Book: Football – Bloody Hell!
Author: Patrick Barclay
Thickness: 512 pages
Tagline: The Biography of Alex Ferguson
If anyone told me that I would be reading a BIOGRAPHY in my lifetime, I would have laughed myself silly! Somehow, I have always had this low regard for biographies – oft looking down on them as boring, dull books that heaps praises on themselves. Wait, perhaps those are autobiographies? Hmmmm. Anyway, when my sister gave me this biography of Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) as a present some time ago, I had no choice but to read it…..and after reading my very first EVER biography, I have to say it isn’t quite half as bad as I had initially thought.
In fact, Football – Bloody Hell! was so good that I had some difficulty putting it down, hence finishing it quite fast, actually! I just didn’t have time to sit down and write a review of it, that’s all. My bad.
The biography starts off very nicely, tracing the humble beginnings of SAF as a striker when it began with Queen’s Park to St Johnstone to Dunfermline, Rangers, Falkirk and Ayr United. Always unable to secure first team football almost whereever he went, SAF started to realised that his actual talent may not be in playing but in tactics! It was revealed that SAF loved to discuss tactics and strategies after every football match!
So it wasn’t really surprising that somewhere along the way, he trained to become a coach and eventually started his career as manager in East Sterlingshire in 1974 , St Mirren in the same year, before eventually moving on to his prime tenure in Aberdeen from 1978 to 1986. It was during this time that SAF’s Aberdeen managed to challenge the Old Firm (Celtic & Rangers) consistently in the Scottish League. The biography also tells of his short stint in managing the Scotland national team in the 1986 World Cup before moving on to take charge of Manchester United.
His adventure in Manchester takes up a bigger portion of the book, where we are offered a overview, season by season of his struggles and successes there, right through the treble winning season of 1999 and eventually to the UCL final of the 2010/11 season.
Off-field, much is shared about his family life, his relationship with his family members, other managers, etc. and also his troubled own business, horse-racing addiction, etc. I would say the biography is quite comprehensive and covers just about everything you like and need to know about SAF.
For a biography, I am glad to note that the writing isn’t all that dry. I could almost feel the pain during his troubled times and also revel in the successes during SAF’s better times. The writing is very easy to follow and can be humorous at times.
Of course, I did feel that the better part of the writing was all events from page 1 leading right up to the treble winning season of 1998/99. it was as if the writer paced his book to climax there. Because beyond that season, the writing started to feel a little rushed for me – as if just to keep the pages as updated to the current year as possible.
I have to admit, it was kinda exciting to finally read and understand a little bit more of the mind of perhaps one of the greatest football managers of all time. So, I thought it would be good for me to try to recall some of the things or gems I picked up from his biography:
- one of SAF’s principles is that we’ve got to have discipline to work hard in whatever we do.
- SAF was rather infamous on the field for rough tactics , elbowing opponents, etc. heck, he even owned a bar called The Elbows Room! Now I could see why he has a fondness and similarity of a certain Wayne Rooney..
- He picked up most of his mind games from the legendary Jock Stein. Here I learnt some techniques of putting pressure on your opponents…”The title is now for Newcastle to lose…”, etc.
- However good a manager that he is, SAF always seemed to do badly in horse-racing bets. Conclusion: Being a good football manager is different from a football predictor.
- I noticed many in his family – brother, sons, etc. also eventually entered the football industry – some even through his influence. Most of this did not end well. Moral: too many family members in the same industry is hazardous…
- SAF taught me to always celebrate your opponent’s successes, especially after being defeated by them. He never failed to produce a bottle of wine to the manager of the team who tops United in the BPL or beats them in the UCL. Great humility and exemplary.
- SAF was also very persistent in signing the player that he wants. He shows that as well as he could bark on the football pitch, he could also display the human touch in personally following up with the players he wants till they sign up fir the club.
- Family was very important to SAF.
- SAF is always able to learn something from the people he meets in his life.
I found that after reading SAF’s biography, I am now able to better appreciate the wonderful stuff he has done and is still doing for the Manchester United Football Club. And more than that, there were some lessons of life that I could learn as well, making this biography the BEST (and perhaps the only one) that I will ever read!