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Sir Alex Ferguson Back In The News.

It’s been too long, but Sir Alex Ferguson is back in the news again, though it took the publication of a new book about leadership to get him centre stage once more – unless you happen to be a student at Harvard in which case, you’ll have seen plenty of him in recent times.dave bowler illustrationBy Dave Bowler

It’s an intriguing read in parts but one of the stand-out elements is Ferguson’s assertion that during his time at United, “I told them I did not think it fair that Rooney should earn twice what I made.

Joel Glazer said, “I totally agree but what should we do?” It was simple. We just agreed no player should be paid more than me”.

It’s fascinating that such a move should be greeted with such surprise because in the real world, beyond football, do you find the CEO getting less money than the company’s best salesman or its accountant who is adept in ensuring as little tax as possible gets handed over?

No. The organizational pyramid in most places is very clear-cut and simple in terms of salary – the closer to the sharp end you are, the more you are getting paid.

Of course, in footballing terms, the waters are muddied a little. However good a manager is, he doesn’t score the goals, win the tackles, save the penalties.

World Class

Genuinely world class footballing horseflesh comes in pretty short supply – Sir Alex reckons only Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo measure up to that yardstick in his United sides – and so it can command some pretty exorbitant wages.

After all, it’s that last minute strike that gets you into the Champions League that brings home the bacon isn’t it? And yet, who was it who put that player in the team? Who identified him as worth getting in the first place?

Who set up the team to create the opportunity for him to score, and who formulated the tactics to make sure that they weren’t conceding a hatful at the other end so that just the one goal would be decisive? The manager.

Ask any professional who has spent time in the game and pretty much to a man, they will tell you that at any football club, the manager is the most important man at any club, even in these days when the vice like grip of a Shankly, a Clough or a Revie has been weakened by big business, sporting directors and the like.


It is still the manager who sets the tone, he who runs the footballing operation, who decides how the team will play, how things will operate away from the bean counting offices.

He is the one that takes the club to the outside world too, the one that does the press conferences, the major interviews, the one that is the meeting point between the media and the football club because however glamorous your players, it is still the word of the manager that counts most on “Match of the Day”, in the press and on the websites.

If you remain unconvinced, just think of the great teams that have dominated British football and how they are referred to – Ferguson’s Aberdeen, Busby’s United, Stein’s Celtic, Mourinho’s Chelsea, Paisley’s Liverpool, Revie’s Leeds. However great they were, we don’t talk of Charlton’s United, Dalglish’s Liverpool, Strachan’s Aberdeen, Giles’ Leeds do we?

Not for nothing are managers referred to as the supremo from time to time because ultimately, the buck stops with them, just as everything flows from them. The wise ones surround themselves with good support staff, but in the end, they make the decisions, they define the club, the team.


They also impose the discipline, increasingly difficult at the top end when they are faced by a phalanx of youthful multi-millionaires. Football has always been a battle of wills, in your own dressing room as much as on the pitch.

The highly testosterone charged environment has always seen managers challenged to either metaphorically or literally “show us your medals” by the players they lead. In the modern game, earning power has begun to hold equal sway.

How then can a manager impose discipline and face down a youngster who might be earning significantly more than he is?

The power struggle is irredeemably lost for, understandably enough, the youngster will do the math and come out realising that, if he gets paid more, he must be worth more, so why take any lip from a mere manager?

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