To his detractors, he was a ill-tempered, ill-disciplined, and downright dirty player. To his fans, he was hard-working, committed, and could always be relied upon to give “110%”. You either loved him or you hated him — but whichever it was, didn’t particularly bother Danny Tiatto.
“As far as I'm concerned, Danny Tiatto doesn't exist.” These are the famous words once uttered by Manchester City manager, Kevin Keegan, towards the end of Tiatto’s days at the club. That’s right, these were comments about his own player.
“I can't abide people going on with an attitude like that. Tiatto will be fined the maximum I can. It was stupid and I won't put up with it.” Yep, that’s Keegan again.
“He's not in my plans – he's not an issue.” No that’s not Keegan this time. They’re the words of Queensland Roar coach, Ange Postecoglou, shortly before terminating Danny’s contract with the club.
By his own admission, he’s not the most popular player to have ever played the game. At a time when other home-grown superstars Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell were highlighting the ability of Australian players in the English Premier League, Danny Tiatto was there too. He may not have had the skills of the former, and definitely not the boyish good looks of the latter — but Danny was forging a career of his own.
He made 139 appearances over five seasons for Manchester City, and probably would have been many more if not for the six dismissals he accrued in this period.
He also represented Australia on 23 occasions, but again discipline was an issue, as he was suspended in crucial stages of the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifying campaign in 2002.
Despite, or maybe because of, his attitude, Tiatto was extremely popular with supporters of his own club — if not fans of opposition clubs. He was adjudged Manchester City’s player of the season in 2000-01, and again in 2004-05, this time for Leicester City.
Danny was nice enough to speak to us at Lesson In Pride on the eve of the World Cup, so maybe… just maybe the “hardman” act was just that — an act.
A big thanks to our contacts at the club for passing on his details, and of course, Danny himself for giving up a few minutes to talk with us.
LiP: Firstly Danny, do you still keep an eye on City’s results?
Tia-tia-tiatto: Definitely, yeah. I had a good time there, so I do see how they’re travelling.
Your time at Manchester City was the longest spell at a club during your career. Do you look back at your time with the Blues fondly?
Yeah as I said, I spent five years there — it was an enjoyable time. We got promoted a number of times while I was there, and got relegated and then promoted again, so yeah, a good and enjoyable time.
It would have been interesting, if nothing else.
What do you think about the changes to the club in the years you’ve left?
Pretty good actually, I wouldn’t mind being there myself at the moment!
Especially with some of the money being thrown around...
Yeah, there’s some decent coin being thrown around... you know the club has always had great potential but just never reached it. But with the new owners, they’re definitely going in the right direction, spending some money and they want to win titles.
The term “hardman” is used a lot to describe you. But you don’t get to play in the Premier League or represent your country without also being incredibly skillful. Are you disappointed that some people choose to neglect this about you?
It doesn’t really bother me too much, I achieved my goals of playing for Australia, and playing for Man City... playing in the Premiership, so being labelled as that doesn’t really bother me at all. I done what I had to do to get myself there, and like I said it didn’t bother me, it was just a label I got just because I got sent off every now and then. I don’t think it hampered my progress in becoming a professional footballer.
Probably the two most popular players at City last season were undoubtedly the hardest-working — Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy. Is that why you gained the following and support that you did?
They’re the boys you want in your team, they get stuck in, they work hard, and every now and then they’re going to get themselves in a bit of trouble, but that’s the fine line you have to walk as a footballer if you want to achieve things.
Rather than those ‘Fancy Dan’ types that run off back home to Brazil in January... but the less said about that the better...
Back to the Carnivale... yeah look you need hard workers and that’s the main thing.
The rise in the popularity of the Premier League in this country in the early 2000s can be attributed to the amount of Aussies playing the League — yourself, Lucas Neill, Kewell, Mark Schwarzer and Mark Viduka — are you happy with the legacy you guys passed on, where people in Australia are more passionate about the game than ever?
Yeah definitely, there’s always been interest, but all the Australian players have not just paved the way for the Australian public to watch the games, but also for other young Australians to come through and perform in the Premier League.
And what about Australia’s chances in the World Cup?
We’ve always got a chance... but we’ll see how we progress. If we win that first game, I think we’re well on our way really.
You’re 36 now... Is there enough life in the legs for one last hurrah in the A-League? There was a lot of talk at one point about you joining the Melbourne Heart?
Definitely not the A-League, I’m a bit all over that sort of stuff, I’m just having a kick-about with my old Melbourne Knights team and just having a bit more fun for the next year or so.
Finally, Kevin Keegan was once quoted as saying "As far as I'm concerned, Danny Tiatto doesn't exist." Can you confirm that you are the real Danny Tiatto and are in fact a real person?
Ha ha, I’m the real Danny Tiatto mate. And yeah, I loved Kevin Keegan as much as he loved me...