John Giles pays tributes to Frank O’Farrell - the only Irishman to manage Manchester Utd
'We played Preston reserves and Frank O’Farrell was finishing his career at that time. He was one of my idols, he was a terrific player'
Soccer legend John Giles has paid tribute to former Ireland international and Manchester United manager, Frank O’Farrell, who passed away last weekend at the age of 94.
The former Republic of Ireland manager described the Cork man, who remains the only Irishman ever to manage Manchester United, as one of his heroes growing up.
Giles told Off The Ball on Thursday evening how he was “a young fellow playing in the Central League team, for Manchester United which was then the reserve team”.
“We played Preston reserves and Frank O’Farrell was finishing his career at that time. He was one of my idols, he was a terrific player,” Giles said.
He remembered, how, as a young man, O’Farrell offered him his own piece of advice before embarking on a distinguished managerial career.
“He was a gentleman, in fact on the pitch that night, I swore at somebody. When the whistle blew, he called me over and gave me a telling off, he said there was no need to be using language like that.”
“I said, ‘I’m sorry Mr O’Farrell’. It was what you normally would say on the pitch but I think he was supposed to be a strict type of man. He was a good man, a really good man,” said Giles.
Similar to the situation facing the current Manchester United team who continue to flounder after a previous long-term manager retired, O’Farrell fell victim to post Matt Busby mismanagement.
“When Sir Matt decided to finish up, he picked Wilf McGuinness. So Wilf had the first spell at Old Trafford as the manager which didn’t work out very well,” Giles explained.
“Frank O’Farrell came in after Wilf McGuinness.”
“Frank’s version of the time was that he was annoyed that Sir Matt (Busby) didn’t let go of the reins. He was still very influential. When he retired he didn’t get out of the place he was always still there. I know Frank O’Farrell wasn’t too happy about the situation.”
“Frank wouldn’t have agreed to (the Busby influence). I think it happened but he wouldn't have agreed to that.”
“He did a very good job at Leicester City. It wouldn't have been a deal that Matt Busby would step down. Frank O’Farrell was surprised that Sir Matt still had some sort of influence at the club.”
In an era when football did not feature on television, the influence of O’Farrell was admired by Giles.
“I saw a lot of him playing in the international team, but I wouldn't have seen him in the English league or when he was in the first division. You couldn't see most of your heroes but I knew Frank.”
O'Farrell managed Cardiff City briefly before leaving to take charge of Iran, who he brought to the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Giles added that her would have loved to have played with Frank O’Farrell, as “he was one of my heroes growing up”.
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