Leeds United nostalgia: Stiles – a man who wore shirt with pride

John Stiles.
John Stiles.
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When your father is World Cup winner Nobby Stiles and your uncle is Johnny Giles, it’s difficult to live up to your family’s footballing legacy.

John Stiles would admit openly that he was never the most talented player to pull on a Leeds shirt, but he had, at the least, one big moment of glory to call his own.

It came on March 15, 1987, in Wigan. Not exactly Wembley, admittedly, but Stiles’ 58th-minute curler broke the deadlock against the third division side and sent the United fans in the Shevington End into delirium.

Their happiness was understandable, as Stiles’ strike helped send the Whites into the FA Cup semi-final.

Stiles is relatively unique. He was born over the Pennines but grew up with a love of Leeds United. In playing for the club, he considers himself to be incredibly lucky.

Speaking in 2011, he said: “Unless you are a Leeds supporter or player – particularly a fan – you can’t appreciate that it’s almost like a unique membership.

“I might not have been one of the best players to play for Leeds, but I was one of the proudest.

“I’ll always be proud of playing for Leeds, the club I’ve always supported.”

He started his career at Shamrock Rovers under his uncle Johnny Giles, making five league appearances and two appearances in the 1982-83 UEFA Cup for them.

He then spent a year at Vancouver Whitecaps, playing 16 games in the NASL Indoor section, finishing fifth and missing out on the play-offs by one place.

He then moved to Leeds, where he spent five seasons, playing 65 games and scoring two goals over the course of his time at the club.

It took until the 1986-87 season for him to make regular starts for Leeds, when he started to pick up some form, including the goal at Wigan.

After that, he began to struggle with injuries and he found himself moving down the divisions to get football.

He also holds the inauspicious note of being the first Leeds player to be substituted having been put on as a substitute himself.

Stiles left Leeds in 1989, signing for fellow Yorkshire side Doncaster Rovers.

It was here that he played the majority of his games, making 89 league appearances over the course of three seasons, scoring two goals.

After a loan spell at Rochdale in 1991, he would wind down his career with Gainsborough Trinity, where he spent four seasons.

His insistence that he wasn’t good enough has continued to this day, although with the tone you’d expect from a man who has since gone into comedy.

“I actually went on one of the Leeds United blogs the other day and it had on it the top-50 worst Leeds players ever,” he said in 2011.

“And I thought: ‘I wonder if I’m on this?’ – and there I was at number 22!

“So I sent an e-mail saying I was disgusted and that I should be in the top five at least!”

Harrogate Town fans.

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