Alex Ferguson Deserves Respect for His Contributions to Football

Jamie WardSenior Analyst INovember 12, 2008

The title of this article might lead some readers to initially believe that the author may be a huge Manchester United fanatic, but readers might be shocked to find out, the author has been a supporter of Liverpool Football Club for 21 years.

There is an automatic assumption made by many people—some United fans in particular—that every Liverpool supporter hates Manchester United, its players and its long serving manager; an assumption that has really started to annoy me a great deal lately.

I was not born in Liverpool, as far as I’m aware, I have no scouse relatives and don’t believe I have any ties to the city in anyway. It was by complete chance that I started to support Liverpool way back in 1988, at the unknowledgeable age of eight, and I believe that reason is why I am not tied to traditional rivalries that are common place with the majority of Liverpool and Manchester born supporters.

An Influencing Figure

My Granddad is the only member of my family that is a die-hard football supporter, and was my only influencing figure at a young age when it came to the sport. He's someone I am forever thankful to for introducing me to one of my biggest passions.

Growing up in South London my granddad is a life-long Charlton fanatic, so spent many conversations when I was young, strongly hinting that I should become an Addicks supporter.

My dad, who had no interest in football what so ever, knew of my growing passion that had been nurtured by my granddad, and decided to get me some football memorabilia. He came home one day with a box of goodies that made a young football crazy boy very happy indeed.

The box contained a 1978 Liverpool shirtan incredibly itchy top if worn without a t-shirt underneathseveral Liverpool scarves, a commemorative mirror with a picture of Anfield etched in to it, as well as some programmes, history books, and a football. From then on, whenever I was asked which team I supported, my answer was Liverpool Football Club; that answer never changed.

A Love of Football

Like many fanatics across the world, Football is one of the most important things in my life; I play it, watch it, study it, read about it, write about it, talk about it, argue about it; but most importantly I am madly in love with it.

I appreciate football when it’s played beautifully and respectfully, no matter what team or player it happens to be and am disgusted by some of the negatives that inevitably come with the game, no matter what team or player it happens to be.

This brings us back to the main point of the article—Manchester United and, more importantly the club's long standing manager, Alex Ferguson.

I find it annoying that some Liverpool supporters are too biased and stuck in the tradition of rivalry that they cannot admit that Manchester United are clearly a world class team led by the most successful manger in English history.

As a football supporter I have an incredible amount of respect for Manchester United simply because they play some of the best football in the league as well as being filled with some of the world’s very best players—who play the game how it should be played.

This is mostly down to their manager who has recently achieved an incredible 22 years in charge of the most successful English club in the last 20 years.

I have a great deal of respect for Alex Ferguson for his contribution to football.

Alex Ferguson

The Player:

Born on New Year’s Eve, 1941 in his Grandmother’s house in Glasgow, meters from the River Clyde, Ferguson’s early career path was as an apprentice tool maker in the Clydeside area.

Despite his father and brother building their careers in the shipyards of the River Clyde, the football mad youngster had his sights on a different job that would last the rest of his working life. He began an incredible journey that would eventually take him to the peak of domestic football some 50 years later.

Queen’s Park: 1957-60

Having already played for a few big amateur teams during his school days, Ferguson, aged 16, signed with the famous Glasgow based amateur club, Queen’s Park.

Whilst he continued his work as a tool maker, he played his way through the ranks and developed a good strike rate, but he couldn’t hold down a regular place and managed 11 goals in just 32 appearances before moving on to St Johnstone in 1960 at the age of 19.

St Johnstone: 1960-64

He struggled to maintain his apprenticeship as a tool maker during his part-time playing days with St Johnstone and despite another high scoring rate of 19 goals; he still could not manage a good run in the team and played just 37 games in his four years at the club.

His most notable match for St Johnstone was the defeat of his boyhood club, Rangers, in which he scored a hat-trick.

That display caught the eye of top-flight Dunfermline, who signed the young Scot in 1964 and gave him his first full professional contract.

Dunfermline Athletic: 1964-67

At the end of the 1966 season, Ferguson racked up an impressive 45 goals in 51 appearances for Dunfermline, 31 of which came in the leaguemaking him joint top scorer for the season. By the end of his time with Dunfermline he had an impressive 66 goals in 88 appearances.

Ferguson was starting to make a name for himself as a player and his dreams seemed to come true in 1967 when he was signed for 65,000 pounds by his hometown club and boyhood team, Rangers for, what was at the time, a record transfer fee between two Scottish teams.

Glasgow Rangers: 1967-69

Despite another impressive goal return by the striker, 19 goals in 10 domestic cup competitions alone, what had started out as a dream come true soon turned in to a nightmare.

Ferguson was apparently blamed for conceding a goal in the Scottish Cup Final loss to Celtic in 1969 and was forced to play in their junior team until he reluctantly put in a transfer request to leave the club.

Falkirk: 1969-73

After two years and 57 games for Rangers, he had the opportunity to sign for Nottingham Forest, but with the request of his wife, chose instead to remain in Scotland and signed for Falkirk.

Ferguson played 106 games for Falkirk in the four years he spent with them, scoring 37 times, and was rewarded with a player-coach role. However, when a new manager took over the team, the role was removed, leading to Ferguson handing in a transfer request.

Ayr United: 1973-74

Ferguson moved to Ayr United, spending one season with the club playing part-time, scoring just nine in 24 games, before he retired in 1974, aged 32.

His record as a player can be considered very honourable, scoring 167 in 327 games, but his silverware was very limited, with just two First Division titles and two Scottish Cup runners up medals to his credit.

The Manager:

East Stirlingshire: 1974

Alex Ferguson started his managerial career at the Scottish club East Stirlingshire
way back in 1974 at the age of 32—long before his current players were born, let alone had thought about kicking a football. 

With no experience, a forty pound a week wage, a budget of two thousand pounds, no goalkeeper, and only eight registered players, Ferguson was looking at an uphill struggle. He spent the next 117 days at the club shaping his team and creating a managerial style that would eventually take him to the summit of world football.

His first position in charge saw him quickly being cast as a disciplinarian but, despite his age and lack of experience, he still managed to earn the respect of the East Stirlingshire players. His managerial style and tactical abilities saw the teams results improve considerably in his short time at the club—this also led to an interest from other teams.

St Mirren: 1974-78

His next appointment in 1974, took him to the old Scottish Second Division with St Mirren. Despite being one of the founding members of the Scottish League in 1890, they were considered a regular at the bottom end of the table with poor attendance records averaging around 1000. 

Within three seasons, the young manager had turned them into division champions and gained them promotion in to Scottish football's top flight.

Alex Ferguson was known for discovering many great young Scottish players during his time at St Mirren and he got them playing some great attacking football, a style that is still apparent today with his current team.

Despite his transformation of the club's fortunes, his reported behaviour and breaches of his contract, that included an agreement from Ferguson to join Aberdeen whilst still with St Mirren, meant that he was handed his one and only ever dismissal as a manager.

Aberdeen: 1978-1986

Ferguson eventually joined a buoyant Aberdeen in 1978, aged just 36. The club had not won the league in 23 years but were in good form at the time of his arrival, finishing second in the league the previous season.

However, his age and lack of managerial experience caused problems with some of his new squad, especially as he was only a few years older than some of them.

His first season in charge saw a disappointing fourth place finish in the league, they did however manage a good cup run, losing in the final of the League Cup and a semi-final exit in the Scottish Cup.

Silverware for Ferguson at Aberdeen never came until 1980, when he took them to the Premier Division championship. It was the first time in 25 years the club had won the Scottish top flight title—beating Celtic to the top spot by just one point.

This was the first time in 15 years that the league had not been won by either Rangers or Celtic.

They also reached the final of the League Cup, but lost a disappointing 3-0 to Dundee United. However, Ferguson finally felt he was earning the respect of the players that he was familiar with during his first two managerial posts.

The young Scot’s success was attracting attention from other club’s once again and this time an offer from English club Wolves was turned down by Ferguson, with a belief that he still had plenty to achieve with Aberdeen.

Ferguson's present personality as a manager was apparent early in his career with his days at Aberdeen; it is reported that he was a very strict disciplinarian when dealing with his team and there are such stories as him kicking a tea-urn over at half-time after a poor display from his players, a type of behaviour that he is still famous for today.

Ferguson's next success was in 1982, with a 4-1 victory over Rangers, the team he followed as a boy, in the Scottish FA Cup, also knocking out his former club St Mirren along the way.

Aberdeen had also managed a second place finish in the Scottish Premier league, just two points behind a dominant Celtic team. The victory over Rangers in the cup final meant Ferguson would take his Aberdeen team in to the illustrious European Cup Winners Cup and test his managerial abilities for the first time against some of the biggest names in football.

Aberdeen in Europe:

The next season was to be one of Ferguson’s most successful with Aberdeen as well as being one of the greatest managerial milestones in his career—European football.

Back in Scotland, his team fought a very close league campaign with Celtic and Dundee United, with Dundee eventually claiming victory on 56 points, closely followed by Celtic and Aberdeen who both finished with 55 points each.

Aberdeen finished with the league’s best defensive record for the third season in a row—something that Ferguson is well known for with his current team, Manchester United. But Celtic, having the better goal difference by two goals, took second place.

Aberdeen reclaimed the Scottish Cup by beating Rangers, who finished some 15 points behind them in the league, with a victory in the final for the second season running.

Listening to the post match comments made by Fergie, you would have believed that his team had just lost the game: "we played disgracefully, winning cups doesn’t matter, our standards were set long ago and I’m not going to accept that from any Aberdeen team".

These were comments later retracted by Ferguson, but at the time the players were said to have felt gutted by their managers response to the victory, especially as they felt they had done the best that they could have during the game.

Aberdeen started their third ever European campaign well, with a two-legged, 11-1 victory against Swiss team, FC Sion in the preliminary round. They navigated the next two rounds well enough and were rewarded with a tie against Bayern Munich in the quarter–finals.

A goal-less draw at home meant Aberdeen had to travel to Germany and win in order to proceed to the next round. Ferguson's men came away with an impressive 3-2 victory that saw them avoiding Real Madrid in the semi-final draw and instead facing Belgian team, Waterschei.

After a home victory of 5-1, Aberdeen lost their one and only game of the campaign in the away leg in Belgium, 1-0.  But the final aggregate score meant Aberdeen was in to their first ever European Cup final against Real Madrid.

In May 1983, a 2-1 extra time victory over the favourites from Madrid, meant Aberdeen became only the third Scottish side to ever win a European trophy—It was also Alex Ferguson’s first ever European title in his debut campaign, aged just 42.

Ferguson took Aberdeen to the League and Cup double the very next season as well as claiming victory over SV Hamburg in the European super cup, Aberdeen are still the only Scottish club to win two European trophies.

An incredible four years in charge of Aberdeen brought offers of management from Rangers, Arsenal, and Tottenham and was topped off in 1984 with Alex Ferguson winning a highly regarded personal achievement, when he was awarded the OBE for his services to football.

Ferguson had not finished with his very talented Aberdeen side and took them to the League title again in 1985; claiming victory with a seven point lead over Celtic and finishing with the best defensive record for the fifth season running.

1986 turned out to be his final season in charge of Aberdeen, a disappointed Ferguson saw his team finish fourth in the table, some way off the eventual winners, Celtic.

He did however finish the season by leading Aberdeen to success in both the Scottish Cup and the League Cup, bringing his total trophy haul at Aberdeen, in his seven years in charge, to: Three Premier League titles, Four Scottish FA Cup’s, One League Cup, One European Cup Winners Cup and One European Super Cup.

After Aberdeen:

Alex Ferguson’s record with Aberdeen saw just 53 losses in his 303 games in charge, his incredible silverware collection made him their most successful manager to date.

From 1985, Ferguson had spent some time as Jock Steins assistant manager for the Scottish National team. During the final qualifying match for the 1986 world cup campaign, Ferguson's very good friend, Stein, suffered a fatal heart attack.

This led to Ferguson taking sole charge of the national team for the World Cup Finals in Mexico, but managing just one point from their three games in the group stages meant that they were eliminated from the competition—this also saw the end of his time as manager of Scotland.

Thanks to his incredibly impressive seven years with Aberdeen, Ferguson saw managerial opportunities being offered from both Arsenal and Tottenham, but just as he had before, he refused both jobs.

On the 6th of November 1986, Alex Ferguson took charge of Manchester United for what would turn out to be his most successful role in charge of a club and would see him eventually becoming the most successful manager in English football.

His career at Manchester United will be covered in part two of this special series charting the rise to football greatness of the Scottish Legend –Alex Ferguson.


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