Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

An open letter to Greg Baum

Dear Greg
That must be the sourest column of yours that I have ever read. Fergie was no angel, but you do not rack up the contribution to the game of football that he has made over his career by luck, violence, bad manners and other people's money. If it were that easy everyone would do it. The dominance of Manchester United is not accidental as the careers of some of its managers demonstrates and Fergie's first half-dozen years in the post confirms.

Matt Busby built two great teams in his long tenure in the post on the basis of equally iron control of the whole operation, which he could hardly relinquish when it came to an end. Before and during Busby's career there were periods of less than stellar success, but usually attacking football and style even when the 'cattle' were not up to it. Fergie has done that and more. He did not inherit a youth team. He set in place the structure which enabled several cohorts to flourish and one to excel. Alan Hansen said you cannot win anything with kids, but Fergie did. He saw and moulded some of the fiercest men in the game making them better players and disposing of them when their contribution fell short of what he needed for his unrelenting pursuit of success.

In all high level competitive team sport if you do not have control of the dressing room and your working environment you don't last a week, something Ferguson learned as a player at Rangers and Ayr United and practised at East Stirling, St Mirren, Aberdeen and United. He learned the hard way and also from one of the greatest managers and another who insisted on control of his club, Jock Stein, both while Stein was at Celtic and in the sad final days with Scotland in 1985. I don't think you appreciate the apprenticeship he went through in the backwoods of Scotland, where he never had a fraction of the resources he was later to command. He did that with more than a little success. But that is only haggisography (Loved that opening line).

As to his contribution to the wider world, Ferguson is one of the largest individual contributors to the British Labour Party. He has just been lecturing to the Harvard Business School, not something that came the way of Kevin Sheedy. Sheedy went to Manchester to find out how Fergie managed his empire incidentally. He will be probably be offered a life peerage for his services to the game and the wider British society. He has worked hard to improve the status of managers in football as well as assisting many of them by helping them in finding and rejecting jobs. He has had a huge influence on the redevelopment of the Old Trafford stadium which is unrecognisable since the days when I used to watch United on alternate weekends with City at Maine Road in the 1950s.

You do not believe that sport is somehow divorced from business these days surely? So if someone is signally able to combine the two successfully, why should this be a strike against him? By the standards of some of the business leaders going around Fergie is far less duplicitous and a lot more transparent and he is judged every week in public in a way that most are not.

As to his attitude to referees. Of course they are always agin him when United lost and some of his rants and browbeating make me grue. Even though I was one for some years I still behaved badly towards them at times when I was coaching. I don¹t say that to excuse Fergie, but given what was a stake at top level he insisted on professional performance to the highest standards and when this was lacking, in his eyes, he spoke out. He did a lot behind the scenes to improve the quality of officiating.

I write this as a member of FC-United, which is in the play-offs for the Conference North. Just this morning the latest issue of the Pink Edition arrived by email.

On Saturday men, women and children all over Manchester will awake knowing that, by the end of the day, glory could be theirs. An armada of coaches will be filled with songs of hope, trains will clatter to the rhythm of excited chatter and mates will stuff themselves into reluctant, groaning cars as fans head south for the most important game of this season. This is it. FC United of Manchester, going out to play at 3pm on a Saturday, against HednesfordTown, in the play-off final.

This has been an amazing season. Not only has the team won a record points haul, but plans are finally being made to start digging in Moston. Owning our own ground is now more than a terrace song of intent. It's finally a clear and tangible reality. The club has arrived and the club is here to stay.

Manchester is more than United, and more than Fergie, but he is huge part of the city and the game and we would all be poorer without him.

Roy Hay


  1. with a family that migrated from Manchester and following the sky blue club I was somewhat conflict with the Ferguson announcement.

    Yes we can point to many faults at his time at Manchester United... what can not be denied is his record at Aberdeen and the fact he seems to have loyalty from his players - even those he has had confrontations with.

    Nobody is perfect. Mick Malthouse is known for falling out with people and not being humble in defeat, Kevin Sheedy has said some of the most absurd things. Both would be given nothing but praise if the announced their retirement.

    If you looked at personality traits you would probably find similarities between Ferguson and other winners like Vince Lombardi....

    As Noel Gallagher said "He's Fergie and he is an institution of course we will miss him"

  2. He got the United job based on what he did with Aberdeen,that team which was packed with youngsters won the European Cup-Winners Cup,by beating Real Madrid 2-1,and they also eliminated Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals,and they then beat Hamburg to win the European Supercup.And you will find that the nucleus of the team that won the Champions League were graduates of their youth system(Beckham,Scholes,Gary and Phil Neville,Giggs).Yes,he might be a git,but a very successful one at that.