Sunday 20 October 2019

Pearls of wisdom from a man with a marvellous record


Alan Aherne - Book review

Let's get the cynical viewpoint out of the way first; when it was announced that Alex Ferguson was bringing out another book, the phrase 'money-making venture' was quite a regular refrain.

Fair enough, that may well be the case, but are people gullible enough to think that earning a few pounds isn't a primary motivation for everyone putting pen to paper?

It's a fairly regular occurrence to hear the subject of an autobiography stressing how they wanted to share their story with a wider audience. Again that may be quite true, but it's an easier thing to do with the promise of a handy few quid for going to the bother.

I approached this latest offering from the former honours-laden Manchester United boss with an open mind for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I hadn't read any of his three previous books, and secondly, I am not a follower of the reds so had a good deal to learn about the many factors behind Ferguson's success.

The premise of this book is that the lessons to be learned from it may be applied to any business, not just football.

It was written in collaboration with Sir Michael Moritz who is a personal friend of Alex and a very successful investor.

And now that the Scot, who was raised in a tough area by hard-working parents, is two years out of the hotseat in Old Trafford, he's free to look back on his career without fear of any recriminations.

He has always enjoyed a reputation as being a straight talker, a 'what you see is what you get' type of character, and he isn't afraid to lay some home truths on the line in an interesting book.

Ferguson deals with virtually every area of management, and the vital skills required to successfully gel a team together. It mustn't be forgotten that he served a long apprenticeship as a boss before his accession to the Manchester United throne.

Indeed, his first appointment was with East Stirling as far back as 1974, and he had a stint with St. Mirren too before making football followers really sit up and take notice when he guided Aberdeen to a remarkable European triumph in 1983.

There's so many pearls of wisdom in this book that it's difficult to know where to start in a review of this nature.

Ferguson learned a lot from his good friend Jock Stein, and indeed he was on the line with him as his assistant when the Scotland manager died from a heart attack when they played Wales in 1985.

Stein always warned that a manager should never 'fall in love with the players because they will end up two-timing you' as he put it.

It was his way of stressing that bosses should always maintain a respectful distance. Far too many have fallen into the trap of thinking that their players wanted to be friends, only to have it all thrown back in their face when a heave was launched against them.

Ferguson stayed true to this always, but he was fiercely protective of his squad members too and they repaid that unstinting loyalty in spades as he collected an amazing 49 trophies with Manchester United.

Anyone in a leadership role will gather plenty useful nuggets of information from this book. Ferguson's record speaks for itself, so it's no surprise that his words carry a lot of weight. It should certainly appeal to more than just the die-hard Manchester United fans.

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