Great partnerships: Bremner and Giles – players of their time Reply

Tough approach cannot disguise the brilliance of Revie’s chief acolytes

Giles 3If you’ve watched the film, The Damned United, you don’t necessarily come away with a positive view of Leeds United under Don Revie or the two legends in Leeds’ midfield in the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles.

Along with Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter, no other players epitomised the stance adopted by Revie and his team in that period. Not for nothing did Leeds have a dressing room motto, “Keep Fighting”.

Giles was a supremely gifted player who could do wonders with the ball. Bremner was tenacious, often letting his fiery temper get the better of him. But there was no better player to rise to the occasion in a big game.

Foul magazine, the forerunner to the fanzine era and in particular, When Saturday Comes, loved nothing more than to snipe at Bremner. Foul was mostly penned by cynical journalists, and in its heyday (1972-1975), English football had become violent, often very defensive and full of “dirty tricks”. In one edition of the publication, Bremner’s disciplinary record was listed – 38 bookings (including two sending-offs) from 1962 to 1974.

John Arlott, a brilliant writer, described Bremner as “10 stone of barbed wire”. But he was also a great on-field skipper, as underlined by his place at the top of a survey to find the Football League’s greatest captain. Not bad for a 5ft 5in player who was rejected by Chelsea and Arsenal for being too small. Ironically, the Stirling-born Bremner enjoyed nothing more than a battle against the two clubs that failed to see his potential.

By the time Giles arrived at Elland Road from Manchester United, seemingly rejected by Matt Busby, Bremner had already played more than 100 games for Leeds. Starting out as a winger, he was converted to a midfielder by Revie, who saw Giles as his ideal partner, especially after similarly combative Bobby Collins was sidelined through injury.

Giles had been a regular at United and won the FA Cup with them in 1963, but he fell out of favour with Busby. He asked for a transfer and was sold for just £ 33,000 to Leeds. “I am going to haunt him,” said Giles upon leaving Old Trafford and to some extent, the loss of Giles did come back to bite United on the backside, especially in their early-to-mid 1970s slump when they were crying out for midfield leadership.

Bremner (207x300)The duo ran the Leeds midfield as Revie’s men upset the established order in the first division. Giles, many years later, told the Yorkshire media: “Billy and I had a natural understanding. It’s something you can’t teach or coach. If I picked up the ball in the centre circle, I knew where he’d be waiting to receive it. He was a joy to play with but easy to play with too. Billy and I hit it off straight away. It was a partnership.”

It was popularly believed that Bremner did Revie’s bidding on the pitch – the executioner of the Don’s OCD preparations – as evidenced by countless photos of intimacy between manager and skipper. But in truth, Giles was the brain in midfield and when Revie finally stepped down to manage England, his first choice as his replacement – and no doubt, keeper of the flame – was Giles.

There’s no doubt that Giles was the more cultured player, although he could also mix-it and call on some of the off-the-ball tricks normally associated with much-derided continental European teams from Italy or Spain. Bremner wore his heart on his sleeve and was easily recognisable as bring a little over-zealous at times. “A dirty little bastard,” said the late Dave Mackay of Tottenham, who was famously pictured grabbing Bremner by the scruff of the neck. A little agricultural he may have been, especially in his raw, younger days, but he was also a match winner. He scored the decisive goals in no less than three FA Cup semi-finals – 1965 (v Manchester United 1-0, 89 mins), 1970 (v Manchester United 1-0, 9 mins) and 1973 (v Wolves 1-0, 70 mins). He also scored in the 1965 FA Cup final for Leeds, although Giles 4 (214x300)they lost 2-1 to Liverpool. He also captained Scotland in the 1974 World Cup.

Ironically, Bremner and Giles both scored the same number of goals for Leeds (115), but Giles was also renowned for being the arch-creator. Don Revie described him thus: “John was a superlative soccer technician whose ability had no limits. He had great natural aptitude but was always working hard to improve. When we finished a training session he would go off to the gym to work on his own.”

Giles was ignored for the Leeds job on two occasions, once when Revie recommended him and then when the ill-fated Brian Clough era ended. But at the end of 1974-75, and Leeds’ unfortunate defeat in the European Cup final – Giles’ last game for the club – he accepted an offer to be player-manager of West Bromwich Albion. Bremner stayed until September 1976 when he joined Hull City. He would later manage Leeds but sadly, died at the age of just 55.

If you want to see just how good this great partnership was, look no further than a game that took place on March 4, 1972. Leeds destroyed Southampton 7-0 and put on a passing display that would not have looked out of place on the playing fields of Amsterdam or Rotterdam – this was in the age of Total Football with Ajax and Feyenoord in their pomp. And at the heart of it were Bremner and Giles, showboating their skill-set. Tough – yes, competitive – undoubtedly, but two terrific players who rank alongside the best of their era.

A PSG treble is the least they should expect Reply

French champions pay more than any other club in the world

PSGParis St Germain are on the brink of creating French football history. Ligue 1 champions already, and French League Cup winners, they face Auxerre in the Coupe de France final next weekend (May 30) in a bid to win an unprecedented treble. Only the UEFA Champions League would have eluded them in 2014-15.

But some might say, “so what?…they have more money than any other French team”. That’s certainly true, but it is also just been revealed that PSG pay higher wages than any other sports team in the world.

Research by Sporting Intelligence – an excellent website, by the way – shows that PSG’s weekly wage bill is £5.3m with the average per player at £ 102,000- on a gross scale, that’s some £300,000 a week more than nearest challenger to that crown, Real Madrid, who pay, on average, £97,000 for each man wearing the famous white shirt.

PSG can only beat the teams they face, and they have proven to be France’s top side over the past few seasons. They have a distinct financial advantage – Monaco are the nearest challengers in Ligue 1 with a weekly budget of £1.9m, an average of £36,000 per player.

Having the most money doesn’t necessarily buy success, but it certainly helps. If you look at the top 10 football clubs in the world in terms of weekly wages, five – PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Juventus have won their respective titles this season. But next time you hear from unhappy Manchester United and Arsenal fans that they cannot compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, the statistics do not indicate a big chasm in terms of financial clout. Here’s the Premier’s top four (weekly wage bill): City – £5m, United – 4.7m, Chelsea – £ 4.4m, Arsenal – £ 4.1m, Liverpool. For PSG, the advantage is huge, and that’s why they were able to shrug off a lack-lustre start to the season to eventually sprint past the finishing line.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the petrodollars from Qatar have propelled PSG into the “bulge bracket” of Europe’s football clubs. Over £300m of transfer fees went into building the current squad, the bulk of that in the first two full seasons of Qatari ownership – EUR 150m in 2012-13 and EUR 130m in 2013-14. It’s given them strength in depth that no French club (indeed, major European outfit) can match.

If you look at their squad, PSG could probably field two teams capable of a strong league campaign, and today, whenever a top player comes up for grabs, PSG are invariably listed among the suitors. Such rumours currently prevail about Manchester Unuted’s aunhappy Angel Di Maria and Juventus’ midfielder Paul Pogba. There’s also talk of an audacious bid for Cristiano Ronaldo.

This has not only made PSG unpopular, a la Chelsea and City in England, but has provided an excellent motivational tool for their Ligue 1 opponents.

That, and injuries to players like Zlatan Ibrahmimovic, who missed chunks of the season but still managed to score 19 goals in 24 Ligue 1 games, conspired to make PSG’s early season exploits a little frustrating. They won just three of their first nine games, developing a habit of drawing with clearly less-equipped teams. For a while, it looked like Marseille or Lyon might spring a surprise title win, but PSG’s run-in has been impressive, taking them to the top for the first time as late as March 30.

paris-saint-germain 2PSG won’t secure genuine credibility until they win the UEFA Champions League, and even then, it will be attributed to their financial firepower rather than skill. Nobody minds, though, if Barcelona win the UCL, even though their wealth is only marginally less. It’s human nature that “new money” is always frowned upon and envied. PSG went close this season, beating Barca in the group stage and accounting for Chelsea in the last 16. The men from Qatar will be hoping that this season is merely the springboard to European domination. They might like to consider how difficult it has been for Manchester City to break into that group, despite having £ 5m to spend every week.

Domestically, PSG have it sewn up, and they should secure the Coupe de France when they face second division Auxerre. On paper, it looks easy enough, as Auxerre are in mid-table. Unlike PSG, who have faced Ligue 1 opposition all the way through, Auxerre have had a far easier run, although they beat holders Guincamp in the semi-final 1-0.

If PSG win, they will make history as the first French club to win all three major prizes. They will also be the first team since Lille, in 2011, to win the league and cup double, something which has been completed 15 times in French football history.

But of course, no matter what Laurent Blanc’s team wins, it will always be attributed to the enormous wealth the club enjoys. That’s why ultimately, Blanc, and his team of expensive imports, will be judged on what they achieve outside of the French borders….

Paris St Germain’s 2014-15 squad and each player’s transfer value (if known):
Sirigu (EUR 4m); Marquinhos (EUR 31.4m), Luiz (£50m), Thiago Silva (EUR 42m), Maxwell (EUR 3.5m), Aurier (EUR 8m), Van de Wiel (EUR 6m), Pastore (EUR 39m), Verratti (EUR 12m), Motta (EUR 10m), Matuidi (EUR 7.5m), Cabaye (£25m), Lucas (EUR 45m), Cavani (EUR 64.5m), Ibrahimovic (EUR 20m), Lavezzi (EUR 26m).