Share this @internewscast.com
The long hair is long gone and Joe Jordan has a full set of teeth, but he still looks remarkably lean and toned as he settles into a sofa at a hotel in Bristol to discuss a life in football.
In particular, Jordan is here to talk about Leeds United and Manchester United. The 71-year-old retains a strong affection for both clubs. He came of age during seven years at Leeds and produced the best form of his career at United.
Jordan understands one of English football’s hottest rivalries which will be reignited by a blockbuster double-header this week, at Old Trafford on Wednesday night and Elland Road on Sunday.
‘It’s great for the game but it can be a bit crazy,’ says Jordan. ‘They don’t get on and that’s fine as long as they respect each other and don’t do anything silly.
‘Leeds United-Man United, that was the big game of the week. Huge. You want to stuff the other team because they are rivals across the Pennines, and it goes way back.
Joe Jordan remembers his time at Leeds fondly after winning the league with the club in 1974
‘I had some great times at Leeds. For the best part of 10 years, they were the top team and they ain’t the top team now. Manchester United weren’t the team either but they were the club and still are the club, and they will always be the club.’
The first thing Jordan knew about his British record move between the two rival clubs in 1978 was a phone call from Leeds manager Jimmy Armfield telling him to meet a delegation from Old Trafford in the car park at Elland Road.
Little over an hour later, Jordan was in the kitchen of his house in the West Yorkshire village of Bramham discussing personal terms with United boss Dave Sexton while his father Frank shared stories about Scotland with Sir Matt Busby in the lounge.
‘People will find it mind-boggling but that’s the way it was,’ Jordan says. ‘It never crossed my mind in my whole career as a player to have an agent.’
The Scotland striker doubled his wages to £500-a-week and got a £17,500 cut of the £350,000 fee. The record didn’t last long though as Jordan’s lifelong friend Gordon McQueen followed him to United that summer for £495,000, further swelling Leeds’ bank balance while giving their fans another kick in the guts.
‘That was hard for the supporters to accept,’ admits Jordan, who rejected a late approach from Liverpool manager Bob Paisley to join United.
‘Gordon signed and I got the blame. People put two and two together, but it was nothing to do with me. Gordon was desperate to come.
‘I wasn’t the most popular guy when I went to Manchester United from Leeds and I could understand the fans. It didn’t bother me but it surprised me a wee bit.’
Jordan and McQueen had stoked the bitter rivalry between the two great rivals long before Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith made the controversial move across the Pennines.
Jordan’s desire to leave Elland Road after playing for Leeds in their pomp was based on a realisation that the 1974 title-winning team was breaking up, and a burning sense of injustice that the club rejected an offer from Bayern Munich.
When Bayern boss Dietmar Cramer phoned him at the luxury hotel in Marbella where Armfield had taken his players after losing the 1975 European Cup final to the Germans, Jordan thought it was a crank call because of the ‘phony accent’ and told McQueen to speak with Cramer who was about to table a club record bid.
It wasn’t until he went back to Elland Road for the first time to watch a League Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion that he discovered the depth of Leeds’ resentment towards him.
‘I got to the car park and the stewards wouldn’t let me in,’ recalls Jordan. ‘I went to see the club secretary Keith Archer and told him about it. He made a call and gave me a car park pass. No problem.
Jordan has admitted he wasn’t popular with the Leeds fans when he joined Man United in 1978
‘So I parked my car and as I was going in I got a bit of stick. I thought, “Christ, I didn’t expect that”.
‘Leeds were winning and I left 10 minutes before the end. What the steward had done was to park cars around me and I couldn’t get out. He did it on purpose.
‘I had to wait and wait until everyone moved and I could get away, there was no-where I could go. I was just sat in my car. I was really annoyed about that.’
If the manner of Jordan’s departure from Leeds to United in his kitchen 45 years ago is shocking by today’s standards, his arrival at Elland Road from Morton was no less remarkable.
The teenage striker with just six first-team appearances under his belt was asked to play as an emergency centre-back against England World Cup striker Jess Astle in a Texaco Cup tie against West Brom in September 1970.
Unknown to Jordan, Elland Road legend Bobby Collins had told Don Revie about the young man from Cleland in North Lanarkshire, and the legendary Leeds boss was sat in the stands at the Hawthorns.
Revie was persuaded to sign Jordan for £15,000 plus a £5,000 bonus once he had played 20 games for Leeds. The youngster signed an 18-month contract, increasing his wages from £12-a-week at Morton to £35.
Jordan joined a Scottish contingent that provided the backbone of Revie’s Leeds including Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, David Harvey and McQueen. Throw in the likes of Norman Hunter, Jack Charlton and Johnny Giles, and they were an uncompromising bunch.
‘They were a very close-knit group but there was a little bit of an edge, the Scotland-England thing,’ says Jordan, who remembers a bucket of water being poured over Charlton as he was sat on the toilet reading the Racing Post.
‘Competitive players, no messing about, but they never held it over. You had to compete every day. Sometimes on a Friday, Don Revie wouldn’t have a five-a-side just because he didn’t want any injuries.’
Jordan fitted right in after losing his front teeth in his first game for the reserve team against Coventry City. With the trademark long hair, it gave him a warrior-like image that would endure throughout his career.
Jordan lost his front teeth at United after taking a boot to the face during a reserve team game
‘I was diving to head the ball and the boy booted to me. It was an accident,’ says Jordan who remembers Harvey disappearing with his dentures after the European Cup final defeat to Munich. ‘That was a tough time. I was in digs, just sat there. I couldn’t really go out with no teeth!
‘I just got on with it. If you smack someone else heading ball or someone hits me, it won’t make any difference. It’s not going to be a tragedy because the teeth have already gone.
‘The main aspect is don’t be intimidated by anybody, and I never was. You couldn’t intimidate Leeds United. No chance.
‘All the teams that we were competing with tried to. It went on, no question, but they would not be intimidated. If you showed any slight at all, the opposition would crucify you.’
West Brom defender John Wile and Tottenham goalkeeper Milija Aleksic were left with broken and dislocated jaws respectively after taking on Jordan, although he was only sent off on a handful of occasions in his career and never while playing for Leeds, United or AC Milan.
In an era when no quarter was asked or given, his fearsome image sometimes masked the fact that he was a fine footballer. He had a good goal ratio for both clubs and remains the only Scot to score in three World Cups.
Good enough that when Milan came to select their solitary foreign signing from around Europe in 1981, they went for Jordan.
He loved his time in Italy. The Italian giants had been relegated for the first time in their history over a match-fixing scandal, but Jordan helped them back into Serie A. ‘I stayed there and made things right.’
His daughter, Caroline, lives in Milan now, and Joe and his wife Judith go over regularly. They also have two sons, Andrew and Thomas, and another daughter, Lucy, as well as seven grandchildren.
Jordan tries to keep up with his Italian every day and goes to the gym which might explain why he still looks so sprightly. ‘I’m pretty lucky,’ he says. ‘A lot of my Leeds colleagues have passed away and that’s a wee reminder for you.’
Sadly, McQueen has been diagnosed with dementia. In the next couple of weeks Jordan will go up to see his old friend, who was out with Joe when he first met Judith at a Leeds disco in 1973.
The couple have lived in Bristol since Jordan finished his playing career and started out in management at Bristol City. He was also in charge at Hearts and Stoke before working as first-team coach under Harry Redknapp for a decade at Tottenham, QPR and Portsmouth.
Until last year, he was on the coaching staff at Bournemouth but prefers to stay closer to home now.
‘I was at Bournemouth when my missus fell and got a bit of a fright,’ Jordan explains. ‘She was out running and slipped. There are bigger priorities. I’ve had a good run and I’m quite happy the way things are.’