Looking back at my life, being around the greatest manager ever, for a quarter of a century was a completely surreal experience.
I was close to him for a long period, I was practically shunned for a length of time, there were fractious moments for sure, but equally brilliant times, and whilst there is a widespread public perception that he could be volatile, there were many times when he was (is) extraordinarily kind, thoughtful and hugely generous.
The man is an absolute legend, it was a great privilege to have had such a long association.
I learned so much about life in general from being in his vicinity.
Speaking about my experiences to business people and fans in general is something I really enjoy.
Please feel free to get in touch if you wish me to come along and talk to your business, society, supporters club or gatherings.
It won’t cost you the earth. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
To give you a flavour, below is an extract from an article published in the hugely popular fanzine, United We Stand.
As the Manchester United team bus meandered through the busy streets of Dublin, Sir Alex Ferguson became increasingly animated whilst gazing through the front window.
The vehicle carrying the club’s first ever double winning squad was passing through Merrion Square and a wall plaque denoting the former home of the famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde had clearly struck a chord with him.
Enthusiastically he leapt up from his seat, twisted his neck to the right and shouted out in his unmistakeable Glaswegian brogue : “ Lad’s we’re just passing the former home of Oscar Wilde.”
The response from down the aisle was decidedly mooted, not a single murmuring, nor a solitary cursory glance.
Fergie’s enthusiasm was clearly not being shared by his players. He bellowed up : “ Do none of you know who Oscar Wilde is. “
After several seconds of silence one International star uttered out aloud : “ Is it Kim’s dad. “
Whilst far from irate, the United manager was slightly aghast that nobody in his playing staff appreciated, or even cared of his moment of literary sentiment.
The ambience then became light hearted, as he accused the senior players of being in the ignoramus category, whilst urging those of younger persuasion to pay some attention to Wilde’s contributions.
How do I know this to be true, simply because I was seated directly behind Sir Alex. The whole short trip was a truly amazing experience. I actually got screamed at by hordes of teenage girls whilst disembarking the bus. Or at least I think it was me they were screaming at, I’m sure that Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe stepping off behind me had nothing to do with it.
During the trip I actually saw Sir Alex undermined for the one and only time, when a member of the Irish Police Force flagged the bus down on a duel carriageway in order to collect some autographs. Take it from me the Garda Siochana’s actions did not go down well.
You might ask how I was afforded such privileged access, answer, I was actually very close to Sir Alex at the time during my journalistic role as Clubcall reporter, (BT’s former pay per listen Radio service) whilst doubling up to assist the United’s match day radio service on 1413 AM.
I love working on Sky Sports Soccer Saturday, but looking back, those heady days in the early nineties were not just the finest of my professional career, I’d go as far to say that period gave me some of the best days of my entire life.
Having volunteered at Burnley Hospital Radio for five and a half years, my professional break occurred when Burnley FC signed up to the Clubcall service in 1988.
Then when Clubcall set up regional offices around the country, I got a North West staff job.
It still hadn’t been deemed who was going to be United’s reporter.
I was sent down initially to the old Cliff Training ground in Salford on a trial basis.
Somehow Fergie and I just clicked, he felt comfortable with me being around the place.
Season 1988/89 was a good time to get to know him. It is almost as though that arduous campaign has been air brushed out of United history.
It seems absurd to think of Sir Alex having insecurities, but I recall a great interview, when he spoke of his discomfort at only twenty three thousand fans attending a rearranged Thursday home game against Wimbledon in May of 1989.
I recall how hurt and offended he was when a former Liverpool star advocated an OBE, ten years prior to his knighthood. This OBE translated to Out By Easter.
His focus, drive and discipline never wavered though. I remember innocently rocking up at The Cliff the day he reprimanded Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath for a serious breach, that had somehow escaped national media attention.
I could hear the tone of his anger echoing half way through the building.
That was the day I learned the meaning of the word apoplectic.
There were so many privileges.
The adrenaline of the title coming home in 1993 after 26 years still sends a shudder down my spine.
Sir Alex was delighted to take my call at home to conduct an interview in the aftermath of Oldham’s victory at Aston Villa.
Defying Ned Kelly to join the team on the lap of honour after the Blackburn win and trophy lift was electric.
I remember a Fergie man hug and Lee Sharpe showing me his medal before I interviewed him in the finest Old Trafford vibe I ever experienced.
The television footage is a pleasant reminder.
Laps of honour and dressing room access after major triumphs became a brilliant regularity.
It is really peculiar that in thirty professional years of football journalism, the two strongest emotions I experienced occurred whilst sitting on buses.
There I was in Dublin, experiencing that unbelievable thrill.
An accepted figure with the biggest and greatest club on earth, no money anywhere could have bought what I had and was experiencing, six years prior, I was still in an ordinary job.
Now I had the ear of a man who was forging his reputation as the greatest manager ever, we had a great trust, we did countless interviews, he’d inform me of matters on and off the record, and he’d mark my card when big things were about to happen. I had all of his phone numbers.
Fast forward another five years and I had to contain emotion that was in stark contrast to Ireland.
There I was, sitting at the front of the media bus in the bowels of the Nou Camp Stadium, with a desperate feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I’d been paid to commentate on United beating Spurs to regain the 1999 Premier League Title, the FA Cup Final win against Newcastle, and now the treble with the last gasp victory over Bayern Munich.
I feel really guilty revealing this, but the truth is that I didn’t really enjoy any of it, and how could anyone in my position say that.
Basically because I’d got on the wrong side of Sir Alex, and when it happened, things changed dramatically.
A previously close working relationship transcended into a fractious and at times farcical stand off for many years.
What did I do to suffer such a fate ?.
The answer, attend the game at Anfield on the 5th of May 1999, and how I wished that I never had.
Why can we never rewind the clock.?
What did I do wrong ? Why did we tolerate each other for so long afterwards ?, and how did we end up becoming pally once more ?.
Coping in the dog house, he had me in there for three and a half years, not to mention the hair dryers, except one day I’d had one hair dryer too many and took a huge gamble.
Being on his wrong side was the best media training ever.
He once banned fifty eight journalists in one fell swoop and it was all his fault, all fifty eight of us were completely innocent.
There was also an occasion when he shoulder charged me in Manchester Airport arrivals whilst on Sky Sports News duty, this after I’d had the temerity to broach a sensational frenzied story, which had gone completely off the Richter scale.
All of it captured by seven different television cameras and beamed on news bulletins across the globe. Embarrassing or what.?
I’ve developed my own talk, The Fergie Factor, reflecting candidly on these unbelievable times.
I’m still in awe of him and love sharing my Fergie experiences with fans and business groups alike.
To spend 25 years around the greatest ever manager , was simply incredible.