The long hair is long gone and Joe Jordan has a full set of teeth, but he still looks lean and toned as he settles into a sofa at a hotel in Bristol to discuss a life in football.
Jordan, 71, is here to talk about Leeds United and Manchester United. He retains a strong affection for both. He came of age during seven years at Leeds and produced his best form at United.
Jordan understands one of English football’s hottest rivalries which will be reignited by a blockbuster double-header this week, at Old Trafford on Wednesday night and Elland Road on Sunday.
‘It’s great for the game but it can be a bit crazy,’ says Jordan. ‘They don’t get on and that’s fine as long as they respect each other and don’t do anything silly. Leeds United-Man United, that was the big game. Huge. You want to stuff the other team because they are rivals across the Pennines, and it goes way back.
‘I had some great times at Leeds. For the best part of 10 years, they were the top team. They ain’t the top team now. Manchester United weren’t the team but they were the club and still are and always will be.’
The first thing Jordan knew about his £350,000 British record move in 1978 was a call from Leeds manager Jimmy Armfield telling him to meet an Old Trafford delegation in the Elland Road car park.
An hour later, Jordan was in his kitchen at home in the Yorkshire village of Bramham talking personal terms with United boss Dave Sexton while his father Frank shared Scotland stories with Sir Matt Busby in the lounge.
The Scotland striker doubled his wages to £500 a week and got a £17,500 cut of the fee. The record did not last long though as Jordan’s friend Gordon McQueen followed him to United that summer for £495,000, giving Leeds fans another kick in the guts.
‘That was hard for the fans,’ admits Jordan, who rejected a late approach from Liverpool and Bob Paisley. ‘Gordon signed and I got the blame but it was nothing to do with me. Gordon was desperate to come.
‘I wasn’t the most popular guy when I went to United from Leeds. It didn’t bother me but it surprised me a wee bit.’
Jordan decided to leave after playing for Leeds in their pomp because the 1974 title-winning team was breaking up, and due to anger that the club rejected an offer from Bayern Munich.
It wasn’t until he went back for the first time that he discovered the depth of the resentment towards him.
‘I got to the car park and the stewards wouldn’t let me in,’ recalls Jordan. ‘I went to see the secretary Keith Archer and told him. He gave me a car park pass. No problem. So I park and as I was going in I got a bit of stick. I thought, “Christ, I didn’t expect that”.
‘Leeds were winning and I left 10 minutes before the end. But the steward had parked cars around me on purpose and I had to wait to get out.’
If the manner of Jordan’s departure to United is shocking by today’s standards, his arrival at Elland Road from Morton was no less remarkable. The teenager with just six first-team games was played as an emergency centre back against England striker Jeff Astle in a Texaco Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion in 1970.
Unknown to Jordan, Elland Road legend Bobby Collins had told Don Revie about the young man from North Lanarkshire, and the manager was at the Hawthorns. He signed Jordan for £15,000 and increased his wages from £12 a week at Morton to £35.
Jordan joined a Scottish contingent who provided the backbone of Revie’s Leeds including Billy Bremner, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, David Harvey and McQueen. Throw in the likes of Norman Hunter, Jack Charlton and Johnny Giles, and they were an uncompromising bunch.
‘They were a close-knit group but there was a little bit of an edge, the Scotland-England thing,’ says Jordan, who remembers a bucket of water being poured over Charlton as he was sitting on the toilet reading the Racing Post.
Jordan fitted right in after losing his front teeth in his first game for the reserves against Coventry. With the trademark long hair, it gave him a warrior-like image.
‘I was diving to head the ball and the boy booted me by accident,’ says Jordan, who remembers Harvey disappearing with his dentures after the European Cup final defeat by Munich. ‘That was tough. I was in digs, just sat there. I couldn’t go out with no teeth!
‘I just got on with it. The main aspect is don’t be intimidated and I never was. You couldn’t intimidate Leeds.’
West Brom defender John Wile and Tottenham goalkeeper Milija Aleksic were left with broken and dislocated jaws respectively after taking on Jordan, although he was only sent off a few times and never for Leeds, United or Milan.
His fearsome image sometimes masked how fine a footballer he was. He had a good goal ratio for both clubs and is the only Scot to score in three World Cups.
Good enough that AC Milan came calling in 1981. He loved Italy. Milan had been relegated over a match-fixing scandal, but Jordan helped them back into Serie A. ‘I made things right,’ he said.
His daughter, Caroline, lives in Milan now, and Joe and his wife Judith visit regularly. They also have two sons, Andrew and Thomas, and another daughter, Lucy, and seven grandchildren. Jordan keeps up his Italian every day and goes to the gym which explains his sprightly looks. ‘I’m lucky,’ he says. ‘A lot of my Leeds colleagues have passed away. It’s a wee reminder.’
Sadly, McQueen has been diagnosed with dementia. Jordan will soon see his old friend, who was out with Joe when he met Judith at a Leeds disco in 1973.
The couple have lived in Bristol since Jordan finished playing and started in management at Bristol City. He was also in charge at Hearts and Stoke before working with Harry Redknapp at Tottenham, QPR and Portsmouth.
Until last year, he was at Bournemouth but prefers to stay closer to home now. ‘I was at Bournemouth when my missus fell and got a fright,’ Jordan explains. ‘She was out running and slipped. There are bigger priorities. I’ve had a good run and I’m happy the way things are.’