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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Jeff Winter from his book

his autobiography Who's the B*****d in the Black? (Ebury Press €28).

"United were lucky to win a caution-free game 1-0 but, while Keegan took it on the chin this time and shook my hand, Fergie was unhappy - I could tell by the glare in his eyes. He was about to do a television interview in the tunnel and just as I was walking past him, he shouted "Back to your usual self, Jeff, f***ing useless." I hadn't a clue what he was talking about and allowed the comment to go over my head. I could have reported it, but thought better to put it down to the heat of the moment. If every such incident were reported there would be a steady stream of managers and players going to FA disciplinary hearings every week and we wouldn't have time for anything else"

on August 2004 during the Newcastle game

"I have tremendous respect for Ferguson's achievements as a manager, but his mind games don't enhance the image of the game and his arrogance has led to him being an unpopular figure. Ryan Giggs was in full flight and was challenged by Andy O'Brien. United screamed for a free kick and a sending-off for O'Brien. But it wasn't a foul. Assistant referee Russell Booth kept his flag down and referee Uriah Rennie
waved play on. Fergie was incensed. The face turned its familiar shade of red as he leapt from his seat, ran outside the technical area and screamed: ‘You f***ing cheating b******!' at Russell. Fergie furiously kicked the ball back on to the field and again shouted: ‘You
f***ing cheat!' at Russell. As fourth official, I buzzed Uriah and told him what Fergie said. Uriah dismissed the United manager from the dugout. As Fergie walked up the tunnel he shouted at me, not once, but twice: ‘You're a f***ing joke.' Anybody who can lip-read could work out what Fergie had said — the whole incident was shown on TV. There is no way Uriah or his assistant would ever cheat and to have implied they were by using the word ‘cheat' is out of order. It is an abusive personal remark that a referee will not tolerate. Swearing is one thing, but accusing officials of cheating is a massive slur."

It all started to get rather naughty and sinister and it appeared there was a campaign, orchestrated by United, to iscredit me and get Fergie off the hook. The FA asked me to make a statement because there had been an implication from United that I had stage-managed the incident involving Fergie to help my proposed documentary. What a load of b******s. Fergie's actions left me no alternative. The FA's compliance officer told me he had recommended to Fergie that he accept the charge — and bearing in mind his previous good disciplinary record (obviously other referees had ignored barbed post-match comments as I had done) he would probably only be reprimanded. But Fergie refused the advice. He appeared to have only two aims: to discredit
me and have the charges dropped. The hearing was the most traumatic few hours of my career. There was Fergie, looking stern with an icy glare in my direction. With him was Manchester United solicitor Maurice Watkins and two legal staff. The FA had sent their own prosecutor — it was just like any court case. Fergie had brought Watkins with him for good reason. It was clear they were putting me on trial. United brought in several witnesses and read out a number of statements, all saying Fergie had not used the words I had reported. He did, however, admit to swearing but felt swearing at someone was not abusive language. His arrogance shone through. He thought calling one of the officials a ‘cheat' was harmless and couldn't see that he'd done anything wrong. My testimony was dissected, witnesses were called, all stating Fergie hadn't done anything wrong and suggesting my attitude had been provocative. I just waited for the screening of the video that would show Fergie clearly using foul and abusive language. However, I was in for another surprise. I expected the video to show the incident in its entirety. But it didn't — the incriminating parts were missing. I was astounded. Why didn't the tape show Fergie swearing when everybody watching on TV had seen exactly what happened? Had somebody edited it? It was like a murder trial without the forensic evidence. I asked the FA prosecutor: ‘What the hell happened to the video?' He replied: ‘We could not get an unedited copy.' I suggested ‘If it hadn't been a club with the clout of Manchester United there would have been a proper tape.' He smiled and said ‘Tell them about it in your book.'

When you consider the incident had been shown on TV and the FA couldn't lay their hands on an unedited version, his reply was unbelievable. Somebody must have taped the match, so who provided the edited version? It had been a torrid experience for me because my integrity and honesty had been questioned. Fortunately, the disciplinary board believed me. Fergie was banned from the touchline for two matches and fined — but I felt like the guilty man."


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