When Sir Alex Ferguson was knighted following our success in 1999, our neighbours in Merseyside were not happy bunnies. Firstly, because they didn’t need any more reminding that our lads had achieved something they hadn’t, but mainly because Fergie was receiving an honour Bob Paisley never did.
Fergie had been recognised for his 25 years of football management, which included his time in Scotland. 9 league titles, 5 European Cup competitions, including the European Cup, 4 Scottish Cups, 3 Scottish League Cups, 4 FA Cups, and 1 League Cup, which comes to an incredible 26 trophies in 25 years.
In contrast, Paisley had won 12 trophies in 9 years: 6 league titles, 3 European Cups and 3 League Cups, which the scousers believed warranted a knighthood. The problem was, Paisley was dead.
More than 45,000 scousers signed a petition in 2007, demanding that Paisley be recognised with a knighthood. Prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, wrote to explain why this wouldn’t be possible.
“A knighthood is an honour only given during someone’s lifetime,” he said. “Unlike bravery awards and medals, they have never been granted posthumously. In practical terms it would also be impossible to decide which of thousands of figures in our country’s history, who were not knighted during their lifetimes, should retrospectively deserve such recognition.”
Hilariously, the scousers fought back with plenty of venom and bitterness, still reeling that a United manager had been knighted when theirs hadn’t. “The facts are that Bob should have been knighted when he was alive,” said Les Lawson, Merseyside secretary of the Official Liverpool Supporters’ Club. “He was the greatest manager this country has ever produced and maybe if he had managed a club further down the East Lancashire Road he would have got the knighthood he deserved.” Classic.
So, I wonder how the scousers would feel about Fergie becoming a Saint? Following Harry Redknapp’s glowing report, it appears that should be the next step for our manager…
Following the death of Pat Lampard, Fergie wrote a letter the Lampard/Redknapp family, expressing his condolences.
“To be honest, it didn’t really surprise me,” said Redknapp. “It was a lovely touch. The letter was very personal and a great deal of thought had gone into its contents. He included my wife Sandra, young Frank and the family in general. What’s more, he meant every word of it and that means a great deal to me. But that’s Sir Alex for you. It’s probably a side you don’t see too much but one everyone in football knows about.”
Redknapp goes on to state what we have heard many times before, from a whole host of managers, that whilst being entirely driven and focussed on his own goal, he has time for anyone who asks him for help.
“Publicly you see the ruthlessly driven side of a man that wants to win at all costs and that’s what makes him such a successful manager, probably one of the best in the history of the game,” continued Redknapp. “He hates losing but as I have always said, ‘Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’. But in truth, you couldn’t meet a more caring and compassionate man. He has time for everyone, let me tell you. If a lower league manager calls him, he will always call them back. If someone is in trouble he is the first on the phone trying to help and if someone passes away in the football community he will think nothing of getting in his car and driving to the other side of the country to attend the funeral.”
However, Redknapp has been a bit of a thorn in Fergie’s side on occasion, namely the final day of the season when we needed a win against West Ham to win the league, and last season when we were robbed by Portsmouth in the FA Cup.
“He did have the right hump with me when I was at West Ham and they failed to beat us and lost the title to Blackburn in ’95,” said Redknapp. “I remember he kept throwing on strikers and I kept trying to nullify them by throwing on defenders. And obviously there was our quarter-final victory in the FA Cup at Old Trafford last season. I think he could genuinely see United going on to to win the Treble and we wrecked that. Was he happy? What do you think? He erupted with fury and blamed everyone. But that’s Sir Alex for you. It didn’t stop him congratulating us when we went on to beat Cardiff in the Final.”
Fergie, what a guy, eh?