Tony Ward: Sad Ferguson still blind to fundamental importance of respect
Published 29/12/2012 | 05:00
As I watched Alex Ferguson fire what could be best described as a verbal volley at Premier League referee Mike Dean midway through the Newcastle game at Old Trafford on St Stephen's Day, I couldn't but think of Ted Walsh and Eamon Dunphy.
Just a few mornings before, I had listened to a radio interview with great interest and much pride as the horse racing and football pundits eulogised rugby for the manner in which the game polices itself and, by extension, for the no-nonsense way that players accept the referee's word as final. He may be a knight, but Ferguson's tirade was anything but noble.
On the contrary, it represented bullying tactics of the highest order and sent out the wrong message entirely to the rest of the football world.
The pictures said it all and sadly the bully got his way – thanks to a last-minute goal – in the dying seconds. But then, to add greater insult to injury, Dean described Ferguson's diatribe as "reasonable and rational". Is it any wonder the game is in the state it is?
I was involved in both codes from knee-high to a grasshopper and I despise what's happening now. When I watch the penalty box jostling at corners or free-kicks, I have to pinch myself lest I forget it's round ball, not oval.
Rugby does not occupy any higher moral ground but what it does well from youth rugby up is inculcate respect. Without that fundamental pillar it's a rocky road to nowhere.
And yet I think that somewhere in the back of his mind, with all three points secure, Ferguson, even at this stage of a great managerial career, can see no wrong. How sad is that?