Fergie remembers humble beginnings
As Sir Alex Ferguson prepared to end his magnificent managerial career he cast his mind back 39 years to the start - at East Stirling, with eight players and no goalkeeper.
At West Brom on Sunday, Ferguson's 1500th and final game as Manchester United boss will bring down the curtain on the most remarkable career in British football history. With 49 trophies, it is by far the most successful, ensuring the 71-year-old will go down in the history books, never to be removed.
And as he prepared for the end, Ferguson could not help recalling where it all began, at Firs Park in Falkirk, home of East Stirling. He said: "I have had 39 years as a manager. On that day in 1974 when I started at East Stirling, I had eight players and no goalkeeper. Today I have six goalkeepers and about 100 players."
He added: "I remember the old chairman Willie Muirhead, he was a great chain smoker. When I asked him for a list of players he started to shake. His cigarette was going 100 miles an hour.
"I had to remind him a couple of days later. He gave me a list of eight players and no goalkeeper. I said 'you know it is advisable to start with a keeper, are you aware of that?'."
And so Ferguson began building the first of so many squads he has assembled during his time in the game. And he did it on a shoestring.
"My first signing was a lad from Partick Thistle called Tom Gourlay," he added. "He was big. My god he was big. I paid £1,000 for him. All the rest were £100 signing on fees and free transfers."
Glamorous it was not. Yet as Ferguson sees it, the lessons learned in those early days, sweating for a living in the lower reaches of Scottish League Division Two, provided an invaluable education for what was to follow, first at Aberdeen and, for the last quarter of a century, Old Trafford.
"It is an education for anybody," he said. "In management, anybody should start out in that kind of way. I spent £2,000 on five players."
Major interest around his last game concerns whether Wayne Rooney will be recalled after the England forward's recent transfer request. Ferguson has already confirmed Anders Lindegaard will start in goal, with Jonny Evans and Phil Jones due to be partnered in central defence as the outgoing boss retains an eye on the future David Moyes will inherit when he takes over in the summer.