Mails: Was Fergie scary, or angry old man?

Date published: Wednesday 6th April 2016 2:22

Keep your mails coming to, and make them good


We still want Wenger out
Matt B (Guy S and Rooney sitting in a tree…..)MUFC

I don’t see you being a WUM, so I’m not going to react like a Neanderthal and say stuff like ‘concentrate on the Turd Sandwiches being served by LGV et al. instead of wondering about the Greatest Club the World has ever seen’.

Let me instead try and explain why the vocal majority has seemingly fallen silent. One reason indeed is that the results (and the quality of football) have improved. On a related note, is anyone even vaguely surprised by the marked improvement in Arsenals form once the presurre is off. Practically the same players, but now that Liecester have all but won, the Gunners are playing with verve and confidence – talk abt Mental Weakness.

The second and much more important reason is that over the last month or so the supporters have realized that no matter how much we boo, no matter how many bedsheets with ‘Thanks for the memories’ we unfurl, no matter how many planes we hire (I know it’s zero till now), there is no chance in hell that the board will fire Wenger at the end of this year. Fact is that through his own hardwork, results from a decade ago, and most importantly lack of strong motivated winners on the board, Wenger has become something much much much larger than just a football club manager. He is not judged by the same yardstick as his fellow ‘elites’ and hence until an unless he fails miserably (finishing outside of Europa spots) the board is not going to act.

Fact is that he should have been taken to task at the beginning of this season when he chose to only sign one out field player – Cohesionio. The board did nothing. Didn’t try and force an expensive signing down his throat. Even when Cohesionio was proved to be a dud, the board did nothing. Didn’t try and infuse some new blood into the coaching staff / appoint a director of football (should ideally be Wenger). After shitting the bed every time we manged to get into a position where we could dictate terms, no rebuke from the board, no silent admonishments, no nothing. Fact is Wenger is meeting, rather exceeding the targets of the board. And until and unless the ambitions of the board changes, it will be very difficult to get Wenger out.

TL/DR summary – Arsenal fans aren’t suddenly smitten by Wenger. The majority still wants him out (citation needed). We are just biding our time. And hoping it does not need a Chelski type meltdown to finally get him out.
Sangram Bhalla (Arsenal till I die ….. not Arsene)


Right of reply
I mentioned in my mail on Tuesday morning that the transfers I mentioned could be disagreed with, but were used to illustrate a point.

1. I described them as “non-obvious transfers” rather than “unknown players”, because the likes of Payet and Kanté weren’t really “unknown either”, nor was Vardy.

2. Most had not seen Firmino play (seeing a player’s FM stats does not mean you “know” him.) Same goes with Moreno, Can and Markovic.

3. Joe Gomez and Shelvey were signed as exciting young talents and were not expected to make an immediate first team impact, but did so.

4. Markovic was a 20 year old with only 1 season outside of Serbia.

5. Sturridge was not a gamble on fitness, and claiming he was is a hilarious example of fans’ memories of the past being influenced of the way things currently are. Which only further confirms my point about fans misremembering big club transfers.

6. At least nobody disputed Alberto, Aspas, Assaidi, Teixera and Jovanovic…
Oliver (…because nobody remembers them…) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland


Ferguson: Bloody scary
Dear Editor,

Hugo from Adelaide rather misses the point about Sir Alex Ferguson in this morning’s mailbox. I would contend that Ferguson’s capacity to intimidate did not derive from his reputation as a physical specimen, but rather from his fearsome winning mentality and overall aura. He was absolutely the ‘apex predator’ of the Premier League for years, devouring other ‘heavyweights’ such as Benitez, Hoddle, Keegan, and even Wenger during his time through mind-games and subterfuge. As for control of his players, look at the way he harnessed the genius of Roy Keane, Cantona, Ronaldo et al., all of whom once they had left Manchester became monuments to egocentricity and flawed talent. He did all this without spontaneously combusting into a swirling vortex of malice, a la Mourinho 2015.

Figures like Ferguson are particularly suited to football as it is a game which relies not just upon brawn and aggression, but on guile and tactics. In rugby, aggression is far more highly prized, which is why managers such as the ‘alpha male’ Martin Johnson were given a crack of the whip despite having little discernible managerial talent.

Hope this adds something to the debate!!

Best wishes,
Tom, Devon


Sir Alex has the cold dead eyes of a very hungry and angry shark. He ran a pub. He was a trade union leader. He’s from Govan. He is someone with a massive reputation for success and ruthlessness. The two fed into each other. Consequently other managers feared him and wanted him on side. His players feared him, towed the line or were quickly cast aside, irrespective of how big a reputation they had. Nobody came close to his level of authority at the club. Referees feared him and his scathing un punished critiques. In essence, people in football are desperate to win his favour, even today.

Sir Alex had power, perhaps not so much physical in his old age ( he was known to have Fellaini like elbows in his playing days btw) , but probably a universal willingness to lash out at anyone who crossed him. He had a strong set of working principles and has the background of massive success, which meant/means that his footballing opinion means more than anyone else’s in English football.

The size and strength of someone isn’t the sole determining factor in whether or not they’re hard. Life isn’t UFC (so tempted to write “it’s MUFC” but won’t), your personality and status can mean that you’re “hard” even if you’re unable to bench 120.

Have you never seen the pitch side interview when Aberdeen won the Scottish cup?
Simon, Chiswick


In response to asking why the media would be afraid of Fergie – it had nothing to do with physical strength but instead was a result of his immense power. Players were afraid they’d be shunted out (see Van Nistelrooy, Beckham etc.) and journalists feared they would lose access (see his boycott of the BBC)

Unfortunately Journalists the world over have had to kowtow to various pieces of sh*t in order to maintain access to the people who make the news that sells your Newspaper etc. So, yes, whilst Fergie may not have been their boss directly – he was the man that held the keys to access one of the biggest football clubs in the world (and certainly the biggest club in England during his reign) and thus held the keys to the most sellable “news”. As a journalist if you lose access to Ferguson and you lose your boss money. Your Boss would not like this so you shut your mouth and ask ‘nice’ questions and try to not rock the boat too much.

Journalism, far the overwhelming majority anyway, is no longer an objective profession – or at least objectivity is only allowed when it suits the interests of whomever is signing the cheques.
Cheyne (I can’t believe I actually miss that red-nosed SOB a little bit) Reeves, Gooner, Cape Town


Just one for Hugo, NUFC, Adelaide who isn’t very impressed by Alex Ferguson – during his time as St. Mirren manager, we were playing a ‘friendly’ where some rough treatment was being dished out by the opposition. What did Fergie do? Brought himself on as sub, nailed the main offender, and was immediately red-carded.

If that wouldn’t generate some respect and fear in equal measure in the dressing room I don’t know what would
Dave M, St. Mirren, Dubai


Guardiola ruined Barcelona
Another Barcelona win in Europe with the customary unsportsmanlike conduct going unpunished by the referee which changed the outcome of the game. Barcelona were a team I very much used to enjoy watching in the Van Gaal and Rijkaard years then Guardiola took over which ruined everything.

Tiki taka is fine if not a little boring to watch at times, the genius of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta produces great skill and goals but the unsavory underbelly of cheating, diving and play acting is what really turned me off watching Barca. With a team that talented was there any need for their players to throw themselves on the floor every time there was a chance they’d lose the ball? Do everything in their power to get an opposition play sent off? I think not. Worst thing is the referees fell for it more often than not it was like Barca had a 12th player on the pitch.

Xavi, Iniesta etc (Busquets excluded) do not cross me as unprofessional players so these tactics could only have come from Guardiola. I recall the Champions league final when they played Man Utd in 2011. Barca are coasting to a 3-1 against a side out of ideas however every time a Man Utd player tried to win the ball a Barca player would throw themselves on the floor and win a free kick even when there was little or not contact. If Ferguson Utd prided themselves on playing until the very last minute, Guardiola’s Barca did the same but with cheating.

Even though Guardiola has left and his former team play a very different more exciting style I still have a hate for Barca and think I always will even though I’m really like some of their current and former players. This is not to say he is the only manager who employs such tactics.The other most profile manager of this current generation Mourinho is equally adept at making unsavory tactics an integral part of his game plan but gets penalized for it by fans, the media and sometimes referees so why not Guardiola?

For this reason that Guardiola Barca team that regularly gets lauded as the greatest club team ever are no better than Lance Armstrong to me. Lies disguised as class.

Has anybody else fallen out of love with a team for a similar reason?
William, Leicester


Mere Godled alludes to a point that I believe is part of the reason why Barcelona do so well. Firstly I want to caveat the following with the fact that in MSN, Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Ronaldo (original) , Barcelona have pretty much always the best attackers in the world, that is the primary reason why they’ve dominated so much, and have won as much as they have. HOWEVER, they are also incredibly protected by referees. In fact, since the inception of the Champions League, they’ve had their opponents reduced to ten men on 30 occasions. There nearest competitor is Bayern with 20 people sent off, followed by Arsenal with 18 of their opposition sent off (proving my caveat, that sending off’s do a bit, but the players ultimately win you the game). Looking at those teams, a lot of them play fast football which means opponents will make rash tackles and get sent off. However, what Barca do better than anyone is play to their myth as the great arbiters of ‘how football should be played’ (the irony of being an Arsenal fan saying this, with Wenger as our manager, is not lost on me!) If anyone has the temerity to tackle them, they surround the referee, but not aggressively, but pleading to protect them. If a tackle comes in, 9 times out of 10, the Barca player will fall on the ball, making it impossible to retrieve. Any attempt to will result in a foul. They wave cards, dive, and get away with snide gamesmanship.

This kind of behaviour is mirrored by their board. Who tap up brazenly through their mouth piece newspapers, ride roughshod over any other club, and believe the rules don’t apply to them (see transfer ban).

I think the point I am trying to ham-fistedly make is that for all their amazing football, when the deck is stacked so far in their favour, is it any wonder they win as much as they do? Most clubs when they play Barcelona are playing against what seems an inherent bias in referees, as well as one of the best attacking teams in history.
John Matrix AFC


Justice for Joe and Gervinho
Emmanuel A left out a few big names from his list of Lille’s best dribblers. He forgot to mention that the English Messi, Joe Cole graced the club with his presence. But even better than Cole, he managed to leave out a man capable of beating three men with skill but also of tripping over his own feet, scoring a screamer but missing sitters from a yard out. The one and only Gervinho
Alex AFC (China get to enjoy his greatness now)


The Townsend of days
With the news that Andy Townsend is being lined up as Director of Football at Villa,

If anything, his agent has negotiated that too well.
Clive, BAC


That’s right villa. He’s going to make it all better. He’s the man to guide you back to the promised land and stability.
Matt “2nd funniest story today is that Lukaku might be available for £45m!” Hanchett


On that note…
Aston Villa update: following Bernstein’s B6 purge, losing 0-4 at the weekend, Alan Hutton ridiculously being given applause for getting sent off early, F365 have now informed me Dwight Yorke and John Carver have both thrown their hats into the ring for the manager’s job.

Anybody else fancy a crack? Gary Neville? Steve Evans? Mel Gibson? Sarah Palin?

In a hopefully unconnected story, the board – or whatever we’ve got at the moment – have decided to spend a load of cash amending the club crest, removing the word ‘Prepared’ (seriously –

Early reports this is to be replaced by ‘Making It Up As We Go Along’ are unconfirmed.

Please: someone, anyone – send help.
Neil (we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore…) Raines


Why I love David Beckham
Reading the emails from yesterday and the defence of Beckham it reminded me of that day and an incident and turning point at work.

In 2001 I was working for the largest electrical retail company in this country (which now owns the largest phone company too) and at the time our new boss HATED football. This guy would even turn off Jeff and the soccer Saturday crew so we couldn’t find out the scores.

In the morning briefing he stated that he didn’t want the match on and kept the tv’s on the store demo. I handled this well until ten minutes to the final whistle where l snapped and went to the biggest tv we had in store at the time, a 50″ rear projection Sony and turned the sound off but kept the picture on.

Now this store is 60 meters long, The tv was dead centre and wasn’t directly seen from the entrance but within five minutes there must have been around 50 people crowded around it. When Beckham went close with the first free kick a massive “Ooohhhhh”went out from the crowd around the tv. I could feel my boss’s eyes on my so like pretended to be searching for something on one of the tills and made sure l made no eye contact.

Then it happened. England got THAT free kick. The store went silent. I looked around and was shocked to see about 150 people crammed around the screen! Where had they all come from? Had a mental signal gone out that we had the match on? No time to reflect because right then Beckham ran up and hit that sweet, glorious ball into the top corner.

PANDEMONIUM. Wild animalistic cheers, grown men who had never met hugging each other, one of my deputy managers who l took to be an emotionless robot sent to study us from an alien race was on his knees on the floor fist pumping as if his life depended on it and there in the background my football hating boss open mouthed looking around but the look on his face told me that he FINALLY got what all the fuss was about with his football loving staff.

For Japorea 2002 this led to us getting in at 7am for the matches and him paying for breakfast. So thank you Beckham. That goal led to many more sporting events being shown at work.
Israel (the only downside was after one game the This Morning tv show on ITV did a LIVE testicular cancer check on tv. You have not moved with speed until you’ve had to change 75 tv’s all showing someone’s nads in close up at 10am!!!!!) MUFC since 1977


Here comes old fancypants
I just want to say I was so happy to see the ‘first person to mention Cristiano Ronaldo loses’ line on the piece on top ten free kick takers.

I’ve always thought it must be so frustrating to play alongside him if you were a player with even a hint of ability from dead ball situations, which I would assume most Real Madrid players are. Watching as a free kick is won, thinking ‘I could curl this in the…oh nope, old fancypants is there, he’s doing his completely over the top pace out and ridiculous stance…and he’s launched it into the stratosphere again…’.

It would be one thing to be skilled in the area but be playing alongside Beckham or someone, you’d think ‘OK, fair enough’. But Cristiano? It must drive players crazy.

That’s what I think.
Will Wymant, EFC


Is he that bad?
Steve McManaman made me yearn for Michael Owen
Mark Belfast


Thank you, Daniel Storey
A Nottingham Forest-supporting friend of mine told me a story about one match he went to as a youngster, that subsequently featured in I Believe In Miracles. Forest were playing AEK Athens in one of the early rounds of the European Cup, and my friend recalled “a short, chubby bloke being highly skilful in the warm-up – far better than the Greek players who played in the match”. It was only later that many of them discovered who he was.

Ferenc Puskas was 50 years old that night in Nottingham, and caused many a Forest fan to react in the same way as the Australian kids George Best and Denis Law met.

Perhaps what made him so great, a bit like the man in the opposing dugout on that occasion, was that he was very much of his time and there is no way anyone like him could thrive in today’s game. Just as Brian Clough’s force of personality would not bear up to the blanket media coverage of present day football, a player as unathletic-looking as Puskas was would have never been given a chance by any club today, and he’d be banging them in for Kutya és Kacsa XI. Fortunately, as every PFM knows, today is not like back then, and back then was always better than today, which is why Puskas was able to rightly take his place in the game’s pantheon.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven


Reading the icons pieces is often quite bitter-sweet. I didn’t really know anything about Ferenc Puskas as a person before reading the piece this morning and I was bracing myself for the article to describe how he had a sad/dark decline following retirement (Garrincha) or was quite simply a massive w*nker (Platini). It was a nice surprise to find that Puskas was fundamentally a good bloke who adapted well and didn’t make a mess of life after football.

The icon pieces are excellent by the way. Growing up I was also a massive cricket fan and looking back one of the things that really drew me in was the legendary characters, anecdotes, sledges and general culture of good storytelling about the history of the game. The stories and characters are definitely there in football but I find you have to go looking for them a bit more so hats off for filling in some of the gaps with icon pieces.


Just emailing to say I’m loving the portrait of an icon pieces and the one on Puskas was particularly brilliant. As a child I grew up being told stories from my dad and granddad how he was the best player ever, and thanks to some edited highlights I can get a glimpse of what they meant, and how right they were.

Kind regards,
Michael Dixon


I’d like to add my appreciation of the Ferenc Puskas article – great stuff. But I also thought I’d throw in another fantastic Puskas story. In 1967 a local community centre in Garston, South Liverpool, approached the great man (along with John Charles, Billy Liddell and several B list retired footballers) to play in a charity match at South Liverpool’s old ground, Holly Park. Amazingly he said yes. You can read the full story here.
Paul F, Liverpool

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