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An Interview With John Gidman


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After helping out Manchester United fanzine "United We Stand" with a feature in regards to the upcoming games, writer Andy Mitten very kindly let us reproduce an interview he carried out with former Villa player John Gidman.

Here it is...

In the summer of 1970 Scouser John Gidman accepted a one month trial with Aston Villa, whose first team had been relegated to the third division. The move was a success. ar, aged 18. However, there were distractions which camewith his new found status.

“Discovering birds was a problem,†he admits. “I was moved around several digs and I ended up living with this woman and her kid. She was 31. I ended up in bed with her. She’d lost her husband and just climbed in with me one night. I was going into training with my eyes down at my knee caps. I was in and out of the first team but I couldn’t train. It was taking effect psychologically, like being married at 18. I came clean with the club and told them that I had to get out. They put me in with an old couple in Lichfield.†The kind of discipline his father had imposed was back. “Les and Barbara kept an eye on me and told the manager Vic Crowe if I came in late.â€

Gidman settled for less fleshly pursuits, learning to play the guitar. A regular in the first team, his contract was consistently improved and with bonuses he was able to buy a house at 19.

He was content until rookie chairman Doug Ellis replaced manager Crowe with Ron Saunders. “I didn’t get on with him, he was a disciplinarian with a sergeant major outlook who used to belittle popular players. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘Who the f*ck are you?’ He said: ‘Oh, we’ve got a smart Scouser have we?’ So we didn’t get off to the best start. I felt that Saunders would knock me all the time, even if I had a good game. He didn’t help my confidence.â€

Despite this, Gidman was largely happy at Villa. “Brian Little was my best pal; he had long hair and was well into music like me. I used to think he was on pills, given the way he’d dance. Look at him now, a sensible manager with a sensible haircut. We still keep in touch.â€

Another player became a long-term friend. “Saunders rang me and said, ‘I’m buying a kid from Dundee. He’s going to be good, he’s called Andy Gray, can he live with you?’ Andy lived with me for a year and we became great mates. Still are. See each other all the time. He’s done really well for himself, he’s really professional and I’m proud of him. We have completely different lives but we just get on really well. He didn’t drink when he arrived at Villa. He did after I’d introduced him to the country pub in his first week.â€

Villa’s centenary season in 1974/75 started well, yet Gidman would miss the majority of it after an accident on November 5th 1974.

“One of the players had a bonfire party. There had been problems in Birmingham with the IRA and I was talking to a QC about it. The next thing, someone accidentally launched a rocket. It hit me in the right eye at 70 miles an hour, putting me through a patio window. Luckily, the club doctor was there. I was haemorrhaging and losing blood, which was squirting out from the centre of the eye. An ambulance came straight away. I was pissed and didn’t really give a ****. They wanted to take my eye out to stop the bleeding, but the club doctor stopped them, saying, ‘He’s a footballer, you can’t’.â€

Gidman woke in hospital three days later with his head covered in bandages. “I sh*t myself because I thought I was blind. I couldn’t see through my right eye at all. The surgeon said it would take about six weeks to see the extent of the damage. All I wanted to know was if my football career was over. He told me he didn't know, but that I had probably lost the sight in my right eye. He said the other eye would adjust, but my central vision would probably be gone. I just had to wait and see.

Six weeks later Gidman was diagnosed as being blind in one eye as the doctor had predicted – but his peripheral vision was unaffected. He could go on playing.

Gidman left hospital and convalesced in a nursing home for two months. He started walking again four months after the accident, training after five. “I had to teach myself to judge the speed of the ball again, with my left eye over compensating.†The dark glasses he wears in the sun now are not an affectation, but necessary protection. To complete a remarkable recovery, Saunders made him substitute for the final game of the season when Villa were promoted behind second division champions Manchester United.

“I got the best reception I’ve ever had,†he recalls. “It was very emotional. I realised that people cared. I played up front with the instruction to enjoy myself as we’d won promotion. I was like Billy Liddell on the wing. Everything I touched went well. I knew after the game that I wasn’t finished, that I could be a footballer again.â€

“All the Villa lads knew I had a dicky eye, and years later at Man United Frank Stapleton would say, ‘Always put the ball to Giddy at the back post because he can’t **** head it. He doesn’t know how far away it is.’

Gidman’s career ran relatively smoothly at Villa for the next two seasons.

He won a League Cup Winners’ medal in 1977 after Villa beat Everton at the third attempt at Old Trafford. The same year he was capped by England.

“I’d been in the squad a couple of times and the QPR right back Dave Clement, who later poisoned himself to death, was injured, so Don Revie told me that I was in. He wanted me to mark some **** from Luxembourg that I’d never heard of.

Hearing the national anthem did it for me and I became very emotional. Then I just thought, ‘I hope you are watching this Bill Shankly, I really **** do, because you let me go for nothing and now I’m playing for England.’

Gidman never did play for England again, which he puts down his behaviour on a trip to the Soviet Union for England U23s.

“Alan Ball got me on Jack Daniels on the way home from Moscow,†he confesses.

“I’d never had it before and I fell off the plane at Luton airport. If you were a rebel the England people didn’t like it. I wasn’t a yes man, but my own man. If I see something for a laugh then I’ll do it.â€

In 1977, Villa destroyed his old club. “I always felt like I had a point to prove when Villa played Liverpool, although I thought it would be difficult that year as they were about to win the league again. Yet by half time, we led 5-0 and Ron Saunders, showing a rare flash of humour, said, ‘Get yourself a cup of tea and have a piss.’ We were astonished, but he added, ‘How can I give a talk when I’ve just seen you play like that?’ The game finished 5-1 and Shankly later publicly questioned why he had let Gidman ever leave Liverpool.

Villa reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup in 1977/78, before being knocked out by Barcelona. It’s a night Gidman remembers well. “I was paid to wear Puma boots. But before the game in Barcelona some guy approached me in the team hotel and offered us money to wear these new boots from a Spanish company. I told him that we couldn’t wear them, that the lads would never all wear new boots, but that we could paint our normal boots to look like his brand. Saunders wasn’t bothered, so I took the money and shared it among the lads. We had a photo before the game and everyone wanted to be at the back because they didn’t want to be seen in these boots.

“Cruyff and Neeskens were playing and the tackles were flying in. I had my nose broken and the ref wasn’t controlling the game. My nose was bleeding, and then I got an elbow in the eye – not my right eye fortunately. I lost it and hit the guy. I got sent off and received a good dig off the police in the tunnel. I left the ground at half time and went to a bar nearby. I wasn't thinking straight and I was disappointed because I’d paid for my dad to come and watch the game and he’d never been abroad before. The game was on the television in the bar and I was recognised because of my nose. I had to get off back to the stadium quickly.â€

More problems lay ahead.

“Not only was I blamed for us going out of the competition, there was a picture of me in the papers the next day fighting – and wearing boots which did not look like they were made by Puma. I got a phone call off the Puma representative, who wasn’t happy. He came to the training ground to check our match boots, which had been cleaned by that time. I lied to him that I had worn Puma and it became my word against his. I kept the contract.â€

Like any dressing room, Villa's had its divisions and cliques. “We knew that there was a snitch,†recalls Gidman. “Things which should have remained in the dressing room were getting back to the manager. We’d have a bevvy and he’d find out. If someone was going to throw a transfer request in then the manager knew before the letter arrived on his desk.â€

To try and find out, a then married Gidman took the Villa secretary out for a meal, where they cut a deal. “She left me the players’ contracts on the desk and I walked in the office and saw them. I saw that one lad was on a lot more money than me. I was on £300 a week and was gutted to find out how much some of the other players were on because I was one of the better players. Andy Gray and I got bladdered and agreed to put transfer requests in the following day. We were livid and went to see the board with a list of complaints about the manager. It was him or us, we said. The board said that nobody was bigger than the club and that they would sell us. Aside from that incident, Doug Ellis was always fine with me. In fact, I actually liked him. He’s probably a tw*t to do business with, but he always saw me right.â€

Everton manager Gordon Lee was soon on the phone, with a substantial signing on fee to supplement the proposed weekly wage of £700. Gidman wanted to move to his home city. “I had no qualms about playing for Everton as I saw it as a job, simple as that. Yet I failed my medical because Everton realised that my retina was smashed. So they sent me to hospital for a second check. I got friendly with the girl who was doing the test. I explained that my life was in her hands, that I couldn’t face going back to Villa because I had pushed things too far.â€

Extracted from 'We're the Famous Man United' - the players' stories, by Andy Mitten. VSP £17.99. Available for £11.49 from www.visionsp.co.uk

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that was brilliant, wish we had characters like that now.

Doug Ellis was always fine with me. In fact, I actually liked him. He’s probably a tw*t to do business with, but he always saw me right.â€


I think it is fair to say that Gidman had a better "eye" for football than Ellis did for business ;);) (there is a reason for two winks ;) )

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Some hero, quit a growing side in which he was an integral part to return home, for more money along with his best mate who Saunders had decided was a potential injury and financial liability he could use to finance his future team building.

Decent player, but not always a team man, played too often for himself as the article shows. His ultimate replacement offered more in every department and was much more instrumental in the clubs growth.

If he'd spent more time concentrating on football than womanising and drinking, he'd maybe have been a great for Villa not one of those who thought himself above the club. He did it again at Everton when Utd flashed the cash and no doubt has his reasons for that.

A decent player one of the best we ever had, but heroes are made of better stuff in my view

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  • 2 weeks later...
If he'd spent more time concentrating on football than womanising and drinking, he'd maybe have been a great for Villa not one of those who thought himself above the club.
Whereas Milan Baroš, that wonderful player that you defend, he's a real team man isn't he?!... :lol: Oh and as it's January 10,

Happy Birthday Giddy, Legend!

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