Ian Baird is a man with a rich and varied career in football, from managing a country to describing himself as “George Best with no ability”.

The 52-year-old, now assitant boss at Sutton United, made more than 500 appearances in a career that began as a Cardiff City trainee in 1980.

He won promotion to the old First Division with Leeds United in 1990, skippered the club to the 1988 FA Cup semi-final and play-offs, and returned many years later as co-commentator for Radio Leeds.

With a reputation as a no-nonsense, hard-hitting midfielder, his skills were bought by 10 top flight sides, as well as aboard.

He said: “Most people remember me for playing for Leeds – but I pretty much enjoyed wherever I was playing.

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“Leeds is special to me, I had such a good rapport with the supporters - I won players’ player of the year, player of the year, got a Championship medal. It was an unbelievable club to play for.

“People do not realise, unless they have been to a Leeds game or been to an away game, how passionate their supporters are.

“I am from Southampton, and I support Saints, but it is different level when you are playing for Leeds United.”

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Another group of fans that took Baird to their heart were those of Brighton & Hove Albion, and it was a battle at the wrong end of the entire Football League where he made his mark.

In the 1996-97 season, the Seagulls were fighting for their Football League survival and were 13 points adrift at the foot of Division Three – and the nail-biting story would go down to the final game of the season.

It was a winner takes all trip to Hereford United where a point would secure the Seagulls’ league status and send Hereford down in their place.

The Seagulls were also about to be made homeless after majority shareholder Bill Archer and chief executive David Bellotti sold the Goldstone Ground for development.

Baird entered this maelstrom midway through the season.

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“I was at Plymouth, and Jimmy Case [then Brighton manager] took me on and explained all the problems to me about the likes of Bellotti,” he said.

“To be honest, as a player, all you are bothered about is making sure you get your wage, and you’re not really taking any notice of what he is saying.

“I played at Brighton on many occasions, I have been there with Leeds and Middlesbrough, and it was always a favourite place of mine to go - and as soon as I got there as a player, I knew the importance of survival.”

He added: “Brighton are a big club, and I could not believe what was happening.

“It took a strain on Jimmy, that’s for sure, and he was not the man he was normally with all the pressure.

“Then he was sacked and we were 12 points adrift at Christmas – they brought in Steve Gritt, and he brought a different kind of management.

“It got to February and March time, then all of a sudden Doncaster Rovers and Hereford were sucked into it – we had to beat Doncaster in the final game.

“Unfortunately Darren Moore and I got involved in a scuffle, we got sent off, I think [Stuart] Storer scored to win it.”

He added: “Then we had to go to Hereford and get at least a point.

“I remember on the Friday before the game that Des Lynam [TV presenter and Brighton fan] was saying it is unbelievable and a disgrace, and the realisation of Brighton going out of the Football League really hit home.

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“We had to get the result, and we did, a 1-1 draw, and it was a massive, massive relief.”

Baird’s book – “Bairdy’s Gonna Get Ya!” by Marc Bracha – proclaims to be a brutally honest account of the rough and ready world of football in the 1980s.

But he could also write a book about football in the Orient after coming out of retirement at the age of 35 to play in Hong Kong.

He said: “I had about six months left on my Brighton contract – but a surgeon told me I should not play pro football anymore because of my knee – so I decided to retire.

“I had a phone call from Mick Leonard who played in Hong Kong, and he said they were desperate for a striker.

“I went for a month’s trial and ended up signing an 18-month deal. My knee flared up again and they offered me a coaching role, and it ended up with me managing the side.”

He added: “Then I was put in charge of the national side for the Asian Cup qualifiers and we played in Jakarta in front of 75,000 people, and then in Cambodia in front of 1,200 people – it was certainly an experience that is for sure.”