Gordon Milne: ‘Besiktas was a fairytale’


A former manager of Istanbul football side Besiktas tells Anadolu Agency that good times for the club will come again

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON – It has been a difficult week for Istanbul football club Besiktas.

The Black Eagles suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat to city rivals – and Super Lig title contenders – Fenerbahce.

Monday night’s loss has severely dented Besiktas’ hopes of lifting the league title for the first time since 2009.

For one disappointed fan living at the other end of Europe, the loss was particularly galling – given that he is a former manager of the famous Black Eagles.

Legendary English manager Gordon Milne told Anadolu Agency the time he spent at one of Turkey’s biggest clubs was a “fairytale”.

“I was a bit disappointed for Besiktas,” Milne said after the Fenerbahce defeat “but” he added, “hopefully Besiktas can be successful at the end of the season”.

Anadolu Agency visited the 78-year-old at his home in the small English town called Burbage just outside Leicester.

Milne welcomed our team with a big smile with his Turkish daughter-in-law Aysen before leading us into his living room.

“I think I was there at the right time,” he says humbly.

Milne’s tenure at Besiktas between 1987 and 1994 saw one of the club’s most successful periods.

“Besiktas was the smaller club with a small budget back at that time. We developed a formula with Suleyman Seba, the Bashkan [president] and the board; we developed the team [and] success followed.”

His time in Turkey has clearly rubbed off. Milne sips from a black Turkish tea offered by Aysen.

His mind goes back to the glory days with the Black Eagles. Milne speaks highly of Besiktas’ honorary president Suleyman Seba who passed away in 2014.

“It was a mentality of being together. They weren’t their players, it wasn’t my team. We all belonged to Besiktas,” Milne says.

“The man who allowed that to happen was Suleyman Seba….It was a family…As a foreigner, I felt I belonged there,” he adds.

Milne moved to Istanbul after helping Leicester City rise to England’s First Division [which later became today’s Premiere League] in 1986.

Besiktas had a golden age under Milne, winning the Turkish Cup and three consecutive Turkish league titles, including one in 1991 without a single defeat.

Speaking about the future of Turkish football, Milne said there will be new talent emerging in the country which will be able to offer something to the global game.

“Turkey is a football country. We have to create new heroes for the kids,” he says.

Milne’s home is a shrine to his Istanbul days.

He proudly shows off his Besiktas museum full of photos from the city’s old Inonu Stadium. Old newspaper clippings telling stories of the glory days adorn the walls. Placards, posters and a large set of black-and-white prayer beads hang on a side wall – these being the Besiktas colors.

A Suleyman Seba scarf takes pride of place.

Milne says he is happy to see Besiktas’ stadium being rebuilt at its original home, with its iconic view of the Bosphorus and the city’s historic Dolmabahce Palace.

“The first time I saw the stadium, I thought what a beautiful stadium…with the setting, the Bosporus, the Dolmabahce Palace…it was beautiful.

“I hope for the opportunity to see it on its opening day. It will be quite an emotional occasion for everybody.”

Milne’s own successful playing career took him from Morecambe to Preston North End, Liverpool, Blackpool and Wigan Athletic.

Capped for England 14 times, Milne successfully went on to manage Wigan Athletic, Coventry City and Leicester City in England before moving to Besiktas.

Although he admits to not mastering the Turkish language when he was in Istanbul he still manages to end his Anadolu Agency interview with a success wish for his former charges:

“Besiktas’a Basarilar.”