independent

Sunday 31 August 2014

Like him or loathe him, Fergie was the greatest

Published 15/05/2013 | 05:20

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ALTHOUGH Sidelines usually concentrates on Gaelic Games I couldn't ignore the biggest sports story of the week, and quite possibly the year so far, Alex Ferguson's retirement. Like him or loathe him, the abrasive Glaswegian has had a phenomenal managerial career with Manchester United over the past 27 years.

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His famous quote when he first took over at Old Trafford 'to knock Liverpool off their perch' was well and truly achieved ... along with lots more. The sports pages and TV channels have been stuffed with Sir Alex stories and every Tom, Dick and Harry with the slightest connection to the Scot has been wheeled out to offer an opinion on Ferguson and indeed his successor.

During a quick visit to a local barber's shop on Friday afternoon (my once flowing locks now unfortunately require only the briefest of attention) an ensemblé of sports enthusiasts were offering their own 'tuppence halpenny' worth on the unfolding saga and the knock-on effects elsewhere. The astute proprietor, who normally would offer a menu choice of local or national GAA only, was himself sucked into the debate.

There was almost unanimous agreement among the group that Ferguson was the greatest manager in English football history with only one contributor, with obvious scouser sympathies, the dissenting voice. Eventually he relented and begrudgingly conceded on Ferguson's dominance of the domestic game but contended that he fell badly short in his conquest of Europe. 'Only two Champions Leagues - one on penalties and the other with a couple of injury time goals'.

While I was never a big Fergie lover, I did concur with the majority view. Personally, I felt the closet Liverpudlian was just splitting hairs (excuse the pun) but his contribution added greatly to the largely amicable discussion. And what did we make of his successor? Another Scot, David Moyes. The youngest of the panel felt Jose should have been the man but the more experienced panelists shunned the self proclaimed 'Great One' as too flashy and transient for the establishment at Old Trafford. A show of hands indicated that Mourinho will likely end up back at his old stomping ground in West London before the month is out. However he may be tempted by the possible vacancy and the Arab millions on the blue half of Manchester. Saturday's FA Cup defeat to Wigan could hasten Mancini's departure. One knowledgeable punter was adamant that Wigan's Martinez was a dead cert for Goodison. His stock has definitely risen since the weekend.

As the haircuts were completed, the dwindling panel eventually agreed that Moyes was probably the right man for the job. He was always going to get it once Fergie gave his backing. So there you have it. The King is dead. Long live the King.

However, unfortunately for Moyes, its not that simple. The King has not died. He has merely moved upstairs. And just like when Matt Busby retired in 1969 after 24 years at the helm, his successors, first Wilf McGuinness and later our own Frank O'Farrell, both faced a near impossible task. McGuinness was dispensed with within six months before Busby was reinstated for the remainder of the season. And again under Busby's heavy shadow, O'Farrell lasted little longer before Tommy Doherty oversaw relegation to the old Second Division two years later.

The Liverpool fan was intrigued by this impromptu history lesson and now appeared content with the former Everton manager's appointment. Sporting his new short, back and sides he bid us farewell with his demeanour noticeably lifted at the prospect of history repeating itself. The man with the scissors then checked his watch. Five minutes to six and still three heads yet to be cut. He picked up the pace and shifted into a higher gear. We were almost in 'Fergie Time'!

Cooley Run

The third annual Cooley Coast run takes place this Friday evening along the peninsula's scenic coastline over courses of 10k and 12.5k. Unfortunately I can't take up the challenge thrown down by my former county teammate Fintan Murphy to take part but I'll be watching his finishing time with keen interest for the next day.

Fintan tells me he'll likely run the longer route as the 10k course doesn't take in that famous Whitestown landmark, Lily Finnegans. Hopefully there'll be a big turnout and the weather stays good for the evening.

The Argus

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