Park later today, legendary former Leeds and Scotland striker Jordan recalls: “You couldn’t have had a (full) England versus Scotland five-a-side at Leeds, or else you would have had a couple of ambulances there!
“The training sessions were already competitive and high tempo enough.
“In terms of the rivalry, it meant as much to the English as the Scots and it is a bit of a myth that it wasn’t. We did not own that right.
“In that era, you had your FA Cup final and Scotland versus England game which were guaranteed to be on the TV and they were massive occasions. The banter and stick was flying and at the start of pre-season at your club, you had to give or take what was going.
“The Leeds dressing room was pretty strong in respect of England current internationals such as Big Jack, Norman and Allan Clarke, while Scotland had Billy, Eddie and Peter, Frankie Gray, Gordon McQueen and myself.
The dressing rooms may not be as strong as they were, but for a player to play in a Scotland versus England game is still a great challenge. Not just to win the game, but to handle the pressure with it.Joe Jordan
“There was a strong feeling there and a definite edge leading up to the games and certainly after it and whoever had won the game certainly had the bragging rights for that period. They were great days and a great era.”
Times have changed since those heady days of the Auld Enemy rivalry in the Seventies when many household footballing names put friendships temporarily to one side in a showpiece fixture which both countries looked forward to for weeks, if not months, on end.
More is the pity, many would say, with the lack of leading Scotland players on the books of England’s trophy-chasing top-flight clubs helping to ensure that recent statistics are decidedly one-sided in favour of England.
It was different in Jordan’s era in the Seventies and early Eighties, with the fearless striker capped 52 times in the navy blue of Scotland in a decorated international career which spanned almost a decade from 1973-82.
Highs against England arrived, from his debut as a substitute at Wembley to the opening goal in Scotland’s 2-0 victory over the English in Glasgow in May, 1974 as Willie Ormond’s side signed off for the forthcoming World Cup in fitting fashion, while their rivals stayed at home.
Jordan, part of a triumphant Scotland side on four occasions in nine outings with England, said: “I remember that one in ’74 because of the particular year and no-one else from the home nations had qualified and there was a bit of extra pressure on the Scots.
“Not only had we qualified, but at that moment, we were the better team. We did show that over the 90 minutes that we deserved to go to the World Cup.
“For my goal, it just broke inside the box and I bent it in. It wasn’t as if I beat five people and stuck in it. But they all count. When the opportunity presents itself, you just put it in.
“I also remember my debut well, too. I came on as a substitute after arriving back playing for Leeds against AC Milan in a Cup Winners’ Cup final.”
Scotland have endured their fair share of being on the wrong side of the scoreline in recent times – losing eight of the last 10 outings, winning just once.
But while Jordan is the first to admit that Gareth Southgate’s Group F leaders are favourites ahead of today’s game in Glasgow, he does spy hope – more especially with a core of players from an all-conquering Celtic side who have dominated north of the border in a record-breaking treble-winning unbeaten season.
Jordan, who played in three World Cups and scored the key winner against Czechoslovakia which booked Scotland a finals berth in front of 100,000 fans in Glasgow in September, 1973, said: “I think it still has that special challenge for the modern-day football player, whether they be English or Scottish.
“The dressing rooms may not be as strong as they were, but for a player to play in a Scotland versus England game is still a great challenge. Not just to win the game, but to handle the pressure with it.
“It is a huge game and this one is in particular as there are points at stakes for qualification for a World Cup.
“Scotland have a core to select from and a number have got into a habit of winning and have handled the pressure and season particularly well.
“Gordon (Strachan) will also be looking at people who know what is at stake in this fixture and who can handle the pressure.
“England have proved that they have been the best team in the group, no doubt about that. But there are games to go and these are the most important games.
“Looking at Scotland, they will know that they must have a mentality of needing to win. In the past, we have done that through home games and you have got to do well in your home games.
“These are games that you want to play in. It is a good one to win, but not to lose...”
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The Joe Jordan story...
BORN: December 15, 1951, Carluke, Lanarkshire.
CLUBS: Morton, Leeds United, Manchester United, AC Milan, Hellas Verona, Southampton, Bristol City.
INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 52 (Scotland).
INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 11.
SCOTLAND CAREER: Debut as a substitute in the 1-0 loss to England at Wembley in May 1973 – with his final appearance coming in the 1982 World Cup against the USSR in June ’82.
Jordan was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Highlights include scoring the key goal against Czechoslovakia in September 1973 which ensured World Cup qualification for Scotland in 1974 – their first final appearance in 16 years.
Jordan featured in nine matches against England, winning four and losing five.
His sole goal against the Auld Enemy arrived in the 2-0 win over England at Hampden Park in May 1974.
Never failed to qualify for the World Cup during an international career that spanned a decade and is the only Scottish player to score in three of them, in 1974, 1978 and 1982.
MANAGERIAL CAREER: Bristol City (two spells), Hearts, Stoke City, Portsmouth (caretaker and coach), Spurs (coach), QPR (coach), Middlesbrough (assistant first-team manager).