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Joe Jordan <-auth Robbie Dunwoodie auth-> Donald McVicar
3 of 003 John Robertson 61 L Premier H

Two halves and to have not

Robbie Dunwoodie

22 Mar 1993

Nothing less than maximum effort is sufficient for Joe Jordan of Hearts, a man who wears his courage on his sleeve: but is he also a man in two minds about his future?

SCOTS cling stubbornly to the emblems of their nationhood -- historical, religious, educational, legal and, of course, sporting.

Scotsmen, for the daft laddies are most culpable, may acknowledge the absurdity of elevating a pastime to a passion, but they cannot deny it.

They tell Bill Shankly's dictum on the relative importance of football and life and death against themselves, but tell it they do, and a flutter in the guts sometimes threatens to make them believe it.

A crippling burden of hope, aspiration and expectation is placed on the shoulders of our sportsmen and women whether they are heroes, failures, or perhaps most typically, heroic failures.

Sometimes a sportsman comes along who seems to embody something we label as the national character, however variously we define that.

One such figure during the World Cup campaigns of the 1970s was Joe Jordan, whose combative courage earned admiration and repaid belief.

Two moments, separated by almost a generation, live in the memory because they capture the commitment which made Jordan such a formidable sporting warrior, and which he carries through into his career in football management.

The first was the night of September 26, 1973 when 100,000 Scots packed Hampden to urge their team to a victory over Czechoslovakia which would take them to the World Cup finals in West Germany.

After losing a soft opener, Scotland equalised through centre half Jim Holton, another popular giant.

Then just 15 minutes before full-time, Willie Morgan crossed.

It was the kind of low ball that invites brave strikers to put their heads where defenders' boots will fly but Jordan, of the infamous gap-toothed grimace, dived in to earn victory.

Move on 18 years to a very different arena.

It is May 13, 1991 and there are just 5575 fans at Tynecastle to see Hearts take on Everton in a testimonial match for Gary Mackay.

The side have just ended Jordan's first season in charge in mid-table and there is little at stake as the manager brings himself on as substitute.

He scores twice and for one goal Jordan, burly Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall and a couple of defenders all end up in the back of the net with the ball.

The fans love it.

The message: for Joe Jordan there is never little at stake, never a time for less than maximum commitment.

Jordan was a favourite with Scotland supporters for a variety of reasons.

Leading the line, he wore his courage openly, covered in mud, often bloodied, teeth missing, hair flying, here was someone you would want in your trench.

He was also a gifted all-round player who continued to improve as he accumulated the experience of a long career in England and Italy.

Perhaps the most pragmatic factor in Jordan's favour as a sporting icon is that he barely played in Scotland, and so entrenched loyalties were never challenged.

Celtic supporters hold that McCoist doesn't produce club form for the national side, Rangers fans said the same of Dalglish.

That kind of sterile debate was never applied to Jordan during his 52-game Scottish career during which he scored goals at crucial times, not to mention earning the penalty which gave the crucial World Cup breakthrough against Wales at Anfield in 1977.

Add to that his strange duality on and off the pitch, a transformation straight from the pages of Hogg or Stevenson, from quiet man to wild man and back again.

He was also a man of few words.

"Feature writers needn't queue up," advised one journalist, but when approached in connection with this article Jordan chatted freely for the timespan which has dominated his life, 90 minutes.

His roots, his playing career, his style of management, his thoughts on the game, his short-term future and long-term ambitions were all discussed.

Jordan was born in the Lanarkshire mining village of Cleland.

Latterly his father worked at the Ravenscraig steelworks.

"He had a great interest in sport.

He was my biggest fan and gave me great encouragement.

He comes to all Hearts' home games and the away games he can get to," said Jordan.

As a teenager playing for North Motherwell against a Morton youth team Jordan came to the attention of Greenock manager Hal Stewart.

"Hal was ahead of his time in many ways," he recalls.

"He saw the importance of a youth policy, he brought in the first influx of Scandinavian players, and he was a master at generating publicity for the game."

After two years part-time at Morton, Don Revie's Leeds United made an offer, substantial for an 18-year-old in those days, of £15,000.

Jordan's father was enthusiastic but his mother was worried about him abandoning his apprenticeship as a draftsman.

Football won out.

"I had a really good home life but to get the opportunity to play with the best team in the land at that time was too good to miss.

I wanted to be a football player and the sacrifices were small compared to the benefits.

The thought of moving held no fears for me at all."

The first thing Jordan did at Leeds in 1971 was lose his front teeth in a reserve match clash.

A few months later he was joined by another imposing young Scot who was to go on to international glory, Gordon McQueen.

They shared digs, met local girls and in 1977 both got married in the same week with each other as best man.

Both moved on to Manchester United.

"He had a bit of a cavalier approach as a player but he was never like that off the field.

He always had great determination and he carries that through now as manager," said McQueen.

"In private Joe likes a laugh.

He's not as dour as he seems in public.

He's not apprehensive about interviews -- he just chooses his words carefully."

Jordan has been quoted in the past stoically accepting disappointment as part of life, something not to be dwelt on.

But he remains bitter that when Bayern Munich tried to sign him Leeds refused to let him go.

Playing abroad was something he wanted to do, to test himself in the biggest arena he could find.

A year later he joined Manchester United.

"I was honoured and privileged to play there and I thought I became a better player.

They are a club that really have something.

It was a phenomenal place to play."

He was 29 and had spent 3[1/2] years at Manchester when out of the blue came an approach from AC Milan.

"It was one I couldn't let pass me by after my previous missed chance.

"England has a good, competitive league but Italy had the best, then and now, in my eyes.

My only regret was that I wasn't able to go in my mid-twenties and stay longer." The Jordan family set off for Italy with three young children and much to learn, although the lifestyle was as he puts it "no hardship".

Injury plus poor personal and team performances dogged his first year but the club treated him well, he had a rapport with the fans, and in the second year, under a new club president and manager, a new young side emerged which included arguably the world's greatest defender, Franco Baresi, who still captains Milan.

JORDAN then had a year with Verona before returning to English football at Southampton under Lawrie McMenemy, who is on record as rating him "the most professional and worthy" of all the players he has ever coached.

McMenemy predicted a successful managerial career for Jordan, who spent these twilight playing days listening, observing and thinking more about the game.

He lost virtually a whole season as a result of a collision with his own goalkeeper and was loaned to Bristol City, where the man in charge was former Leeds team mate Terry Cooper, whom he eventually replaced as manager.

His progress there was such that when Hearts chairman Wallace Mercer sought advice from the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Alex Ferguson and Jock Wallace, it was Jordan's name which kept coming up as a candidate for Tynecastle.

Settling to an innovative 3-4-3 system employing a sweeper, Hearts were runners-up to Rangers last season in the Premier Division.

But Jordan was forced to sell his captain, Dave McPherson to the Ibrox club (replacing him shrewdly with Peter Van de Ven from Aberdeen).

He then sold one of the fans' favourites, striker Scott Crabbe to Dundee United and was angry when he was not allowed to spend the cash.

Hearts languish near the bottom of the expenditure table in Scottish football, and although Jordan has them lying fourth in the league and facing Rangers in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup, there has been speculation that, frustrated by the lack of resources, he will move on when his contract ends in September.

Jordan refuses to speculate, but he does point out that his wife and four children have settled well in the city after their previous nomadic lifestyle.

He points out the growing reserve strength at Tynecastle, the exciting youth team who have reached their own cup final, and he talks of five-year programmes, all hints that in the short-term he may extend his stay.

His friend Gordon McQueen has his doubts: "It must be frustrating to be as ambitious as Joe is and know that it is impossible to win the league.

I certainly know Joe and his family are happy in Edinburgh but professionally he has to sit down and think about the future.

At the end of the day his family will go where his job goes."

There is little doubt that as a manager, as in his days as a player, he will eventually want to test himself at the highest level.

He lights up when he talks about Italy.

He acted as Andy Roxburgh's interpreter during Italia '90 and the logic of his ambition could even lead to management there one day.

But the much-travelled Jordan lights up too when he talks about his home village.

"There are a lot of good people in Cleland.

My parents still live there and I'm proud I come from there."

Taken from the Herald

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