AN IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW WITH JORDAN TAIT: THE NIGHT TOMMY BURNS MADE ME FEEL TEN FEET TALL
- Celtic legend stunned kid by making him the Newcastle United captain against his hometown team
- Lessons on football and life from some of the game’s greats
- Now studying hard as he continues on a journey of improvement in sport and business
JORDAN TAIT walked out onto the field in his Scottish Borders hometown of Berwick, the captain of Newcastle United. He was 18 years old.
It was a night he will never forget and one man made it happen. Tommy Burns.
The late Celtic legend was manager of the Toon reserves back then, Sport Careers Agency client Jordan was a starry-eyed kid making his way in the game.
He recalled: ”Tommy made me feel 10 feet tall with one little gesture.
”I was 18 years old and in and around the reserve team at Newcastle and Tommy was the manager we all looked up to.
”We were playing in a testimonial game up at Berwick Rangers and we were sending up a side that was mixed between first team players and reserves.
”Tommy knew that Berwick was my hometown and at training that morning he pulled me aside and told me I would be playing and to phone my family and get them all along to Shielfield Park.
”I did that and my grandad, my mum and my friends were all there. I was the youngest player in the team by a long way.
”I came back in from the warm-up and I was in the zone, mentally getting ready for the game.
”Then I saw Tommy and Paul Ferris the physio having a chat and I overheard Paul saying: 'Who is getting this?'
”I heard TB saying: 'There is only one man getting that tonight.' Then he spun me around and he put the captain's armband on for me and told me to take the team out.”
These days 42-year-old UEFA A Licence coach Jordan, also a qualified Physical Trainer, is a confirmed student of the game.
He is currently in the throes of a Masters in Sports Directorship at Manchester Metropolitan and it is a course he is relishing.
Burns, though, taught him vital lessons in football and LIFE and he reflected: ”He was just such a great guy and I will never forget what he did when he made me skipper.
”Tommy showed me how to treat people, he had that simple human touch. He knew how to get the best out of people and make them feel valued.
”Burns' regard for Jordan's work ethic and the values of professionalism he brought to his quest to make it at Newcastle, though, did not prevent Tait from being a victim of his mentor's savage Glasgow humour.
TB had been taken to Newcastle by Sir Kenny Dalglish after Burns had been sacked from his role as manager of his boyhood heroes Celtic.
Jordan smiled ruefully: ”Tommy and Kenny had that great Glasgow wit. I was walking past the coaching room door the day TB came to the club.
”Kenny called me back to introduce me to Tommy but then said: 'Tell Tam who you support.'
I refused at first but he said: 'This one is a Bluenose, Tam.'
”They were both there with the deadpan faces and Tommy just looked at me and then he said: 'Is that true? Are you a Rangers fan, son?'
”I said yes and he never said another word, he walked towards me, put his arm around my back and ushered me back towards the door."Then he put me outside the door and he slammed it shut!
"I was stood there in the corridor thinking I was on the wrong side of the new reserve team manager from Day One simply because I was a fan of Celtic's greatest rivals.
”They left me there for 10 seconds then they opened the door and they were both p*ing themselves laughing.”
The Sports Directorship course Jordan is engrossed in now has drawn huge interest within the world of football and is now a highly respected qualification.
Top former players like Rangers legends David Weir and Lee McCulloch and current Hearts manager Robbie Neilson have studied the same curriculum. Jordan is in good company.
And he stressed: ”There are so many interesting people on the course. We have Michael Morrison who is the current captain of English Championship side Reading.
”We also have the likes of Lukas Jutkiewicz who is at Birmingham City and it's a diverse mix with English international female cricketer Kate Cross also with us.
”I wanted to broaden my horizons, I always had the ambition of doing something like this.
”I also wanted to get myself some experience in the business of sport so right now I am working as a gym and leisure club manager to build my knowledge of that side.
”As regards my studies I could have taken other routes with more football qualifications but I wanted to become more rounded in my learning.
”We have studied leadership and management styles and looked at the theory behind innovation and how you get people to buy into your ideas. It's fascinating.”
Sport Careers Agency clients are a compelling study when you delve into what makes them tick.
Tait never quite made it into the Newcastle United first team but he played for Oldham Athletic, Darlington, Arbroath, Ross County, Ayr United, St Johnstone, Berwick and Stenhousemuir before quitting at the age of 27.
A career in the Police beckoned then for Constable Tait and when you speak about influences he points out: ”I have been lucky to work with a lot of good people and I want to take the positive aspects of them and the negative parts of others.
”There are managers I have worked for in football and bosses that I have had in the Police who have taught me how NOT to do it!
”My background is as a player and then as a policeman, I had nine years in the Police before moving into coaching and I think all of this stands me in good stead.
”My background has taught me what makes a cohesive team work well together.”
Jordan built a rock-solid reputation in the coaching world and worked at an excellent level in a Category One Academy with English Championship club Middlesbrough.
Even though he has moved on now into the sports business world he retains links there and scouts games as well as checking on players that Boro have out on loan.
Jordan's passion for knowledge on the fitness needs of footballers was born when he was a young professional at Newcastle.
He shared lodgings with Aaron Hughes who would go on to play over 200 first team games for the Magpies and earn 112 international caps for Northern Ireland.
They were enthralled by the work of club sport scientist Paul Winsper who has held key roles at Toronto FC, Nike and now at American sports colossus Under Armour.
Jordan said: ”I have always been really interested in the physical demands of the game.
”Paul was unbelievable at his job, he was poached by Nike to be their lead Sport Scientist at their HQ in Oregon. That's the level he is working at.
”When we had Paul at Newcastle he was just an eye-opener, Aaron and I always wanted to know the science behind what we were doing on the field.”
That thread of thinking, that thirst for knowledge on how to improve as a person and a coach shines through when you spend some time with Tait.
A glance at the stellar testimonials on his Sport Careers Agency CV lets you know the impression he leaves on those he has worked with.
He looked back on where it all started and revealed: ”My first point of contact at Newcastle United was John Carver who is now the assistant manager of the Scotland National Team.
”I have known JC since I was eight years old, he is a fantastic coach and you will never get anyone better than him and Alan Irvine as on the grass coaches.
”In my days at Newcastle my first three managers were Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Ruud Gullit who all won the Ballon d'Or.
”So I try to always be grateful for the chances I have had to work with people like that and use it to become better at what I do - either in business or football.”
JORDAN TAIT ON THE SERVICE HE RECEIVED FROM SPORT CAREERS AGENCY
”I have known the Managing Director Piero Carrino for a long time and getting my CV done by the company was a no-brainer.
”I knew it would be something slick and professional that I could trust when I was applying for jobs.
”The service is enhanced now and I love reading the interviews with professionals from all over the world who are in various football roles. It's like a community and I love that.”