Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Fergie time all over again as unrepentant Scot gets even

No holds barred: Alex Ferguson

I have never quite understood why revenge is supposed to be a dish best served cold. Surely, it stands to reason, it's a dish best served piping hot, directly from the oven?

Then it's fresh, it's got bite and it tastes like it's meant to taste. Who on earth wants a plate of tepid vengeance?

So Sir Alex Ferguson should be congratulated for getting straight into the kitchen to boil up a cauldron as soon as he blew full time on his trophy-laden career as a football manager.

Very few reputations survive without being scalded by Ferguson in his just-released autobiography, entitled, aptly enough, My Autobiography. (Some have suggested that the title of the book should really be Settling Scores: I can't understand why they didn't go for Adding Insult to Injury Time. Also, I notice that he dropped his knightly appellation on the front of the book, preferring to be plain Alex. Pray, why the bashfulness all of a sudden, Sir A?)

As a Manchester City supporter, I have a soft spot for Sir Alex. He gave focus and meaning to our partisan feelings.

He was a paragon, a man we could both hate and envy. A man who represented success and stability. A man who took great delight in his superiority. And who among us can blame him for that?

I'm not exactly saying that we miss him, but the reaction to his autobiography has reminded me of the passion he inspires in both followers and adversaries and how, in this image-managed, corporate-speak world, that is surely no bad thing?

Graham Taylor said on the radio that if you are going to write an autobiography, it has to be a truthful account and that, if you do tell the truth (at least, the truth as far as you see it), some people are going to be hurt and/or furious.

Taylor is right: so many life stories of sports figures are edited, air-brushed and manicured within an inch of their lives that it's refreshing to see raw opinions dispensed by such an illustrious figure as Sir Alex.

With his career now behind him, Ferguson has the luxury of not worrying what anyone in the game thinks of him.

Stiffened by the unshakeable belief in his own virtue, Ferguson won't be concerned by the ex-players who have already taken exception to his criticism. And nor should we. (Roy Keane, a man lucky to escape a GBH charge for the tackle that ended Alf-Inge Haaland's career in 2001, is a particularly unreliable witness.)

I was more interested in Ferguson's take on politics and his association with the Labour Party, which developed in his early career as a shop steward in the shipyards of Govan.

He was more Brownite than Blairite – I cannot imagine what attracted Ferguson to the ruthlessly single-minded, control-freak Scot – and he says his natural position is on the left of the party. It is admirable that his conviction hasn't changed with all the wealth and success he accumulated.

"In my youth," he writes, "I acquired not so much a range of ideological views as a way of seeing life, a set of values."

Most books of this genre are written to a formula, more auto than biography, so whatever you think of Ferguson – and this is a difficult sentiment for me to express – it's good to have him back in our lives.

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