Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"An Audience with... Sir Alex Ferguson" - September 2007

Following Alan Cumming's triumphant return to Glasgow, another Scottish legend also took to the stage this week, although fortunately for the audience at The Citizens his entrance was somewhat more conventional. Walking out to a packed theatre that had been sold out almost since tickets went on sale, Sir Alex was given the welcome Glasgow reserves for its local heroes.

Ferguson's relationship with Glasgow is complex, or at least it should be. As a former Rangers player who as manager of Aberdeen broke the Glasgow domination of Scottish football, he should by rights be unpopular with at least half, if not all of a Glasgow audience. But his achievements at Manchester United have allowed Glasgow to put aside past differences, and recognise his success both there and at Aberdeen with the respect it deserves.

Accompanied on stage by writer Martin McCardie taking on the role of interviewer, Sir Alex spoke about his Glasgow roots, working on Clydeside, his time as a player at several clubs and then his managerial career. Appearing slightly nervous at the beginning of the evening, Sir Alex soon relaxed and proved an able storyteller with an astonishing memory for players names and match details.

The memories shared were a vibrant mix of the humourous, the insightful and the reflective. Happy to reveal his mischievous side as a player and showing clear affection for many of those he's worked with over the years, Sir Alex kept the audience enthralled.

A billed runtime of 80 minutes turned into two hours with the last 50 minutes or so made up by taking questions from the audience. No topics were declared off-limits and no questions were avoided, with many answers leading on to additional anecdotes. While many of the questions were fairly predictable the answers were not always so - his mention of Paul Gascoigne as the player he most regrets not managing to sign took me by surprise. He provided a very interesting analysis about the way his famous crop of young players were brought through to the first team in response to a question on Alan Hansen's "never win anything with kids" comment. He was also willing to discuss his infamous "mind games" although he played this aspect down a little.

There were a few moments where the legendary Ferguson steel came through. His continuing anger at the BBC was unrestrained, while the sense of injustice at what he perceives as the favourable treatment of some Arsenal players clearly still burns.

One further thing that struck me during the questioning was the way he responded to a question from a young boy of ten or twelve. Rather than giving a response aimed at a child he gave the question full respect and answered it in exactly the same manner as the others - without any suggestion of talking down to, or patronising him. It's easy to see why many talented young players would want to play for him despite his fearsome reputation.

The evening flew in and the audience were clearly delighted by Sir Alex taking time out from his schedule to share an evening with them. He was duly rewarded with a standing ovation after the final question, partly for a wonderfully entertaining evening but more for the man and everything he has achieved.

1 Heckle

Mark said...

Being Lucky enough to Know Sir Alex personally with him being a family friend I can assure you that the description you give of his willingness to discuss anything and his personable style sums up the man behind the public persona.

He is extremely proud of his country of birth and is as fiercly patriotic as any of us. In person he is one of the warmest people you could meet and I know he was looking forward to this event and would have enjoyed himself hugely.

I know he feels far more at ease in Scotland as he has stated it is the only place where he can walk around and have his privacy respected and is approached with good manners and courtesy unlike other places.

Great review and lovely to see a wide range of theatrical events being covered by the ever excellent VFTS.

Keep up the good work.

Mark
Scottish Theatre Forum