The day Fer­gu­son pipped City to sig­na­ture of teen won­der

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

THE HIS­TORY of foot­ball is lit­tered with tales of the one that got away. Even Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, a man renowned for go­ing the ex­tra mile to land his trans­fer tar­gets, has seen a few slip through his fin­gers. Paul Gas­coigne, Alan Shearer and Gareth Bale are such cases.

But af­ter be­ing alerted to the bur­geon­ing tal­ents of a youth­ful Ryan Giggs, this was one player that Fer­gu­son, only one year into his ten­ure at Old Traf­ford, was sim­ply not go­ing to let es­cape.

It could, of course, have all been so very dif­fer­ent had Manch­ester City pur­sued Giggs with the same fer­vour as their great ri­vals.

And City’s fail­ure to act swiftly is some­thing that still irks the man who first spot­ted Giggs play­ing for his school.

Then a full-time milk­man and part-time scout for City, Den­nis Schofield parked up his milk float af­ter be­ing left flab­ber­gasted by Giggs’s re­mark- able tal­ent.

“One day I saw th­ese lads walk­ing out of a lo­cal school with their boots. They were about eight, nine and I asked if they were go­ing to play a game.

“I went along to watch and saw this boy on the left wing who was like a gazelle, dy­na­mite. He was Ryan Wil­son then.

“I was think­ing to my­self: ‘I’m not miss­ing out on this one’. For many years there was a photo on the wall at City of Ryan play­ing for them. They used to say that when he signs at 14, ‘We’ll have a big do’.”

But Fer­gu­son, alerted to Giggs’s re­mark­able skills by lo­cal newsagent and stew­ard Harold Wood who had watched him reg­u­larly while play­ing for Deans, was al­ready on the case.

With Fer­gu­son look­ing on from his of­fice win­dow at The Cliff, Giggs scored a hat-trick for Sal­ford Boys af­ter be­ing of­fered a trial at United over the Christ­mas pe­riod in 1986.

Still, City were con­fi­dent they would get their young man, who had been a mem­ber of their School of Ex­cel­lence, to sign school­boy forms by the time he turned 14. They hadn’t banked on Fer­gu­son’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to pre­vent that from hap­pen­ing.

Hav­ing al­ready made reg­u­lar vis­its to Giggs’s home, Fer­gu­son and his chief scout Joe Brown knocked on the door once more on the day of his 14th birth­day, forms in hand.

Fer­gu­son then left with the all-im­por­tant sig­na­ture – much to the an­noy­ance of Schofield.

Schofield said: “I said to Ken Barnes (City’s chief scout) at the time: ‘On Ryan’s 14th birth­day make sure you are in his house be­cause United are tap­ping him’. But the day Ryan turned 14, Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and Joe Brown (for­mer United youth scout) sat in his house with a con­tract – our chief scout sat in his of­fice, wait­ing for Ryan and his mum to come in.” – Daily Mail

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AP­PRE­CI­A­TION SO­CI­ETY: Ryan Giggs meets for­mer SA pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela.

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