THE DAY HARRY MET FERGIE...

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODWINES -

THEY have 61 years and more than 2,000 games of man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween them and in Lon­don this week, at a din­ner or­gan­ised by the League Man­agers’ As­so­ci­a­tion to hon­our their exclusive 1,000 club, Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and Harry Red­knapp shared some of their sto­ries. Here are the best bits . . .

Tell us about that first game in man­age­ment.

ALEX FER­GU­SON: 1974. East Stir­ling against Tran­mere and a young Steve Cop­pell was play­ing cen­tre for­ward for Tran­mere.

I’d been in the same po­si­tion as ev­ery man­ager that fin­ishes play­ing one day and be­comes a man­ager the next. When I took over the job I had eight play­ers, and the chair­man, Wil­lie Muir­head, who was a great old man, was a chain smoker and when he had a prob­lem the smok­ing went quicker.

I said: “Mr Chair­man, can I have a list of the play­ers?” and he started cough­ing, the fag was go­ing at a hun­dred miles an hour, and the list had eight play­ers and no goal­keeper.

He said they would have a board meet­ing and raise some money for me. He came back and said he had £2,000, and I started trawl­ing the free list. My first sign­ing is now the man­ager of Ross County, Ge­orge Adams. I paid £100 and to this day I think it was too much! But it was great be­cause it taught you how to sur­vive.

HARRY RED­KNAPP: Bournemouth against Lin­coln. I’d taken over on the Fri­day and the next day most of the games were called off be­cause it was so cold the pitches were frozen solid. But Lin­coln, who were one of the best teams in the divi­sion at the time, came down, took one look at the pitch and then re-emerged with pim­pled studs. We only had long ny­lon studs, and we could hardly stand up in the kick­about. Any­way we’re 8-0 down, we’ve just won a cor­ner and the kit­man is scream­ing at the cen­tre half to get up the pitch. “We’re not go­ing to win 9-8,” I said.

We lost 9-0 and I hon­estly thought that my first game was go­ing to be my last.

1983,

What mem­o­ries of Aberdeen do you most cher­ish, Sir Alex?

AF: I had a won­der­ful chair­man there, Dick Don­ald. He be­came like a fa­ther to me af­ter I lost my own. I re­mem­ber what he said be­fore my last cup fi­nal with Aberdeen.

“I wouldn’t mind if we lost this, says the chair­man. “Why did you say a thing like that?” I ask him. “Well, I think some of th­ese boys are get­ting car­ried away with them­selves,” he says. “Give me an ex­am­ple,” I say to him. “Well, take Wil­lie Miller, the cap­tain. I saw his wife the other day wear­ing a leather coat!”

And what about some play­ers at West Ham? HR: Paolo Di Canio was a favourite. I used to al­ways make sure he was on the winning side in train­ing. I’d make sure Stu­art Pearce and Nigel Win­ter­burn were on his team so no­body kicked him. But he was bril­liant. I also had Florin Ra­ducioiu, a World Cup star for Ro­ma­nia. One day we went to play Stock­port County and he went shop­ping in­stead. He took the in-laws.

Then there was Paulo Futre. He was a won­der­ful player, too, but the first game of the sea­son we went to Arse­nal. Paulo walked in, hold­ing up his shirt. He says “Futre not 16, Futre 10. Maradona, Pele, Euse­bio, Futre 10.”

I tried to ex­plain about squad num­bers and team sheets but he gave me some almighty grief. So I said put your shirt on or kindly leave the dress­ing room... in so many words. The next thing I know he’s gone. So I went out­side to the ref and said look, Frank Lam­pard Sen has made a mis­take. I said he’s put Paulo Futre’s name on the team sheet and he’s not even here! Then Arsene Wenger comes out and says “What is this, tac­tics?” I said “No, it’s Frank’s cock-up”. He then let me change the names on the team sheet – and they still beat us 3-0.

The mat­ter was re­solved when Paulo lent John Mon­cur his villa on the Al­garve for two weeks and got the No 10 shirt in ex­change.

What’s the most dif­fi­cult part of the job to­day?

AF: It’s a dif­fer­ent player char­ac­ter we’ve got to­day. It’s a player who’s more frag­ile than play­ers were 25 years ago.

They are maybe more co­cooned life, all ex­pect­ing to win. But we can’t all win. There’s go­ing to be a cham­pion and there’s go­ing to be cup win­ners. And those who miss out aren’t go­ing to like it.

AF: The new own­ers are Amer­i­cans, Chi­nese, Rus­sians. How do they achieve their money? It’s not what foot­ball was used to. Sud­den wealth. And there’s a quick re­ac­tion to ev­ery­thing that hap­pens on the foot­ball pitch.

Tell us about your best and worst sign­ings.

HR: The best sign­ing I ever made was Jim Smith, and we had a great time to­gether at Portsmouth. I re­mem­ber Chris Ka­mara com­ing down with a TV crew and he’s out­side our of­fice at about 10 past two, telling the cam­era how this is the in­ner sanc­tum. This is where Harry and Jim are mas­ter­mind­ing Portsmouth’s suc­cess. And then he knocks, comes in the room and there’s me and Jim read­ing the Racing Post.

And what about the one that got away?

HR: I was at West Ham and Frank Lam­pard Sen and I were ap­proached by th­ese two vil­lains who said they were do­ing some busi­ness in the Ukraine, and we were so scared of them we agreed to have a look at a cou­ple of th­ese kids. One of them we played against Bar­net Re­serves and he scored the win­ner. They said they wanted a mil­lion quid for him, and Frank said it was too much – well I’m blam­ing Frank – and we let him go. His name was An­driy Shevchenko!

Any tur­keys for you, Sir Alex?

AF: I have never been for­given for sign­ing Ralph Milne. Ralph was a trou­bled lad. It was a pity. And Eric Djemba-Djemba. So good they named him twice! I was in Den­mark re­cently and he’s do­ing well for Odense. He was on the short-list for their player of the sea­son.

I of­ten re­mem­ber play­ers for the tal­ents they had away from foot­ball. Peter Sch­me­ichel was a su­perb pi­anist, and he would some­times sit there and play for us blind­folded. And Kieran Richardson. The day he left the club he brought me this won­der­ful paint­ing he had done. – Daily Mail

LEG­ENDS: Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, above left, and Harry Red­knapp shared a laugh and a few sto­ries.

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