Mike Pejic: Leeds United duo were nuts and cynical but not uncommon



“We really didn’t talk about hard men back in the day because it was a given.

If you weren’t hard, you simply didn’t last.

So it would be difficult for me to emulate Liam Lawrence who this week selected his five hardest team-mates.

Obviously some players spring to mind more readily than others for me, but it would be impossible to list them in any kind of order.

When you think of tough strikers you think of players like Joe Jordan up at Leeds. He was nuts.

Sticking with Leeds – now there’s a coincidence – you also had the silent assassin type in the shape of Johnny Giles.

He was certainly one of the more ruthless and cynical players around.

He’d quite happily touch the ball just ahead of him, so you’d be tempted to come in, then find a set of studs going down your shin.

As a full back, you’d often find six studs going down your leg from someone as you cleared the ball up the line.

There was no somersaulting through the air to try and win a free-kick, though, because the ref would look the other way and everyone else would probably have laughed at you.

With no rules to protect you from tackles from behind and no TV cameras to capture everything from every angle, all kinds of things went on.

The secret was to make sure the officials weren’t looking and that’s when you’d get an elbow in the face, or one in the kidneys, and your toes stamped on.

Show any hurt and you were labelled a coward or soft, or even a cheat.

It was a battle out there, a war at times, and one you had to win in between trying to play some football.

The skill was not just on the ball, but trying to avoid a challenge that could end your game.

You didn’t see it as being brave, just being a footballer.

Some players did strut around like they were hard men, but underneath were as soft as s***, and Arsenal’s Peter Storey springs readily to mind on that score.

More genuine cases were players like Stoke City pair John Ritchie and David Herd who once went at one another in training and Herdy was left needing quite a few stitches.

Then there was Maurice Setters.

I remember him laying out a couple of West Brom players in front of the Boothen End one time and he might have gone through their whole team if he hadn’t been restrained.

Then three days later on the Tuesday he was playing against us youngsters in training!

Playing against the older lads made you, though, because they weren’t going to hold back against youngsters out to take their place.”





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