Thursday 30 March 2017

'When I was 32 at East Stirling my players were on £5-a-week'

Ian Herbert

THERE are Scottish roots in both of the football managers, 36 years apart, who will contest the most compelling fixture of the season tomorrow at Old Trafford.

While Alex Ferguson's need no embellishment, those of 33-year-old Andre Villas-Boas derive from Largs, the west Scotland coaching centre he attended, where his application to study as a teenager stated: "I'm going to reach this target I've got in my life, no matter what. I'm going to get there."

But Ferguson's reflections yesterday on the bottom rung of the managerial ladder that he had just scaled when he was 33, revealed why -- and despite all his grace and diplomacy for a new challenger -- he will find such rich satisfaction in defeating Villas-Boas' side and putting Chelsea in their place tomorrow.

"I was actually 32 when I started at East Stirling," Ferguson reflected. "But it was only a part-time team I was taking over. The players were on about £5-a-week."

Ferguson was himself earning around £40 a week and with his first season three weeks away he had only eight players and no goalkeeper.

Villas-Boas might be the privately-educated son of a professor and a descendant of nobility, but the challenges, for a young manager, of how to deal with players of around your own age were just the same for the son of a Freshfields steelworker.

A playing career at the top level helped Ferguson, though, and he had those experiences to draw on in a way that his challenger does not. His East Stirling players have told how Ferguson would take part in training sessions, eager to show what a good player he was.

"I never had a problem dealing with people my age or round about my age," Ferguson said.

"My advice to any young manager is that you should never seek a confrontation because it's always around the corner.

"You should contain all your thoughts and decision-making to the performance on the football field.

Yet it has simply never been Ferguson's belief that managing an elite club is a young man's game. He believes a manager with experience should succeed him.

"If you go back a few years, clubs were giving jobs to players who were just finishing their careers -- Trevor Francis, Ray Wilkins," he said.

"They were going from playing to managing top teams. That, to me, was quite surprising.

"It will be an incredible achievement (if he wins the league). That somebody so young could go and do that would be incredible," he said. "You can't dispute that."(© Independet News Service)

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