The other side to Sir Alex

I have to join the rest of the footballing community in wishing a speedy recovery to Sir Alex Ferguson in what is a very worrying time for everyone who knows, loves and respects him.

I had the pleasure of interviewing on two occasions and found him nothing but fun and respectful.

On one of these occasions I was working for the Hartlepool Mail covering my beloved Pools; and Chris Turner took the job as manager. As anyone knows who covers football for a local paper with just one team, finding new and exciting copy on a daily basis is something of a challenge, particularly in the lower leagues when no-one has any international tales to tell, the club barely makes any new signings during the season and trying to find enough things to say about a head-to-head with Torquay United on Saturday six days in a row can, as I say, be a challenge. At the time (age definitely shown here) there was no social media and newspapers had been slow to adopt the internet, so a lot of us didn’t have websites and those that did hadn’t a club how to use them.

So with two page leads to write six days a week; a further four pages on a Monday and a Saturday football paper that was anywhere between 16 and 32 pages, we dug deep for copy.

Chris was with Alex Ferguson at Man United, so that was good enough for me to dare to ask for a few words from the great man to grace the pages of my humble paper. I found out the name of his secretary and sent a fax (ask your dad) asking for a quote from Alex on Turner’s first solo job. I thought I’d get a couple of sentences scribbled down and sent back, if I was very lucky. The following day Mr F’s secretary gave me a call.

Sec: “He said, just ring him.”
Me: “Eh??”
Sec: “He said, just ring him.”
Me: “Are you kidding?”
Sec (laughing): “No.”

So I arranged to call him the following day, did not sleep all night, went to the library to do some research (still sounding ancient) and pretty much shook and bit my nails for the next 24 hours.

The day arrived and I nervously picked up the phone. Hearing that famous Glaswegian drawl almost rendered me unable to speak. He probably knew that and so patiently answered my stuttering questions about Chris and added in anecdotes of his own. In the end we were chatting merrily about Posh and Becks and all sorts, I was actually waiting for an invite to Sunday dinner by the end but that might have been a stretch too far. Mind looking back, I probably should have asked!

So that was my first encounter with that lovely man. I can’t bear the thought that he’s not invincible but I truly hope he pulls through. The world’s not finished with you yet Sir Alex. Keep fighting.