A few months, I greeted the retirement of Alex Ferguson with this HuffPost blog. It was a welcome development for those of us, who although recognise the man's genius, couldn't exactly wait to see the end to 'Fergie Time,' the endless terrorising of match officials and the incessant snobbing of media houses and individuals who dared to see things differently from the Glaswegian godfather.
Fast forward to last week and the release of his long-awaited autobiography. For me, it was indeed a time to face up to one those long-dreaded chores. I knew I couldn't really call myself a football fan without digesting the contents of the book. As a Liverpool fan, my Man United friends will destroy me, if I sought to criticise the publication without actually reading it (yes, they will still seek to destroy me anyway!).
As I was never going to contribute to the Alex Ferguson Pension Fund, I successfully devised other ways and means to get hold of the autobiography.
So, now it has been thoroughly consumed, I cannot tell you I was over or underwhelmed by the man's recollections. Most of it is really what you would expect from a man who cynically strode unchallenged through the British football landscape. The usual suspects like Beckham, Keane and Gerrard got the sharp edge of his infamous tongue, whilst people like Sam Allardyce who spent his own football life kissing Fergie's behind, didn't get a mention (hehehe). Apparently, the West Ham manager has said the ex- Man United manager had told him the details about him didn't make the final cut (more raucous laughter).
I bet Big Sam felt like that manservant who spent his whole life dedicated to his boss, only to find he doesn't get a mention in his will. Not even a sentence! Worse still, he then gets to hear the bits that mentioned him, were struck out by the family lawyer who clearly felt he was not worthy. In reality, I think Big Sam has been had...big time...by the Big Boss. Fergie has done a number on him and did what he has done all through his 'stellar' career...shifted the blame to others.
But getting back to more serious matters, Fergie's assertion that Steven Gerrard wasn't a top, top player (whatever that means) shows what happens when you allow an individual to reach an undeserved untouchable status. In Britain, especially in the last 30 years, everyone from the politicians (who recommended him for his knighthood), the Media (who but for a few forthright individuals, slavishly worshipped at his altar) to the football cronies (who seemed to be bereft of any useful opinion where he was concerned), contributed to this culture of permissiveness that is reserved for winners and gave birth to the cult of Ferguson.
That same spirit led to the infantile status that Paul Gascoigne, seems incapable of escaping, simply because when he needed some home truths, every Tom, Dick and Harry around the sport, pretended to be oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, just because Gazza scored a few iconic goals. Invariably, those same people found themselves running helter-skelter trying to belatedly save the man's life, when a few harsh, but frank words would have sufficed a few years ago.
In this country, once you are good at something, you are placed on a cosmetic pedestal and just allowed to defecate on everyone below with impunity. How else could anyone justify calling Gerrard anything less than a great talent? Yes, I am a Liverpool fan, but would it not destroy any credibility I have if I insist a great Man United player was anything less? Should the same standards not be extended to this man, even though he was a great football manager?
If Fergie reckons he had to be frank with all the facts, why not tell us about your son's agent dealings in the United transfer deals? Why not tell us why you reversed into childhood and decided to retract your loan players from a club that deemed it fit to sack your son? Why bombard us with dressing room tales, when you always flew into a rage when people did that in the past? Why break codes you told us should never be broken? In fact, why do you have such contrasting standards?
On the Beckham issue, one just has to laugh. What was the point of digging all that up in such a negative way? Why do a hatchet job in the book and then try to make amends in the book launch, by stating the obvious? Why bring his wife, Victoria, into it?
Yes, Beckham might have been perceived by some as bigger than Fergie in Man United, but the only people who would even take that seriously in the main, must have been jealous wasters or individuals with an acute case of inferiority complex. The main question should have been; is the player bigger then the club, and the glaring answer to that question is No!
As for Roy Keane, well, I think it will be sufficient to refer you to his reactions to the book:
'I'm quite relaxed. I do remember having conversations with the manager when I was at the club about loyalty and in my opinion I don't even think he knows the meaning of the word,' said the former United midfielder....It doesn't bother me too much what he has to say about me, but to constantly criticise other players at the club who brought him a lot of success I find very strange. But I certainly won't be losing any sleep over it.'A lot of these players helped the manager win lots of trophies so imagine what he'd have said if we'd never won a trophy."
In the final analysis, perhaps Keane's words should have been the main text of this article. I know he has his faults, but his comments captured the basic essence of a legendary football manager, but a terribly flawed man, with an equally terribly flawed autobiography.