Journalists give intriguing insight into life of Sir Alex

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.  Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

BUDDING sports writers were treated to a fascinating insight into the mindset of managerial great Sir Alex Ferguson by two of the country’s leading sports journalists.

Patrick Barclay, The Times’ chief football correspondent and author of Ferguson biography Football – Bloody Hell, joined The Telegraph’s Jim White to deliver the lecture to sport journalism students at the University of Brighton, who are based at the Hillbrow site on Gaudick Road.

The talk, held earlier this month, particularly recalled Barclay’s dealings with Ferguson throughout the writing of his book, an experience which dramatically changed the journalist’s perception of a man he’d been dealing with since covering Aberdeen in 1978.

Barclay said, “The more I wrote about him now, the less I liked him. The soft side of him is no longer evident to the general hoypoloi like us. He is not as nice a chap as he was in the early days.”

Ferguson’s mean streak was particularly evident during one of Barclay’s trips to Italy to interview then Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho.

Barclay was initially given VIP treatment by Mourinho and a host of club officials, only to be ejected from the club after Ferguson sent a text to Mourinho’s personal phone labelling Barclay a fraud and an imposter.

Barclay also revealed that Ferguson’s influence spread well beyond football. The Manchester United manager was reportedly an advisory figure to Tony Blair, and was even in contact with the Labour leader on the night he won his first general election in 1997.

One thing the two journalists agreed on was ‘Fergie’ isn’t going anywhere just yet. White said, “Ferguson will go on and on and will still control Manchester United from beyond the grave.”

Barclay agreed, “I think he just looks at the end and can’t contemplate it.

“Liverpool were the challenge when he first came down, then came Arsenal and Arsene Wenger then there was Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. Now there is Barcelona and Manchester City.”

Jed Novick, senior lecturer on the sports journalism course and the man responsible for organising the lecture, was delighted with the evening. He said, “It’s fantastic to get guys like Patrick and Jim down. For the students it’s really inspiring and energising.”

The sports journalism course at the University of Brighton is widely regarded as one of the best in the country. It’s one of only two sport journalism courses in the country to be NCTJ accredited, with the Herald’s own sports editor Derren Howard one of its many graduates now working in the profession.