The Football Gene Part 3

By Megan Harris Over the last 27 years the phrase “Fergie Time” has been synonymous with Manchester United and their monopoly of the domestic game. It’s pretty apt that five months on from the great man’s retirement that “Fergie time” is still going strong.

In a week where Prince George was christened, Wayne Rooney turned 28 (and made me feel old) and coffee was deemed good for us, it’s been the small matter of a book release that’s clogged up my twitter feed since Tuesday afternoon.

With the amount of interest in the media, I’m sure some people have decided against purchasing the book, because the so-called big talking points that have been raised, discussed, argued and raised again.

Everyone now knows (if they didn’t already) that:

1)   Sir Alex’s Christmas card list doesn’t extend to Benitez, Keane, and Victoria Beckham et al.

2)   He is a footballing man with a distain for the celebrity circus.

3)   Players that didn’t toe the line were quickly ousted from the United dressing room, irrespective of who they were.

For me my Thursday book marathon wasn’t about confirming the facts that I already knew (or even smashing my record for completing a book without a sun lounger or swimming pool in sight).  It was about trying to understand how he became the most successful manager the game has ever seen, the sacrifices, the decisions, the heartaches and the support network that has lead him to so many titles and ultimately to releasing a book that has raised so much global interest and controversy.

Now other than the tenuous link of me frequently stating over the last 20 years that I would love Sir Alex to be my granddad, the Ferguson family do indeed possess The Football Gene, and more specifically the management strand of it.

Don’t get me wrong they both played at a reasonable level. Ferguson senior played professionally in Scotland for ten years; being crowned the Scottish League’s leading goal scorer in the 1965-66 season, with 31 goals. He also warranted a then record fee of £65,000 when he transferred to Rangers from Dunfermline. Ferguson junior spent the majority of his playing career in the lower leagues of the English game, however he can boast something that his dad never achieved as a player, a league champions medal, albeit under the stewardship of his father.

For many this would be impressive enough, but it is in management where the Ferguson Football Gene seems to flourish fully. No coincident that the Ferguson family moto is: ‘Sweeter after difficulties’.

It must be hard for Darren, who granted hasn’t done too bad a job in his fledgling managerial career at Peterborough, despite constantly being in the shadow of his old man’s legacy. His career will undoubtedly be full of comparisons emphasizing the complex nature of The Football Gene.  But if it’s down to biology and the very words from where the name Ferguson originates, ‘vigour’ and ‘force’, he will be successful.  His father, in the softer side of his book, echoes this.

In Chapter 23 (the softer side) entitled ‘Family’ Ferguson speaks of his wife and their sons with complete admiration. Explaining who really is the boss, and who took the decision of retiring out of his hands 12 years previous.

In a telling part of this chapter Ferguson explains why he sold Darren in 1994 stating, “Neil Webb, Mick Phelan, and Paul Ince were on the scene. Then Roy Keane became available for £3.75m. That killed Darren as a first team player” Ironic don’t you think?

It’s from this that I question Keane’s accusation of his former manager ‘not knowing the meaning of loyalty”. Ferguson’s job was to manage Manchester United Football Club, the best way he saw possible to bring the club success.

His unmistakable loyalty was for the club, not for his son, not for rogue players but for Manchester United and all the trophies he won encapsulate this.

Fans support the club not the players, yes some go down in club folk law for being a one-team player or breaking club records and quite rightly so too. But all players are dispensable and once they reach the stage of not being able to help a club achieve its goal, new players will take on the baton and the cycle starts again. The only constant being the club! And it is this very point that is reverberated through out the book – Ferguson loyalty in all its glory is saved solely for the football club because of this.

If he shirked that loyalty, would United have been as successful?

If he had allowed his players to become bigger than the club, would that have created a healthy and prosperous working environment?

If he hadn’t of moved players on, would United be the most successful club English domestic football has ever seen?

Probably not, would be my answer to all those questions, but one thing is for sure it wasn’t through a lack of loyalty he led United to 38 trophies.

Whatever your opinions are on the book or the man, in years to come he will be remembered as the finest football manager the world has ever seen, not by a book that is sat on a shelf collecting dust.

Right best get on to Harry’s now…

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