Bet now with totesport - Free £25 bet!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Interview with Norman Whiteside, 2000

Red News: So you are a podiatrist?
Norman Whiteside: A podiatrist yes. Well all it is, is I'm a state registered chiropodist and people get it mixed up because chiropody years ago was a diploma and I think what they did was they made the course into an honours degree and they called it a podiatry course so I'm a chiropodist/podiatrist - call it what you may - but you know they liked to be known as podiatrists so that's what I am! We specialise from the hip to the big toe so that's what we do.

RN: What made you actually decide to get into feet as it were...
NW: Well I'd knackered that many feet up during my playing career I thought I'd maybe put a bit back in and mend them you know (laughs)! I was always injured throughout my career as you know and in the medical room I picked up quite a knowledge of the anatomy and stuff like that. So I liked all that stuff. The physio used to give me lots of muscles to remember each day when I went into the medical room to stop the boredom. I just got into it and went down that avenue when I finished. I tried to go into physiotherapy but didn't have enough qualifications so I went back to school and got all my GCSEs and A Levels and wanted to get into the podiatry course - which looking at it you know is the best thing I ever did - because I've got a unique situation at the moment where I look after about 60+ Football League clubs and I'm the only one that's got the right to do the whole 92 really. Whereas if I was a physio - with respect to physiotherapists - but each club has one - so I'm in a unique situation so it worked out brilliant for me in the end.

RN: You also have work involving United on matchdays?
NW: Yeah I do the corporate hospitality along with Stuart Pearson, Wilf McGuinness and a few other comedians. We just go around doing the hospitality suites which suits me down to the ground. I mean I love mixing with people and, you know, having a few beers round the tables and then watching the game of course so it's great to be part of the club - certainly on a matchday. You meet some interesting characters as well so it's fantastic to be part of.

RN: We met you after the Paul McGrath testimonial in Dublin and had a drink with you and one or two questions (now) are about what the conversation swung around that afternoon - When your career ended you started your college course with little money at all at the time. How did it feel having to learn a new trade all over again?
NW: It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'd finished then professional football - earning decent money - not as much as they earn today I might add - but decent money in relative terms to the normal working person in the street. So I went from earning sort of good money to earning no money and I woke up one day with nowhere to go and just 'what am I going to do with my life' type of thing. So it was very difficult to go back to school. Certainly when sitting the GSCE class with 15 year olds doing Physics and stuff - it was pretty hard work. But the way I always looked at it was I was going to take a step back to go forward again and that's all it was so I took a few years out to go back to school and university and then obviously your capital starts dripping down as well so then I had to get swiftly back into earning some money. So I started doing after-dinner speaking, I started working at Old Trafford and of course my podiatry has taken off really well so things are looking good at the moment.

RN: Now how did it feel - the relatively low earnings in your day compared to what they are earning today.
NW: Well I'm actually all in favour of players earning big money. People think 'oh you're jealous'. I'm not jealous at all because in relative terms...I mean my dad was a painter and decorator and you know, I don't know how much, I can't remember how much I finished earning but maybe ten times more than my dad was earning - and even twenty times more than my dad was earning - as a painter and decorator so I was well paid as far as I was concerned and doing something that I actually loved doing. I mean, for instance, I was probably only on £300 a week at the Cup Final in '85 - I mean that sounds ridiculous these days, you know, £300 a week in the Cup Final ,- people would laugh at you. And when I made my debut for United I was on £16 a week - my win bonus was £800 so I mean I got £800. I came on for 12 minutes at Brighton in 1982...1982, Brighton, 12 minutes and the win bonus was £800 and I was only on £16 a week. So You could imagine how I felt then!

RN: I was there then! Your Utd career was a boys own story - a common tag at that time - what were your realistic dreams when you arrived at Old trafford?
NW: No I was just very narrow minded. No, not narrow minded, I was very - what shall I say - blinkered in what I wanted to do. I mean I didn't let many things get in my way. I wanted to be a footballer and that was it, simple as that. And then when I got to Old Trafford I wanted to get in the first team at the earliest possible age because I was bigger than most of my peers and you know I kept getting remarks from the coaching staff saying 'if you keep going son you've got a chance'. And you know I remember one of the coaches saying - Eric Harrison - we were coming back from a training session and you know there's me only 16 and he turns round and says 'Norman if you keep going son you've got a chance for the World Cup'. And I went 'is he having a laugh or what'. It was on my way over from the Cliff to Old Trafford and you know two months k later I'm in the Northern Ireland team playing in the World Cup in Spain! But things did happen very quickly for me of course.

RN: You were one of the youngest...
NW: Well I was the youngest - I was the youngest yeah. I beat...Well I'm the youngest British international still and I was the youngest to beat Pele's. Well I beat Pele's record - I was 17 years and 41 days - and I'm still the youngest ever to play in the World Cup Finals.

RN: Was it right, 2 World Cups before you were 22?
NW: Yeah. 82 was Spain, 86 was Mexico so I was 21. 17 and 21.

RN: I argue with my son that you got a header in the World Cup.
NW: No, a deflected goal from a free-kick against Algeria. (laughs).

RN: The old memory bank's going!

RN: Our favourite memory is when you came on at Liverpool in the 3-3 game and sorted a certain Scouser out shall we say...
NW: Oh yeah.

RN: You were a hero, you were awesome actually I have to say and I'm very nervous talking to you even now.
NW: Don't be silly.

RN: No I can't help it Norman because I can only remember you as a player and how awesome you were - and people went to see you in the FA Youth Cup at Watford (in the early eighties)...
NW: We had a great Youth team.

RN: They came back with your name and saying 'who was this colossus who represented Utd...
NW: It was probably Mark Hughes!

RN: No, they were convinced it was you.
NW: We had a great youth team didn't we with Mark Hughes and Billy Garton and myself and Graeme Hogg and people like that - we had a good youth policy but the one thing I would say about myself - I got on great with the supporters because deep down I'm just a working class guy with a bit of a talent from the back streets of Belfast. And I went out to play the game as I think most of the supporters would like to play it - to get stuck in and obviously score some goals and, you know, I wasn't a bad passer of the ball either. So I just went out and played the way I thought they'd want me to play and obviously that came across in their adulation for me because they were singing my name and I loved that. So that got me going and I got them going and we had a great rapport and I still do to this day. I mean I go to Old Trafford, sign a million autographs you know what I mean.

RN: Did you say anything to Steve McMahon that day?
NW: Only with my studs! No, I came on. I remember John Barnes getting an elbow in the adams apple - I got him round the throat and then Steve McMahon tried to come near me and I think I stood on his little toe or something like that. But I thought his little toe was around about his shin though didn't I! I didn't know my anatomy that well then! Oh and then we came back to 3-3 didn't we. Wee Gordon give it the cigar didn't he. That's right. It's amazing though - like you remember games - we remember every ball. You know players remember every kick, every ball. It's amazing.

RN: You're usually sober when you're having a game and we're not (that's why).
NW: I don't like that usually! Definitely so!

RN: No, no, I mean definitely. You know what I'm saying.
NW: Yeah, yeah!

RN: Jimmy Hill also had a go at you that night on Match of the Day!
NW: Oh yeah that was '85 wasn't it.

RN: Nice man.
NW: Yeah he said something to me and I remember...We were drinking the Guinness or something on Match Of The Day (special) and he said, typical sarcastic Jimmy Hill, he said something to me and I said 'Oh Jimmy, you know it all anyway don't you' and he went 'woh woh woh' - he fluttered a little bit didn't he and Big Ron hit me a clout round the ear and says 'Eh, behave yourself, you'.

RN: You also said when we had that drink that your Utd mementos like all the shirts you swapped, etc, were all in black bags in your loft
NW: They're still there.

RN: Have they got moths yet?
NW: Well I've not looked at them since. I've got my United shirts and boots and all my international jerseys and stuff and even my United tracksuits like I wore in the Cup Finals - they're all in bin liners in the loft. They're named like - it just says 'jerseys' or whatever but no I've not had them out. I mean I've got a nice room here where I could display them but I didn't get round to that type of thing. I mean that's probably something I'll leave to the kids...Then I've got international caps and stuff I can leave for them you know. It's more for them really. I've got the happy memories that will do for me. I've got the videos. I don't even sit down with my kids and watch vides or anything. They just wish I was playing today so they could meet bloody David Beckham and people like that! That's all they're interested in! (laughs).

RN: Do you have any regrets obviously - probably - at it ending so soon?
NW: No because I wouldn't really change anything. I mean if I'd tried to change my way of playing or something then I wouldn't have been the Norman Whiteside that I was. No, I just went out to play it the way I thought it should have been played and - for right or for wrong, people didn't like my style, that's up to them. We're all different. I wouldn't certainly change it. People say 'well you had that many injuries, you shouldn't have been doing that, you shouldn't have been doing that'. Well if that's the only way I like to play football then I can turn round and say I've had 10 happy years in the game. Even though I've had a lot of operations I've had 10 happy years in the game. I'd rather look at it and say well from 16 to 26 I've had 10 happy years rather than turn round and say, well you know, 'look at those lucky so and so's earning all this money'. I don't look at it that way. I look at it the positive angle rather than saying 'I'm jealous, and I'd love to be on sort of 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 grand a week', whatever they're on. So I tend to look at it on my positive side - and say 'well yeah, well I've done a lot what people haven't done' - a lot of people, millions of people haven't done. I tend to look at that side of it.

RN: Do you feel if you were still playing at 34 you'd be at Old Trafford now or?
NW: I'm 35 now, I'm a pensioner now! I'm getting on a bit now! I would love to have thought so. That was obviously one of the reasons I left with my bad knee at Old Trafford. Me and Fergie knew it wasn't going to be - it wasn't going to last too long - I hadn't got long left in the game so we did a good deal and I went to Everton on a good financial package both from United and Everton which sorted me out a little bit. Otherwise I would have hopefully have stayed . If my knee had been ok there is no doubt I would have been still a Manchester United player. But my knee was dicky from day one. So we did the right thing. Everybody put it down to other things but as long as me and Alex know what the main reason was then that's fine.

RN: Because neither of you have been critical about each other?
NW: Oh no. No, in his book he's given me almighty praise I believe. They're talking about we don't get on. I mean he had his testimonial dinner at the GMEX - 2,200 people there - and there was VIP guests for 200 and I was a VIP member you know. And after he wins the Championship - because you know I do the hospitality stuff - I'm walking down the corridor and he's got a room full of his family and friends and he just drags me in. 'There's a bottle of champagne son - get it down your neck' and all this. You know we're friends - there's no doubt about it. But people just - let them think what they think. The most important thing is that if we know the truth.

RN: The turn-out for your testimonial the crowd was very low.
NW: Pretty poor.

RN: It wasn't your fault because obviously we'd just lost the league to Leeds.
NW: The reason my committee - it was all about timing just like my tackles probably, bad timing...We booked it because United were ahead and were going to win the league for the first time, in 20 odd years. Obviously it just went a bit pear shaped and it wasn't to be. You know it's another one of those days where you either hit the jackpot or you don't and unfortunately I didn't.

RN: As supporters it upsets us because you were one of our all-time greats.
NW: Well I'd like to think that I'd put a little bit in and you know I'd like to have seen a few more people there. No it was disappointing, I think it was only 8,000 or something wasn't it? A little bit disappointing but...

RN: It wasn't a reflection on you but a reflection on the mood of the time I think.
NW: Well I'd like to think that as well! (laughs).

RN: I just think a lot of people were so gutted.
NW: ...well exactly. They thought that was going to be the first. I mean they could have been parading the trophy and everything couldn't they.

RN: Do you still have much contact with the old gang - Robbo, McGrath?
NW: I've seen Paul in Dublin believe it or not last Monday. Bumped into him. I was over doing a sportsmen's dinner then Paul was over doing something else...He came into our hotel at night about 12 o clock and we were just in the residents bar there - just had a good old chat. Robbo? I was up in Middlesbrough about two/three weeks ago - I went to watch Boro-Macclesfield whenever it was. I was up there doing some work for a few North-East clubs for the feet job so I obviously went into Robbo's office and we went and had a couple of beers with Viv Anderson and himself and big Gordon McQueen. We went and had a couple of beers and that was it. We had a good old chinwag. Yeah, I get to see the boys on my travels.

RN: You're not tempted to take the England job - Robbo as your sidekick?
NW: Well, it could be the other way round couldn't it! I don't know what's going to happen with that. They're all going for Terry Venables at the moment aren't they - all the media.

RN: It always seemed as though you had something in reserve against the Scousers?
NW: Well I used to love playing against Liverpool. And I always had good results against them. I used to have the good fortune to score against them quite a few times as well. I think I played against them about 15 times, and I was only on the losing side - well they beat us in the Milk Cup at Wembley, 2-1, didn't they in '83? And then they beat us in the Milk Cup again at Anfield when Jan Molby scored from outside the box.

RN: Both dodgy - two decisions, one was a dodgy penalty at Anfield and the other was a tackle on Gordon McQueen.
NW: Apart from that that's the only two times I've been beaten by Liverpool. That's the only 2 times. I've never been beaten any other time by Liverpool. Perhaps we've won more than that when we've beat them at Anfield, we've beat them at Old Trafford, we've drawn with them at Old Trafford. Yeah we've beat them - out of about 15 times that was the only 2 times. And that wasn't even in the league then was it - so that's two Cup games. You know the other unbelievable statistic - ...went to do Leeds' feet and all that and the boys are saying 'well, what was it like playing?'. I never, ever played against Leeds in my entire career.

RN: Did you not? Because they were always in the second Division.
NW: I always say that! People would have thought you automatically would have played in the big stadiums and that but they weren't about - during the 80s anyway.

RN: How do you think United's season will go this year?
NW: Well I'm biased obviously but I think they've got a great chance of course. I wouldn't go as far to say I'll stick my neck out and say they'll definitely win it but definitely be there or there abouts. You won't even find Fergie saying that until they've got it in the bag But we just need to be a bit more consistent, win more, keep winning our home games - or start winning our home games - and just a bit more consistency.

RN: We could do with a Norman Whiteside! (laughs). One of my favourite goals is the - and I'll probably shoot myself in the foot again - was down at Arsenal where you took the ball...
NW: John Lukic was in goal. That's me first day I started playing in midfield. Big Ron had me as sub and they put me on. And then I just - from one box to the other, I just curled one in or something didn't I? Yeah I remember that. I tell you what. the BBC have sent me a compilation of all my goals - all the documentaries and all the goals. It's about a two hour tape from day one as a 15 year old arriving at Old Trafford right through's brilliant. It repeats itself quite a bit but I showed the kids that one. I've sent it round my pals to have a good look at it, it's all the international games and all my Utd games - just all little documentaries - my 18th birthday and all sorts of things.

RN: Can't you get persuade them to issue it! I'm sure the fans would like that...Laughs.

RN: Thanks Norman - thanks again for your time.

Norman Whiteside - hero then, hero now.

Interview with Gary Bailey 2001

Red News: Some of our readers might be a bit vague about what you've been up to since you left Old Trafford - could you fill us in?
Gary Bailey: I firstly played for 2 more years for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa. I missed playing and didn't really fancy doing any other type of work. I also realised that to get back into business in SA, I needed to raise my profile, so playing for the biggest club in Africa seemed like a sensible step. Then I set up a business teaching black workers about business principles using soccer eg; communication, team work, being accurate, etc. This went well but it wasn't what I really wanted to do....which was to be close to soccer without being a manager! So I then made the decision to work in the media and started by accepting a job with a local radio station as their sports editor. At the same time I started working on local Tv as a soccer guest...that was in 1990. Now 11 years later, I'm the main soccer anchor for all the soccer on Supersport (the equivalent of Sky) and we get 4 live English premier matches a week, plus all the FA cup, Worthington cup and First division games. I also completed my MBA from Henley in Oxford, but still decided that working in TV is where my passion lies.
RN: Was it always the intention to return to South Africa and leave England?
GB: I wasn't sure about returning to SA...but the longer I stayed in Manchester, the more I became homesick for the sunshine and beaches. Although I really enjoyed the people in Manchester, I couldn't wait to get home for holidays, so when my retirement suddenly happened, I knew that I would only be happy back in SA. My family were still in Johannesburg and my fiancee was from Cape Town so those were both added factors.
RN: Do you have any contact with United in any form nowadays?
GB: I don't have much contact with United....I suppose I initially wanted to get into a new's difficult for fans to understand but after 10 years as a soccer pro, I just wanted to live a normal life, relaxing on weekends, not playing on Xmas and New years day and having long holidays. The only problem is that after doing this for a few years, you begin to realise what a good life you actually had as a soccer pro! So I concentrated on the media, and left my United career behind. Being far away didn't make it easier, and when I have returned, no one seemed that bothered so it made me realise that I'm only part of history and time has moved on. There's no bitterness, just a realisation that other players now have the opportunity to enjoy their careers at Old T. I have been discussing getting involved with United in overseas expansion plans but none of those have come to fruition, so I've left that idea behind for the time being.
RN: Going back to your early career it was some elevation from being given a trial at United in January 1978 to a full debut just a few months later in November 1978...
GB: When I joined Utd, I spent much of my time in the A team, and when Alex Stepney injured himself, I moved up to the reserves and played quite well. It was only when Jim Blyths medical failed that I got my chance, and although I took it k really well, it probably come too early in my career. I battled for the first 6 months and the FA Cup Final of '79 didn't help....although it did toughen me up and the following season was probabaly one of my best, leading to a 2nd finish in the league. It was wonderful playing well and playing in front of the old Stretford End.....the singing was magic and I loved playing at all the grounds that I had dreamt of as a kid. The problems came off the pitch.....I started to get homesick, missing my family, friends and sunshine...and then I found it difficult to be accepted in the dressing room, especially coming from university. After my first full season (79/80), I joined the England team abroad and then only had 2 weeks holiday before returning for the new season...I lasted 3 months before my batteries run dry and as soon as I started to play badly, I realised how hard football can be. The players were on my back, the press hammered me and I had no idea how to handle lack of apprenticeship was my problem, and I just had to learn the hardway. It probably took me 2 years of indifferent performances before I started to regain my full confidence and towards the end of the 84/85 season I felt I was playing well again. The new season began with us winning the first 10 games and I was back in the England team and this time injury stopped my progress and I only managed a few more games later that season before going to the world cup. That was when I totally messed up my knee. A year later and 5 games for Alex and it was time to call it quits at 28....the time that I should've been playing my best football.
RN: How important is the feeder club that United have helped set up in South Africa?
GB: The feeder club Utd have set up in SA is yet to get into full swing... it has potential but there's plenty of work still to be done. It probably needs Utd to get more involved and support the venture.
RN: We've heard of problems with the old SA fan club which now seem to be resolving itself, as Utd set up a new marketing and merchandise arm in SA, what were the thoughts on that?
GB: The supporters club problems have been resolved.....all the regions will work thru FC fortune in Cape Town but nothing will change for the supporters..they will still meet every month.
RN: And the classic quote from the first Cup Final against Brighton was 'And Smith must score" - did you think that as well when he had the ball!
GB: The '83 Cup final still annoys me sometimes..Smith didn't miss, I saved it. Had the ball gone over the cross bar or round the post, then it would've been a miss, but instead I blocked it and was first to the rebound...sometimes keepers just can't win!
RN: And the 1979 Final is also remembered by Reds - do you think that cross should have been cut out for their 3rd?
GB: In 1979, the cross from Rix took a slight deflection off Martin Buchan's leg and I think that changed the flight of the ball...ultimately if you leave your line you must get the ball but it was a cruel way to end the game!
RN: Why do you think it was that the great Utd sides of your era - say particularly 1983-84 - never stepped up to lift the title? We hammered the likes of Barca and showed our class but Liverpool took the Championships...
GB: Why did we not win the league in 83/84? Something to do with self belief....we were level with Liverpool with about 4 games to go but somehow they believed they would win it and we weren't sure....yet we had such a good team, perhaps with a bit more luck we could've pulled it off, but we faded the next 2 seasons as well so something was missing in our make up.
RN: United have changed so much these days...
GB: United over the last 10 years have been awesome, a joy to behold. They will continue to win everything because they have the players, the squad size and the self belief...besides that they have Sir Alex. The day he leaves, I hope McClaren or whoever takes over continues the traditions - as Graeme Souness showed, failure to do that could destroy everything that's been built up.
RN: What do you think of United's recent keepers
GB: The greatest in the world was Peter, the fact that I was his hero as a kid was very special for me....but he arrived when he was a mature keeper and played well into his 30's which is the right way to do it. Barthez looks like a worthy contender...he's got the ability, arrogance, success and even his lack of height doesn't seem to be a problem. I do feel sorry for Boz. I'm sure he wants to prove himself but it doesn't seem like he'll get the's something he's going to have to live with.
RN: And, finally, what's next for Gary Bailey?
GB: I'm just completing my A licenses in the UK and I hope to set up a top class academy in SA.....besides that, my TV work is great fun and I'll keep popping in for the odd match at Old T...the SA supporters are due in April for the City home game and I'll be with them...otherwise I'm enjoying the sunshine, beaches, English Premier football and my kids...couldn't ask for much more could I?

A quick meet with Eric Cantona, 2002

It's the jubilee weekend and I'm off to see my own version of Royalty. I've missed all the other beach football tournaments in England when Eric has played because I've been on my hols - I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity this time round.

Red News once again - purely for your benefit you understand - managed to blag some press passes (amazing what adding a few noughts to your circulation figures can do) and thus a few of the team decided to treat the long bank holiday as a euro away on the coast. Bed and breakfast prices suddenly got delusional and thought they were charging for a stay in Buckingham Palace itself and the Hilton actually ended up cheaper than any of them (especially with five in the room...).

Even better to learn that Eric, arriving late on the Saturday (the tournament was to be played from then until the Monday afternoon), was to be staying there. But ...not our one! Instead he was in the one just down the road and I homed my stalking impressions admirably over the next few days by managing to walk past that Hilton at every opportunity to see if Eric was around and fancied a pint.

You just don't realise, or should that be recall, the affect that Eric still has over us. Of course we all know the basics - catalyst, inspiration and for my generation the greatest United player we've seen - but here we are all these years on from retirement and he still means as much to United fans as he ever did. He's a talismanic figure and you only truly realise it close up. Contrary to some rumours he stayed behind for an hour after the games were finished on the Sunday to sign every autograph for the waiting crowd (100-150). Children, adults, families, from the dedicated Red to glory hunter, all were there to catch a glimpse, many just wanting the opportunity to say their version of 'thanks'.

On the Monday he had to disappoint some of those who were waiting because he had a plane to catch but unlike other United players, past and present, who I've seen waltz by, make a token blurred autographic gesture and then rush off, Eric took his time and seemed to appreciate the adulation buzzing around him. Well who else would get this kind of reception? However much I appreciate and support the current great set of players in the United team, there is nobody like Eric who'd I travel across England to see play beach football, let alone 5 years after they've left Old Trafford.

Not Matt Le Tissier that's for sure. The star of the England beach team, only just out of retirement himself from Southampton, where he too had been rewarded godlike status, saw only one Southampton fan make the journey down. As he watched Eric and the melee around him at all times he probably realised the difference between support and hero worship. One older male Red gave a shirt for Eric to sign. "I love you Eric, sign the shirt saying you love me". I've always wanted to speak to Eric, and hoped that if I did meet him and get the chance I'd have perfect composure and not lose it, garbling nonsense.

Teresa McDonald has been to all of these events and each time she has watched Eric up close, got a photo with him and uttered one piece of incomprehensible dialogue before rushing off. I told all the RN bods that this year we'd be a lot more professional and a lot less giddy around Eric. As Eric wasn't around for the Saturday games we then discovered the free fridge of Kronenbourg, ogled the beach football dancing girls and got paraletic in the crazy toy town that is Brighton town centre at a weekend. If the kebab owners on the seafront hadn't heard of Eric before then, they certainly did by 4am. Sunday. A bright day and a lot more people around the stadium - about 2,000 present in a 3,000 seater. There were a lot more Reds here today, including a couple of groups of Reds airing all the old classics.

Eric arrived in the VIP/press area and as the games started on the pitch a group of us just watched Eric train. I was less than 20 yards away from a hero, a man who had done so much to alter the course of United's and my own destiny. And all he was doing was juggling a ball and it was brilliant. He recognised Teresa, which was nice, probably thinking 'there's that old grandmother who follows me around the world. I must remember to get that banning order sorted'.

The games on the pitch whizzed by and the French team began to get ready to return to the Hilton. Joel and Eric take their roles of managing the side very seriously. Eric responded to each opponents goal with a scowl and a glare and there were some right old ding dong arguments between opponents and within the French team after a mistake.

Sky did their interview, as did a few other tv companies and the printed press and then our moment came. Or should that be Karim's. All my pre-tournament thoughts of having a lucid chat with him went out of the window as I became a blank mess. I passed the tape cassette to Karim - 'I just caaannnn't do it'. My mission now was just to get my photo with him. I leapt in. Eric is it ok to have a quick photo? "Sure, yes". I put my arm around him - "love is in the air" came to mind like Barry White in Ally McBeal - and then I just blurted: "Thank you Eric, for everything. You changed my life by winning us the league at United. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you".

No doubt he's heard it a thousand times but as he said something to the effect of "thanks" himself (the word was catching) and as the photo was about to be taken, some gormless bimbo got in the way of the camera. Probably a nice girl, quite pretty, but she's just barged in and said: "I echo his thoughts". The usual "never seen you at a game" thoughts spring to mind and then the fear that the photo opportunity might be lost forever. "Excuse me, can you just move out of the camera shot while I get the photo". She stayed stuck where she was and I think we were at the stage of her being thrown into the cold sea of Brighton unless she moved before she got the message - thus I now have pride of place a shot of a beaming smiling Eric and me with a demented face, angrily staring at said woman just out of shot.

You often have an image of a person, especially someone you look up to, that you'd like to be true in reality - sadly it is rare to be the case. All those stories of Eric staying behind after games until the last autograph had been signed seemed no exaggeration here. Ready to leave, as soon as Karim said could he spare a minute or so to talk to a Manchester United fanzine, he stopped in his tracks, smiled and said: "Of course". Happy days. At first this all went unnoticed but the few seagulls present for the tournament (England were playing so few had made it to Brighton) soon realised an outsider was chatting to Eric and smelt some extra quotes.

More of that later. Red News asked Cantona about the French beach football team.

EC: "We have young players. We train every week. We train very hard all Winter. We improve a lot. I think in future times we can beat Norway and Portugal (the current leaders of the league). This summer we have a tournament with 1600 young players...ages 13, 17 and 20"
RN: "How do you feel about the support you still get at Old Trafford and Manchester United fans singing your name?"
Eric: "It moves me a lot"
He also said: "A great goalkeeper in Fabien Barthez"
Red News then asked if he kept in touch with Alex Ferguson and the players.
EC: "I have got them in my mind, in my heart" as he then pointed to his heart.
RN: We asked him if he had a message for United supporters, after the low season.
EC: "I just hope that they will win everything. They will win the European cup and they will come back and win the Championship"
RN: Would you have liked the opportunity to play alongside Ruud Van Nistelrooy, would that have been a good partnership?
EC: "Yes. I think there are good players so he can play with them. I think the players around him must enjoy it very much because he's a clever player. He can score but he can play football also, a good passer. Strong"
RN: We asked him if he thought Roy had done the right thing leaving the World Cup?
EC: "I think he is too professional for Ireland. So the people who are not professional can not understand him. I think the people most understand that and they must take his advice very seriously if they want to improve. I think it is a good thing for the future for Ireland because they will realise that...they have to listen"

I'd been watching nearby and noticed one journalist idle up and start taking notes. I'd expect nothing else from them but it was that last quote that he apparently relished. The seagull dashed off and relayed to others in the press cabin that this had all now been worth the effort as he had a story to send into HQ - Eric's quote on Keano. He was with the PA and not at any stage did we see him talk to Eric about Keane elsewhere. Considering he rushed in straight after Red News' questions we can't help but presume that the quotes that appeared - and the "too professional for Ireland" bit is exactly what Cantona told us - in many of the Monday tabloids came from our interview. A Scouser at work! Yet just how did the above get transformed into these quotes that appeared via PA.

"I think Roy Keane is too professionalk for Ireland because they are amateurs. They don't understand him because he is such a professional. It's good for the team he said what he did because people may realise in the future that they have to listen to him and good players like him. It's great for a player like him to speak out about these things because they have to do it properly in the future and hopefully the preparation and things like this will be better. Roy does not have anything to prove to anyone. The problem is the amateurs do not understand these kind of players."

The hack was writing shorthand but perhaps he was better at the creative writing part of his journalism course. Another example of how you just can't believe what you read in the papers.

Anyway, off we went for another night in toytown, all set for the press conference at the wrong Hilton the next morning. Not even a hangover recorded at 10 on the Richtor Scale would make me miss that and again a sparse crowd - mainly Red News contributors and readers it has to be said - gathered to see Eric. The conference was supposed to be question and answers with Le Tissier, a Kronenbourg spokesperson and someone from the beach football organisers. So just Eric then. This beach thing is a good life - you can see why so many players want to be involved in it. A few grand each week, travelling the world to receptive crowds. Before the grand final next month in Monaco they would have played across Europe and from Brazil to Thailand. For the likes of John Scales it must be a dream come true. So the questions were directed at Eric, Eric and Eric. Le Tissier only got involved for the likes of: "What's it like playing...with Eric then" and I felt so sorry for him at one stage that I actually asked him what his plans were this year just to make conversation. Considering he later said when asked by RN whether he'd have joined United: "I never had the chance to go to Old Trafford, that was all rumour, probably started by people (journos) sat behind you . I had the chance to go to Tottenham and to Chelsea". Would you have joined United though? "I didn't go did I probably wouldn't have (joined United)" I wish I hadn't been sympathetic earlier.

Amongst some Eric gems,
RN: asked him if there was one moment at your career at United that you would say would be your top one?
EC: "My best moment? I have a lot of good moments but the one I prefer it when I kicked the hooligan"

RN: When asked why he was in Brighton instead of commentating on the world cup for French tv:
EC: "Oh no. I tried it once because I didn't know it, wanted to try it but I didn't like it at all. I prefer to be on the beach and play" "Desailly was good with Laurent Blanc because Blanc was so great, I think Frank Le Beouf is not good enough"

RN: A Red News reader asked him had he any thoughts on management:
EC: "I manage a team, for beach soccer. I'm the coach. Player, coach". End of.

RN: Teresa had to get her mandatory set of baffling questions in and asked whether Eric's father, Albert, would be at the Marseilles event, being organised by CMC, of which the Cantona family is involved with.
EC: "Yeah my father will be there". "He loves football and he loves this, he follows when he can. I love my father...I love my mother too...and my Uncle"

He continued with the joke as he ended the one man talking show:
EC: "I started beach football in Monte Carlo when I retired from football in 1997. I liked the game very much. Joel got me into it. He is my younger brother but he's got good ideas...hours before me. But he is my brother and I love him..."

Another set of autographs, another set of photos and Eric was heading for the final day of the tournament. A bus was waiting especially for the French squad and Teresa, showing her pass, asked the driver if she could get a lift because of a sore knee. Thus the French team whizzed down the beach on an open top double decker with the added addition of a 66 year old Red News contributor...

On the sand Eric once again was the star of the show and main attraction to the ABUs present - he didn't disappoint with a hat-trick and a typical Cantona moment. Marked by an opponent in the penalty box, the ball far away, Eric did a Richard Shaw on the bloke and just walloped him in the bollocks. He collapsed in a heap. The Eric stare followed - 'who me?'. Then the incredulous shrug, as Eric walked away from the ref only to be summoned. And then the card. Not red but blue. Effectively a sin binning for the offence, the only one all tournament!

Back to the dressing room area (which was a few chairs under the stand for each team - no curtains or anything) and Eric was in a rush to make his flight. We said our thanks and goodbyes to Joel, and as the French team dashed off, like a shot we rushed to see if he'd left his shirt. No chance but there, by Eric's chair - were another set of gems. His shorts and, wait for it, underpants. A very unattractive set of Marks and Spencers y-fronts it has to be said, but nonetheless clothing from the chosen one and they quickly went into Teresa's bag.

The shorts were the very pair that Eric had scored his hat-trick in, Number 7 gleaming on a nice beach football logo. The underpants? Well they were washed in case you're wondering but those of a weak disposition look away. It had been my intention to wear them and hope that some of Eric's magic would rub off on me and at the very least provoke an interesting chat up line to women - and maybe even improve my performance. Like it did for him. Sadly my physique is more Eric Idle than Cantona and I looked absolutely pathetic in them. (of course I tried them on, what do you take me for?). So they currently reside in my wardrobe, waiting for Plan B to be formulated. And so it was time to leave. A truly memorable weekend about to get even better. As we left the VIP area, Eric shook mine, Karim's and Teresa's hand and said "Au Revoir".

Eric said goodbye. To us. Cloud 9 and then some.

They want to host the event annually in Brighton from here on in. You should make it down there next time, it really is worth the effort. And Eric truly believes, as he said to us, that this sport will be: "famous around the world soon".

So, here we are five years on from his Old Trafford departure and I think all the above safely confirms that he means as much now as he did back then. I may not want to have his babies anymore, that's just plain daft isn't it? But I still want to marry into the Cantona family. As proud owner of his underpants surely an invite into the Cantona household can't be that far away.

Tribute to Ray Wood

from 2002

It had been our intention this season to write a piece on the strange events surrounding the cruel injury and subsequent semi-heroic return to the pitch by Ray Wood during the 1957 Cup Final. It's a fascinating tale and one worthy of reproduction. Sadly in early July, Wood passed away. Another Babe lost.

Although the obituaries tried their hardest to represent his life to the full, many, written by those who'd never encountered him, only created a two dimensional figure rather than the fascinating three dimensional man that Wood was. Of course there were nice tributes from Bobby Charlton about the quiet, unassuming ex-keeper who survived Munich (he was found pinned beneath the undercarriage), but little testimony to the person himself. Such is the way of things these days. Nothing of his disappointment in later life over the lack of financial consideration made by the club to the families and survivors of Munich - not for personal gain but to right the wrong decisions made by the club over the years and of the frustration felt at the delay and final staggered decision to have the Memorial match at Old Trafford some 40 years on. Like Blanchflower and several other survivors, Wood received his part of the proceeds in the twilight of his life when in earlier years it surely would have been not only more welcome but of help.

Sir Matt once said of him: "You didn't get miracles from Ray. He was just there when it mattered, moving confidently into position and taking the ball cleanly." and the Old Fart fondly remembered him in a tribute that did create a picture of Wood that caught his essence:

"I read in the newspaper that Ray Wood died on Sunday and so another of my boyhood heroes, another Busby Babe, has gone to join his mates in the Old Trafford of the sky. Ray Wood is the first (Manchester United) goalkeeper I can remember with any clarity. In 1957 I watched the Cup Final on the television and saw McParland deliberately hit Ray, breaking, we later discovered, his cheekbone. I didn't see my dad that evening for I had gone to bed by the time he
got home from Wembley, but I can remember, with absolute clarity, his reaction when I spoke to him on the Sunday morning. Never in all the years I have been watching Manchester United with him can I ever remember him being so
cross. My dad is a very honest and balanced man and he said at the time, and remains convinced to this day, that McParland got Ray Wood early in order to give Aston Villa a chance of winning. That McParland has never been man enough to admit that is to his eternal shame.

To a young boy (as I once was!) Ray Wood always appeared slightly ill at ease when we pestered him for his autograph at the training ground. Not, I hasten to add, because he was a nasty man, but because he was, I think, a little
bit shy. Perhaps, I don't know, in awe of those around him. He seemed a quiet, gentlemanly sort of person, with little to say. But he always signed, without making a fuss and that was nice. As a player he was a good, but no better,
goalkeeper. It has to be said that playing behind a defence which included the likes of Byrne, Jones and Edwards must have been a big help. But the fact of the matter is that he won two League Championship medals and that is pretty
good by any standards. Once Harry (Harry, Harry) arrived it was obvious (or so my dad told me) that Ray's days were numbered, and, indeed, this was the case. We should not forget Ray Wood - I know we won't. He was a very fine goalkeeper and an even nicer fellow. May he rest in peace."

Wilf McGuinness remembered: "a very competent goalkeeper...but it is fair to say that he wasn’t considered one of the bright lights in the team which became famous as the Busby Babes. I will never forget his performance in a European Cup tie against Borussia Dortmund in the mid-50s. We had drawn 3-3 against them at Maine Road and they must have thought they were through to the next round with the home leg to come. However, Ray stopped everything that came his way
in the second match in Dortmund. He was absolutely brilliant. He was a bit unfortunate in his spell at Old Trafford in that there was a lot of clamour for the club to go out and buy Harry Gregg from Doncaster Rovers who everyone was raving about. Harry did eventually arrive and Ray hardly got a look-in at first-team level after that and eventually left not long after the Munich disaster.”

Although a shocked Wood considered his future the day United signed Gregg, only to vow to 'win his place back', he wished Gregg the "best of luck" that very day, a gesture the new keeper greatly appreciated, hoping he'd have done the
same in similar circumstances and they became "firm friends" thereafter. Despite the two title wins and playing over 200 times for United it is the Cup Final defeat (2-1) of '57 which most readily springs to mind when recalling Wood,
an event that still rankles with Reds present that day over the challenge which led to a fractured cheekbone in the 6th minute, during Villa's first attack, an age where substitutes let alone sub keepers were non existent. With the injury went our attempt at the League and Cup Double. Wilf McGuinness suumed it up:

“We were going for the double that year and certainly favourites to beat Villa in the FA Cup final. But all that changed when Ray was flattened by McParland in the first half. I don’t think there has ever quite been a foul like that
in an FA Cup final. Ray had the ball in his hands but McParland chased him for 10 yards and then hit him with a flying head-butt. That was the only time I ever saw Duncan Edwards angry on a football pitch. He came racing over with his eyes blazing but managed to control himself."

Jackie Blanchflower went in goal and Ray came back in the second half when it was still 0-0, playing up front on the right at odd intervals to try and at least create a balance to the United side, despite still suffering from double vision and blackouts. Edwards was moved back to centre-half, Bill Whelan moved to the left half spot only to see McParland score both of Villa's goals.

Bitter irony. Roger Byrne got the team together at 2-0 down and urged a typically all out United attack effort. Wood went back in goal, Edwards up front, and Tommy Taylor made it 1-2. A Billy Whelan goal late on was even disallowed for
being offside. Sir Matt afterwards told the team: "Well played lads, don't let this get you down. Don't worry. We'll be back again at Wembley next season:" To his management team he said the McParland challenge would: "live with me for
the rest of my life and was so unnecessary and so puzzling...his motive remains a mystery".

Most amazing of all though was that at half-time the United physio, Ted Dalton, took Wood onto a deserted grass strip outside Wembley stadium to test taking shots at him to see if he was up to coming back on as goalie. Busby said that Wood only saw two out of every six shots aimed at him so the plan was scrapped and though it "was a depressing session...a young cockney kid did relieve tension when he told Ray: "Look mister. My mates and me have got a game on just round the corner. You can come and play with us if you like". He had no idea he was talking to the United keeper supposedk to be playing inside Wembley.

Today they'd have probably abused Barthez and stolen his kit. Immediately after the game Sir Matt criticised the "dogmatic views" against using subs for injured players. Never in such a big game was this so clearly evident, as Sir Matt talked of being "robbed" and asked for a "single logical reason why subs should still be barred in British football".

During his early Old Trafford days , as was the norm, Wood had a second job to pay the bills, working in Manchester as a warehouseman. Considering the riches on offer for todays stars it is sad that he had to wait so long for what was due to him from United.

And in a sad coincidence, just days after Wood's passing, Frank Taylor, the journalist and close friend of United, who also survived the tragedy, also died. When I heard the news I took a copy of his The Day A Team Died and began to re-read it. He was an excellent journalist, and that he got a cherished second chance in life is something he never allowed himself to forget. All there is to say about Taylor the man and Taylor the friend to Sir Matt and the Babes is in this book. From his incredibly moving description of February 6th (I readily admit that tears welled up upon re-reading it), his own struggle for survival as he was initially reported back in England as dead, to his touching account of Duncan Edwards asking if he was needed for the forthcoming Wolves game upon waking up after the crash. His view was that English football and the
national team never wholly recovered from the tragedy.

Of course it wasn't just the team who perished and his colleagues and friends, his drinking mate 'Swifty' (who always called Taylor 'Dad' even though Frank Swift was the older of the pair) are given their rightful tributes. This is a
book that every true Red should, and must, read. Taylor's survival and recovery, alongside Sir Matt and the others, was incredible, that he was able to continue to write gave at least some kind of comfort to those back home. Yet he and they never forgot those they left behind in Germany and his passing, and my re-reading of The Day A Team Died conjures up many emotions as a United fan, from the constant sense of loss to the eternal sense of anger and, it has to be said, bitterness as to how and why any rival 'fan' can mock us for the tragedy and its cruel twist of fate.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ted Beckham interview with Red News - part 1

Red News has got a lot of time for Ted Beckham, and the nice thing is he’s got a lot of time for us. We often used to see him at away games when we sold RN outside and he, and his then wife Sandra, would stop for a chat and talk all things United. No arse licking, and often a quite honest appraisal on all things Red, most notably after the defeat in Stuttgart and his disappointment that we might have let Veron go too early. Ted’s passion for United – and of course his son – was plain to anyone who recognised him.

He liked a low profile but that didn’t mean to say he kept his support hidden. I can remember after a victory at Highbury seeing him buzzing as he left the ground, ready to rub some noses in it back on his work routes. You can only imagine – or dream – how it must have felt seeing your son play for your team. Perhaps even more admirable that even after David departed, he did what every true Red would, however hard initially. Carried on supporting United regardless. There he was at Charlton recently...when he turned down the chance to be lauded at the Real Madrid-Barca game. All credit.

If it was sad the way Becks departed (and I lay faults on both sides), sadder too that Ted and Sandra split up and the memorabilia that Ted had obviously painstakingly and lovingly collected throughout David’s career had to be split up by lawyers. It’s not my position – we’re a United fanzine not a tabloid – to delve and pry, but after an enjoyable interview I felt sad thinking about some of Ted's comments. He wouldn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him of course, but though what’s done is done with the Beckham transfer, his comments about the Ronaldo and the ‘makes Beckham look shite’ song hit a raw nerve with Ted, and should do with us. It’s not a clever line, is easily replaceable and to be honest is pretty insulting. It's un-United. Maybe we should change it to ‘That boy Ronaldo…should watch a few DVDs of Beckham’s time at United to see how to cross the ball for a goal…’.

The book may not be everyones cup of tea. It’s certainly got the feel of a scrapbook shared with a wider audience. But for a kid it’s an ideal way to see that dreams sometimes do come true. Some of the items shown in the book have been meticulously saved and are wonderful to see all these years on. But you get the feeling – and Ted didn’t divulge any family skeletons in the book, why should he? – that he just wanted to do it as much for himself as anything else.

He didn’t have to speak to Red News now. You could tell that he wasn’t into the publicity machine game that goes with publicisng a book and though he has Stuart Higgins’ agency (the former editor of the SUN) working with him, when we got in touch we were told that though he’d wanted to limit media duties, we were top of his list. True to his word he rang us a few days later, and spent over 30 minutes chatting, when usually you can tell that people can’t wait to get it all over and done with. He turned down mainstream media shows yet spoke to Red News because he knew us.

He was spotted on the Eurostar to Paris for the Lille game, when he again could have chosen to watch Madrid instead. I haven’t ever heard a bad word about him, easily comparable to the response when you mention Neville Neville’s name. I hope United fans appreciate Ted Beckham. Not because he chose to do anything amazing, bar father an amazingly gifted son, but that he, even after all that happened, carried on doing – support United – what he’d always done. Some Reds would maybe say, ‘well, that’s what true Reds would always do’. Exactly. It must have been hard but, as Ted admits, what a journey.
The Interview

RN: Are you pleased with the book?
TB: I am really pleased with it and the story. It starts off really well as the guy who did it absolutely captured how I felt. Right at the beginning it’s the 99 final in Barcelona. I didn’t know he was doing it that way but it’s exactly how I felt and the actual story and the pictures really complement the book and I’m pleased with them.
RN: You see the photos of you holding Becks as a kid, was it quite emotional researching the book?
TB: Well, it’s like any dad really. When you have a boy - every bloke wants a boy no matter what you think - and when you get your son you're over the moon and of course you want him to do the things you want him to, I was no different.
RN: Just try to explain to United fans what it must be like (a) your son being a professional footballer and (b) playing for the team that you have loved and support?
TB: Right from day one I have always supported Manchester United and when you have a son that loves football all you think about is him just playing football. I used to take him to all the games when United were in London and wherever possible and he always said when we used to have a bit of banter and what have you, I’d say, “Well, when you're playing for Barnet” and he’d say: ‘No dad, I am going to play for Man United’. And even at an early age of about six or seven that’s what he used to say so its just the most amazing feeling. It's the only way you can describe it.
When the United scout came round it was funny really because it was one of the only games I couldn’t get too. David was playing for Waltham Forest against Redbridge and I couldn’t get there and his mum was there with him. He was always the last one out of the dressing room and all of a sudden she’s standing there waiting for him and the United scout - Malcolm Fidgen - came up and said ‘I don’t know whether you know who I am but I’m the Man Utd scout. I have been watching David for some weeks and I would like him to go up to Manchester for trials’. The feeling! His mum rang me. It was the most exciting feeling I think I have ever felt.
Just having the trial meant a lot. She didn’t know what to say so she said to him: “Here’s his dads phone number ,ring it tonight”. So he rang and said he would like to come round to see us. I mean there were a few other clubs after him. West ham, Tottenham, Arsenal, Nottingham Forest sent us a letter and all that. It was just something that you never thought could happen.
RN: Can you remember when you first saw Fergie and thought ‘god, can this actually be happening?’
TB: When the scout phoned us up and came round I remember watching a programme on George Best on the telly where he was in digs and there was the landlady and landlord who looked after him sitting there and I always remember thinking I wonder what that feeling is like? I knew that feeling when the scout came round and he said: 'You know he is very small, very slight but I am 4 not worried about that because he will grow. What I like about him is his quick brain, there aren’t many players that have got that”.
Then David went up for a few weeks and he was going up in the summer up to Manchester and all of a sudden one Friday night I was working late, and I came home and my wife was as white as a ghost and I said: ‘What’s the matter?’. She went ‘You would never believe who has just rang me’. “Who?” ‘Alex Ferguson’, I went “Yeah, alright”, ‘No, he’s just phoned up, I couldn’t understand him. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but I did get that we’ve got a very talented lad and they’d been keeping a check on him and he’s absolutely brilliant. He’s got every potential to be a Man United great’. I didn’t hear the rest of it! And that was that!
About a week later the scout phoned us and said we were playing West Ham and would we like to go and have dinner the night before with the team and Alex Ferguson. It was just the most amazing feeling of excitement for me as well as David. Also when I went up to Manchester when he won the Bobby Charlton school and I met Bobby Charlton because he’s always been my hero. I think I was more excited than David then!
RN: What was it like - you’ve had these heroes and then suddenly you’re getting to mix with them?
TB: I was a big kid. I was meeting the likes of Paddy Crerand and I met Brian Kidd. They are all people that I supported when I was younger. Meeting them was just amazing. You don’t realise you can get near people like that. But when they call you...I mean, there are so many stories and so many things that I could say. Bobby Charlton was absolutely brilliant and he still is. I mean when I see him he says “Hello Mr Beckham”. “Mr Beckham!”, that’s Sir Bobby Charlton, you know what I mean. The feeling of admiration for him. I loved him when I was a kid and youngster.
RN: Do you see much of Crerand these days?
TB: Oh yeah. Paddy Crerand is brilliant. I see him on away trips when we go to Europe. I still go, I’m still a season ticket holder so I go to all the away games. Meeting him. I’m quite good friends with him. It‘s just superb.
RN: How hard was it after David left to go to Manchester?
TB It was difficult. The only way I could describe it is if one day you go in and switch that light on and it’s great and you can see everything and then all of a sudden you switch it off and that’s it. That’s how it felt when David went up to Manchester. Although we were very fortunate. It’s only a couple of hours up the road. Unlike Keith Gillespie’s family and other people and other families and other mums and dads who can’t get to games every week we made a point of getting to every game to see him and just spend the day with him on a Saturday. And that was enjoyable, that was lovely. Obviously we used to bung him a couple of bob. He was learning a lot when he moved up there. It was the most amazing feeling ever. That your son is with your club that you supported.
RN: When did you start supporting United?
TB: I started supporting United in about 1956/57. Obviously when Munich happened I went on to them even more. My Dad was always Arsenal but there was no way I was going to support them and I still hate them now (laughing).
RN: You saw all of David’s games?
TB: When David moved up, we used to drive up every Saturday. Being in London meant we never knew where all the grounds were when they played the youth games and the like in Rochdale, Oldham, places like that. What we had to was leave at 5am, drive straight up to the Cliff training ground and just follow the coach. We used to do that every week. As time went on, when he played in the A team we used to go to Littleton Road and watch him there. Same sort of thing really, we did that for a couple of years. Then he started getting in the reserves and then we used to go midweek to games as well, following on the Saturday and midweek. It was the most enjoyable part of my life really. Being involved with a club like Manchester United.
RN: I interviewed Lee Sharpe the other week and he said you’d be amazed but United really was a family club back then?
TB. All I can speak of is from my experience. I don’t know what happens to other mums and dads. They were absolutely unbelievable to us. We used to come up and get Directors seats when we went to away games in the early years. Obviously it was a little taster for trying to get our son with them. It didn’t warrant that because there was no way he was going anywhere else but United. It was absolutely enjoyable, sitting there with Directors and things like that. Then when we went up to Old Trafford we’d be in the Directors Lounge and meet people. It was an amazing early part of David’s career that you just can’t put into words. The people up there. All the Directors. You see other ones on the tele and you think ‘urgh’. Even now when I go to away games and I meet them in the hotels they always come up and shake my hand and ask ‘how’s he doing?’.
RN: How was it with Fergie, you always had a great relationship?
TB: Even now, I still speak to him and see him. I’m a little bit like him. I like the discipline style of Fergie. I always have done. That’s how we used to run David’s Sunday side. It’s something that I’ve always installed in David really. But unfortunately that’s the way things go...
RN: Do you think the boot incident was the pivitol moment?
TB: Obviously the incident happened, it was just a complete and utter shame. If David had been sitting in the toilet with the door shut the boot would have still hit him, it was one of them situations. Things like that happen.
Sounds upset.
But I just...I don’t know...I wished it could have been resolved. I do wish it could have been sorted out. Because it was such a shame. Because they certainly miss him now.
RN: You think speaking as a fan...his crosses from the right...Ruud’s said he misses them...?
TB: You’ve only got to look at the two seasons since he left. When David was there, and Giggsy was on the left and David was on the right, the chances that used to come to Van Nistelrooy and other players. I’m speaking as a fan now. I got up to quite a few games in the first two years and I could see the frustration in Van Nistelrooy. He wasn’t getting any service. He was having to drop back and when you miss a player like David no matter what’s gone on, what’s happened, you look at his work rate, at his crosses, at his assists. He used to make between 23 and 25 assists a season and used to score between 9-10 goals a season. And we’re missing that. Our style of play at the moment is crying out for something like that.
RN: Since Becks left, we’ve had the 4-5-1, it’s not seemed a United system...?
TB: No, it’s not. We’ve never played like that. Never in all the years I’ve watched have we played that system and it’s all down to one man. And it’s not Fergie. I just feel we need to get back to that system... It’s like Ryan Giggs. He’s a great player but the way they are playing him now...
RN: Or not playing him...
TB: He played in the European game, scored a goal and did quite well. That’s what we’re missing. I just feel upset as a fan that we’re missing that...

To be continued...

copyright Red News 2005.

Ronaldo and Ruud 'fight'

United adamant that there were 'no fisticuffs', readers can find more detail in the RN Readers Forum - - below from the SUN

'RUUD VAN NISTELROOY and Cristiano Ronaldo had to be pulled apart during a dramatic training ground bust-up yesterday. Manchester United’s season hit a new low as the superstar pair traded four-letter insults and almost came to blows.'

RN: Regular readers of gossip will know that Ronaldo has been the butt of many dressing room jokes in the past, Ruud considered by some to have grown 'arrogant', though Ronaldo has infuriated some players recently with his performances who believe he receives special treatment and should cut out the showboating.

This is from last April's Gossip:

'Ronaldo is still the butt of many a dressing room joke. We know Alan Smith reads the fanzines, so did he confirm and pick up on what I said last issue about cliques and splits in the OT dressing room? Smith said: "We went white- water rafting on Thursday and it was the kind of day that if you did fall in you knew who would be there to drag you out or who wanted to let you sink. There's been a lot of talk of feuds in the camp, and it was just nice for us to go away as a squad and enjoy ourselves" So who would you want to sink then Alan?

And Keano after Norwich: "How many chances should a player get". yes of course it was Kleberson! Ronaldo sort of hit back too: "Sometimes people have a go at me for what I do on the pitch" (you see that row between him and Gary Nev during the FASemi?) "...But there are other times when I might not like what they're doing".

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sam Allardyce won't speak to Radio 5 after Alan Green calls Bolton 'ugly'

“I thought Alan Green was a Liverpool fan, but the comments he made don’t deserve me talking about them. I wouldn’t want to try to encourage the BBC to keep him employed really. If I make comments, it just fuels the situation and keeps the bubble growing.”

image for RN by Stret

Fergie post city debacle

"The referee's decided it's a red card and I think he should look at it again really. He's not touched the player, he's not got near him.I think he's really disappointed he never got a foul for the tackle on him, and it was a really bad tackle on him on the touchline. But no foul came from the referee and that's frustrated him. He didn't get a foul for a very bad tackle. He got a bit frustrated with that. He's not that type of player and it was a bit rash more than vicious. He's not touched the player, he's not gone near him but the referee has decided it's a red card, maybe he should look at it again. But you do run the risk of it happening. On Wednesday (against Blackburn in the League Cup) there was a tackle on Wayne Rooney's knees and there was not even a booking. Different referees have different interpretations and we had Steve Bennett ..."

"At 2-0 down we wanted to make sure we didn't lose another goal. I think John O'Shea has more knowledge of derby games than Patrice, so that was maybe a bit of a gamble. That's why I played Mikael Silvestre, being a French player, trying to help Patrice. He did his job ok, I've no complaints. I don't think he was responsible for anything. But basically the defending out there was poor."

"We've been in very good form but in fairness we didn't play well enough in the first half. We gave the ball away too much and our last-third play wasn't good enough. The crosses into the box were easy to deal with and we should be doing better than that."

"This team has bounced back before. I'm not worried about them bouncing back again. Our form has been very good recently, we have to get that back and get on another run."