I HATED Sir Alex Ferguson when I was a kid. Actually, that hate pretty much lasted halfway through my twenties.
I detested him almost as much as the safari suit my mother made me wear to the crèche’s Mr Spring competition. All the other children were wearing denim, while I had a bright red rose sticking out at the top of my suit. I looked like a miniature Bles Bridges, and worst of all, I didn’t even win.
Thinking about it, that rose was almost as red as Fergie’s nose on a January day in the heat of battle at Old Trafford. It was always my retort when I got teased that my beloved Tottenham haven’t won a league title since the cavemen still dragged women by the hair as a sign of affection.
I didn’t have any affection for Ferguson, partly because all my glory-hunting friends adapted Manchester United as their team of choice. Some of them have since transferred to Arsenal in the 90s, and after brief spells at Chelsea and Manchester City, they are back at Old Trafford …
Mostly, though, I disliked Fergie because he seemed to be the luckiest man in all of sport. He always had decisions going his way, but most of all, he always found a way to get the result.
For a Spurs fan living in a Man United-infested town like Paarl, I always wanted United and Ferguson to lose. I lived by the mantra of A.B.U – Anybody But United.
However, my whole perception of Fergie changed when I read a quote of one of South Africa’s greatest sportsmen, Gary Player. “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” It made me immediately think of Fergie. It was obvious that the success was as a result of hard work he had put in to build United to the international brand they are today.
I tend to believe that passion and spirit are the biggest qualities anybody in sport need to succeed. Sometimes you get outrageously talented people who are as lazy as a dog on a 40-degree day in Upington who throw away their careers.
United were second-last when Fergie took over in 1986. Nottingham Forrest was at that stage top of the English First Division. Almost 27 years later, and we have United on top of the football world as far as a brand is concerned, and Forest … well, they are in the woods somewhere. What makes this ride even more amazing is that Fergie was one kick away from being fired.
But every now and then, you get a guy like Ferguson. A man with a great football brain, but the desire and the hunger to succeed. And to keep that hunger and desire going for close to three decades is unbelievable.
It’s almost impossible to think of Manchester United without Sir Alex Ferguson. He is going to leave a massive hole at the club, almost as big as the deficit his chewing gum supplier have on their books next season. So Fergie, while I would never, ever wear a safari suit again, I have warmed up to your charm, and football will never, ever be the same without you.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
@NandosUK: In honour of Sir Alex Ferguson we’re proud to introduce #NandosFergieTime - all our Manchester Nando’s will be open 5 minutes later tonight.
@FaroukKhan9: The problem with Youth football in SA is we teach children to win the game, instead we should teach youth to play the game.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@SouthAfricaLFC: Follow this account for the latest news on Liverpool’s match later this month in Cape Town.
w Follow John Goliath on Twitter: @JohnGoliath82