Friday, 18 September 2009

Fergie's News Conferences are sometimes better than the game itself!

I try to keep a football appointment every Friday lunchtime with Sir Alex Ferguson's pre-match news conference. I'm glued for his weighty growls born of weary experience, his gossipy views on other clubs and managers none of which are his goddamn business - and a gem of a quote from his industrial gob: Made In Govan!

Despite his many years in the spotlight, he's often riled by the assembled hackery.

The touchy subject of Real Madrid's unending pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo had Fergie spitting, "I wouldn't sell Madrid a virus, let alone Ronaldo!" But the Govanator eventually did - and Real paid full retail price for the Portuguese. The sort of amount that even Sir Philip Green would've put a cigar on for.

Other times, he's a master of the room. A few years back there was a ridiculous tabloid flyer in The Mirror alleging that Fergie was part of a consortium ready to takeover Manchester City.

Next day, he faced the media to preview a Champions League game. Someone dared ask him about it. In response, he neither issued a denial or any kind of quote worthy of taking the story on. He snapped back to the wee hack:

"Whassat gottae do with this? we're here to preview this game ... !", silence.

A Fergie denial of any kind would've been printable as a follow-up but he's too canny for that. The story disappeared without trace the very next day - and his handling of it in that moment was the reason why.

A few seasons ago, I was at Charlton for a United game and Fergie came out of the tunnel ten minutes to kick-off and continued a casual conversation on the touchline with an old football friend while scores of photographers snapped away. But it was like it wasn't happening around him. He totally blanked it. A measure of his years in the cauldron and the inner steel which shows he never lets the pressure cloud his own principles.

Back in the Press Room, my favourite Fergie moment was ahead of a tough trip to Galatasaray, one of the most intimidating stadia in all of Europe. It was the first return to Istanbul since the acrimony of an Eric Cantona dismissal after the final whistle of a bad-tempered exchange. A thoroughly professional performance would be required this time to avoid similar ugly scenes.

So a question came from the floor, "Are you at all concerned to return here with your big name players to a place of such open hostility?"

Fergie's face was a picture. He replied, "Well, you've obviously never been to a wedding in Clydebank!"

I tell you, if it's been a good week for football stories then try and catch Fergie's Friday Football Fare. He'll always deliver something to make you chuckle, unwitting or otherwise.