RTÉ was ‘slow to sign up’ soccer pundit Giles

Soccer analyst Johnny Giles has revealed how RTÉ was reluctant to sign him up as a pundit because he had a reputation for not saying much.

In a new documentary on his life story, Giles spent three decades as the face of Irish soccer on the national broadcaster but the hugely popular pundit said the station had to be persuaded to make him part of their famous panel because of his reserved persona as a soccer manager.

“I had a reputation about not saying anything about anything. My main thing as a manager was to protect my player, the people at RTÉ thought there was no point in getting John on because he is not going to say anything.

“Eamon persisted and I said ‘well I’ll come over and do it’. I did it a very, very casual way. But of course, I had finished in management so I wasn’t protecting anybody. I didn’t intend to make a career of it. I sort of fell into it.”

He said the panel was oblivious to their huge popularity during the World Cup of 1990. “I didn’t realise, and I don’t think Eamon did, or Bill did that there was people actually watching us. It just happened. It was all part of the 1990 thing.”

Going back into the old studio for the RTÉ documentary he said: “We got on well from the start. Anything that is over after 30 years there is sadness involved in it.”

From his working-class roots where he honed his wunderkind footwork against the railings of the square where he grew in inner city Dublin to the heady days of Manchester United, Leeds and lining out for his country, his all- consuming passion was soccer.

In the documentary on his life on the pitch, Giles, the midfield — voted Ireland’s best ever player — said he is glad today’s footballers are getting paid top dollar because clubs didn’t look after his generation of football greats.

“When I hear of lads now getting this and getting that I say ‘good luck to them’. Because when the clubs had a chance to be decent they were terrible, there was no affection or sympathy or anything from clubs.

In the beautifully shot documentary by the award-winning Loose Horse, he tells in his own familiar voice how he honed his gift by playing on the streets all day every day when his mother would shoo him out of the two-bedroomed house he shared with six other siblings.

Giles will be shown on RTÉ One tonight at 9.35pm


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