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Norman Whiteside: I never hid my drinking from Fergie

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Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside

Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside

Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside

Norman Whiteside has lifted the lid on the drinking culture during his playing days at Manchester United.

The Belfast-born star had a reputation for enjoying a beer with other Red Devils such as Paul McGrath and Bryan Robson.

But Norman denied he was shipped out of Old Trafford when Sir Alex Ferguson took over because of any boozy antics.

"There was a hardcore of the boys that would go out socialising," he told a BBC documentary.

"The press was giving us a bit of a hard time. I was being followed by a tabloid, Paul was being followed and so was Bryan. But 48 hours before a game we would never have gone out on a drinking session.

"On Sunday the boys would normally meet up and we'd sit all day and drink Guinness.

"At the end of the night we'd do the usual - have a curry, sing a few Irish songs and have a laugh."

The 55-year-old remembers Fergie ringing the changes when he was appointed boss.

"We're all sat in the gymnasium and he (Fergie) turned round and said something like, 'I'm the manager. I don't care who you are. I'm the boss here at Manchester United'," he said.

"He was putting down the law that he was coming in to change things - and that's what he did.

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Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson

"When you're manager at Manchester United, everyone is just picking the phone up. If they see you in Manchester, they pick the phone up and ring the club.

"I never tried to hide anything. I'd go in and say, 'Before anyone rings you, I was out last night'.

"He'd say, 'I was waiting all night to tell you off and you just came in and told me the truth'."

But Fergie got serious after Norman appeared in an infamous Granada TV interview in January 1989 with McGrath, who had been drinking before going on air.

"One of us was drunk - and it wasn't me. People got a laugh out of that afterwards," he said.

"Paul was really nervous, so I think he had a few shots. It looked as though both of us were drunk, but I can assure you I wasn't. The manager had strong words with Paul because he found out he'd had a couple of drinks.

"I think the club even invited Paul to terminate his contract.

"I went off to do some rehab and I was there for two weeks. I think that they just tried to split us up, basically."

Norman doesn't think his drinking affected his performance on the pitch, but he accepts that it was excessive by today's standards.

"In hindsight, I probably could have done a bit less of the drinking, but at that time you're thinking you're a professional athlete and can run it off. I thought I was doing alright," he said.

Whiteside, who was sold to Everton in 1989, also admitted that when he learned at the age of 26 that his career had been ended by a knee injury, he "put the duvet over my head and had a good cry".

Norman Whiteside: This Sporting Life is on BBC One NI at 7.30pm on September 11

Belfast Telegraph