Sir, Your ‘Fergie Time’ Is Over by Dave Gouldson

fergie watch

 

You know ‘that feeling’ that you experience when a famous star or iconic figure suddenly dies and a strange shade seems to hang over everybody on that particular day but you can’t describe exactly how you feel, you walk past friends and colleagues and greet them with just a little less of a smile on your face. You also find later in life you can strongly recall that day’s events and how it all unfolded. Many people over the years have told to me about where they were and what they were doing when Princess Diana died and I’ve read stories of how John Lennon’s tragic end effected fans around the world.

I am by no means here to inform the country on the passing of a famous Iconic person. I am just writing to acknowledge the end of a true sporting achievement and one that leaves me feeling close to what I can only describe as ‘that feeling’. It’s a feat which stands head and shoulders above most achievements in the game of football. I am of course talking about the career and retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

It’s fair to say that if you live under a rock which lay deep beneath the ocean on a distant planet orbiting a sun in a galaxy far far away then it’s possible you haven’t heard the news. Yes Sir Alex has finally had enough and his trophy cabinet is finally full.

It’s a story that deserves everybody’s attention even just for a second. It’s not just a story for the United supporters or even just football supports for that matter, it lies deeper than that. It echoes through all the major professional sports and hangs high among the greatest sporting achievements the world over as any athlete, manager or coach would crave such a long standing and prestigious position in their sport.

I am sure he sat down with his wife and discussed the finer details to make sure the time was right. They would have to discuss the key issues for example; how can the chewing gum empire survive without him, will his hip replacement still give him the accuracy of guiding a boot to the face but ultimately how the new bedroom tax would mean they just couldn’t afford to continue filling the house with new silverware and so this time it just feels right.

The last time he retired was in 2002 and it was purely about retirement and how he looked forward to that side of life. He was a man still keen and still able to do the job and when the decision was made he hadn’t realised how much he would miss the beautiful game and came back to dominate for another decade despite his age.

As he defied his own age he also defied the time lords of the 90 minute game by barking out his opinion on the amount of remaining minutes and tapping frantically on his watch in the general direction of the man in black when he won so many games in that ‘minute after’ the last minute of the game, Fergie time is over, yeah for real this time.

In true Fergie fashion he has left us in squeaky bum time to ponder on his successor but to succeed in his seat would be one of the hardest jobs in the game. When a club demands success and the manager delivers then he will receive the fans blessing but anything less than 1st place and that blessing is easily forgotten. Manchester United could be heading in the same spiral as Chelsea; they are a club where time costs more than money. Chelsea has the right players and they have a strong fan base but they just don’t have the right structure as they won’t allow a manager to grow within the club. United have to choose correctly and give the chosen one time in the job as Fergie was given in the beginning or they may find themselves in a silverware recession.

When you read this the decision of his replacement may have been announced however it seems the papers currently lead with David Moyes as the front runner, closely followed by Jose Mourinho for the job which is understandable as both managers have separate but valid reasons why they would suit the club. Moyes is all about structure, development and finding value in the right players so he could help develop the club for years to come but for all his work he hasn’t won a thing and that is a risk. Mourinho is a winner there is no doubt about it but when the going gets tough and his club ask for commitment he bails out so its ‘no way Jose’ for the special one in my opinion. It does seem that each has their own strengths but also have obvious weakness’s which makes neither the ideal replacement but such is the task of replacing a true long term winner of the game.

There is that third choice that has made the smaller inches of the papers and that seems a good fit. That third choice is Jurgen Klopp who is a game away from a true achievement. His team stands in the final of the Champions League and he builds a team in the right way. He doesn’t have the same profile of Mourinho but he is a winner and he hasn’t had to work as hard as Moyes but he believes in development. As a footballing community we all seem happy to see that ‘tikki taka’ football is yesterday’s news and German efficiency is the new way to play which is a style that Fergie admires. With an added bonus Klopp could persuade some of his better players to join him.

In my opinion Klopp seems like the right fit and in case you have missed that he announced his decision on the 8th of May or VE Day (Victory in Europe Day which was the day in 1945 when the allied forces accepted Germany’s surrender) may too fit with Fergie. With this in mind and a hope that the papers have it wrong it could indeed be a German invasion however this time we have left our doors wide open.

It is clear there are no guarantees of success on any chosen manager but what is certain is no matter your club or country of origin you cannot deny his achievement and every back page sport section of every paper around the globe will no doubt show their own respects to a man whose time is well and truly served.

Dave GDavid Gouldson is 28 years old and lives in Hull. He is an argumentative sod and he supports Manchester United. He knows a lot about Bob Dylan and is a skilled gambler. He used to be in a band who did a decent cover of Secret Agent Man by Blues Traveller. He and Mr Miles have been known to argue bitterly for hours on the issue of England’s greatest ever left-back.

No Cliche – The End Of An Era by Paul Featherstone

Alex-Ferguson

Football, eh? Bloody Hell!

In the end it wasn’t long and drawn out. Wasn’t because of a heart scare. Wasn’t because they just weren’t competing like they used to.
It was on his own terms, when he decided, when he thought it was right for Sir Alex Ferguson to go.
26 years is a hugely long time in football, especially in today’s game. A few poor results, one player turning on you and you are usually gone. Football throws around so many terms and cliches with such casual abandon it’s become a cliche in itself; but today genuinely is the end of an era. Mainly- the era of a manager being given time.
Will any another manager be given the space to slowly build a squad that can deliver the title regularly one day? Look at Liverpool’s efforts. Look at the pressure Wenger is now under to deliver a trophy. It’s going to be a hugely difficult job to keep the hounds of the press and the stands at bay if two games without a win, becomes four at United. That never happened with Ferguson from the FA Cup win onwards- because he was that good, but also because of the stature he was allowed to build.
It will happen now. One bad fixture list, 12th place after 5 games, they’ll be feeling that pressure.
Ferguson is one of those figures whom, if you didn’t support United, it was just too easy to hate. He loved riling up the opposition as much as anyone else in the game. Yet, Ferguson is one of those hugely successful people who was always destined for that.
In this country, if you’re the very best you’re hated at the top, then the nostalgia kicks in when you flop. Ferguson never really did flop in the Premier League years, so people just went on hating.
Steve Davis in Snooker, Diego Maradona and David Beckham in Football, Mike Tyson in Boxing- all hated at the top in this country, all now taken to the nation’s bosom as sporting treasures.
Ferguson was always the kind of spiky customer I was never going to warm to, but you just cannot help but respect him. As the years went on, I listened to his interviews more because you realised, no matter how it seemed, he wouldn’t be around forever. If you met him, you would know you were near a modern sporting great. Howard Wilkinson, league title winner, he is not.
Yes, the BBC interview ban was petty. Yes, his treatment of players he no longer wanted, such as Stam, Keane and Beckham, was shoddy. Yes, his lack or respect for officials was, at times,  inexcusable….but to paraphrase John Lennon- to get ahead in that game you have to be a bastard, and he was the biggest bastard going.
Every team chasing silverware will be rejoicing him going. Every fan who has to sit and watch them win, over and over again, will be rubbing their hands. They know its something you don’t see very often, and it just blew the league apart.
A huge blow, and an ironic one given his relationship with them over the years, will be to England. How many football teams are still building their teams around young, English talent? Ferguson is leaving because he thinks the current crop are good enough for someone to carry on with as a starting block.
Beckham, Ferdinand, Rooney, Scholes, Neville- before you even begin with all the fringe players, his teams have hugely contributed to England squads. For many, England fail because they cant cope with defeat and bounce back- the shirt “hangs heavy”. Given the fact half the team is from United, it’s probably true.
This isn’t designed to be a glowing eulogy, there have been countless times I’ve wished he just disappear. Yet, in a time when characters are in short supply, he will be missed. Just look at Snooker and Ronnie O’ Sullivan to see what happens when your characters dry up.
In true Ferguson fashion, you can imagine the wee glint in his eye as his opponents hurried around to take stock this morning, the cat firmly amongst the pigeons.
In his sudden departure, after a season which seemed a procession, he has given the game in this country a huge surge of excitement. He will enjoy that as much as anyone. Because hate him or love him, you can’t deny that he is a football man through and through.
True football men are in short supply, and we lost one from the game this morning. When Ashley Cole storms out of his job because the Chairmen won’t give him £100 million to spend in January 2027, you will speak of his sort not being around anymore.
Go on admit it, you’ll miss him a bit, even as the pantomime villain.
Football, eh? Bloody hell……….
Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff

The Curious Case of Michael Owen by Dave Gouldson

owen injury2

 

They say it feels like a flash in the pan and its over before you know it.  A world filled with excitement and thrills where every year the chance of glory awaits. The modern day professional footballer experiences a life filled with riches and glamour, it’s obviously a highly profitable but short career.

These days most people in the real world who are close to the half century of their journey will probably be retiring in their 60’s. Scarily most people of my age will be working until they drop dead but given a rare day off near the end to craft their own coffins and dig their own graves due to the fall of the government as there will be no money left in the pot and the rich will have deserted this broken country and moved for a life in England 2.0 but that’s another story for another day.

Generally, top footballers find their playing careers over when their reaching their mid 30’s (A certain Welsh wizard being the exception to the rule) and can choose to retire at the top or drop down ungracefully from league to league, year after year until they seem slower than Gareth Barry with a broken leg. With no other skills or usually no noticeable intelligence for that matter they are left with no job and no income. I know what you’re thinking: ‘How unfortunate, these poor men must be starving,’ well not quite. Of course there is a glimmer of hope, they can get that illustrious shiny role on the BBC or on sky sports where they talk about football in such dull a tone and slow speed whilst gasping for air that you feel you are watching a man having a slow drawn out heart attack on live TV (if only it was something so exciting).

Unfortunately not all players are given this general vision of the end of their career, in the curious case of Michael Owen his career seemed to go on forever, with every season he was denying to the world and himself the fact that his legs retired in 2006. He must look at those legs from time to time and plead with them to respond, those legs that once ruled Europe and slayed any opponent who dared approach the ball at their feet. These days though Michael’s legs strangely resemble that of a pack mule crippling under the strain and the the only response he seems to receive from them is ‘Look Michael for the last time I’ll kick all you want but I’m not running’.

In 2005 he spent a fairly successful but unnoticed season at Real Madrid in La Liga. He ended the season with the highest ratio of goals scored to number of minutes played (those minutes were short), he scored 18 goals from 41 games, 15 of which were starts. However his profile outside of the game was a mouse among elephants and didn’t stand tall enough for the fickle Real Madrid fans as the only one in the Bernabeu stadium who seemed to own an Owen shirt was the man himself and so after just one season he packed his trunk and said goodbye to the circus.

As history tells it he saw the job advertisement in the paper that read ‘Job available, an Alan Shearer is needed at Newcastle due to the current one running himself into the ground for an impossible dream, must have experience and believe that a Premiership position is for life not just for a successful season’. Michael seemed perfect for the position due to his experience, his winning ways and being unaware of what relegation meant. It seemed like a match made in heaven, until of course the football side of it came into play.

Michael, why oh why did you ever choose to step on that special fibre-sand grass surface at Newcastle’s ‘state of the art’ training facility? You should have been wrapping those legs in cotton wool like the newspapers always stated before an international tournament. So true was the case that in 2006 Graeme Souness ordered the team to abandon the pitch and move to the under 21’s training ground as he had several players out with hamstrings and groin strains (Michael included). Unfortunately Souness’ gain was Glenn Roeder’s Academy player’s loss as he moved his junior players onto the pitch and suffered in a similar way.

The Newcastle training pitch has long been known to be an elephant graveyard which is a place where, according to legend, older elephants instinctively direct themselves when they reach a certain age. They then die there alone, far from the group. Unfortunately for Michael that pitch was just the tipping point and majority of the damage was already done in his early days. Due to being so good at such a young age he was playing up to 80 games a season for age ranges above his own as a child. This continued into his teens and early professional career, ‘Because of this I would play a full season with Liverpool and then, when everyone else wrapped up their best youngsters on a summer break, I was playing for England, sometimes three years above my age group. This continued for a few years. I played week in, week out, without a break for years.’

He moved from Newcastle leaving the Geordies angry about various things such as being relegated, being too big for the championship and they probably thought it was all Michaels fault. He took what was left of him to sparsely appear for Manchester United and grabbed the odd headline for his couple of seasons whilst picking up a League Champions medal for doing little to nothing. Then when he limped over to Stoke it was clear for all to see that it was the end of his footballing days (as it is for all Stoke players). It’s sad for the player and the country as he should be playing out his best years for a top club and England but unfortunately it’s just one of those things where the light that burns brightest burns twice as fast.

These days players are handled with kid gloves from a young age, you cannot lay blame on Liverpool as he was an asset to be used and used regularly as when at war you don’t leave your biggest cannons at home but you can’t blame Michael either as any young kid could not turn down a second of football even if it’s just a kick about at the park or a certain international game against Argentina.

If you have read this far I know what you’re thinking, why hasn’t he mentioned all those successful years pre-2006 and only focused on the bad half of his career? What about Liverpool, with all the goals he scored and not to mention his days in an England shirt where big goals came as the standard?  I for one have been a big fan of his over the years, he is one of my favourite players of all time and there used to be nothing sweeter in the game than a Michael Owen goal. Yes they were memorable days for sure however due to the last 7-8 years of excessive injury milestones (a new one for every club) those golden moments just seem like ancient history. It’s as though the injuries have put all the special things he created to the bottom of the toy box and until he ‘officially’ retires at the end of the season I don’t feel I’m ready to play with them just yet.

 

Dave GDavid Gouldson is 28 years old and lives in Hull. He is an argumentative sod and he supports Manchester United. He knows a lot about Bob Dylan and is a skilled gambler. He used to be in a band who did a decent cover of Secret Agent Man by Blues Traveller. He and Mr Miles have been known to argue bitterly for hours on the issue of England’s greatest ever left-back.