Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Alex Ferguson, Manchester United, and the 1959 Apprentice Strike

SIR Alex Ferguson is to retire as Manchester United's manager at the end of this season after 27 years in the job that some say has made him the most successful boss in British football.  He had helped the team win 13 league titles, two Championship Leagues, the Cup Winners' Cup, five FA Cups and four League Cups. 

It has been said that there is a plan in place for when Ferguson steps down.  Ferguson said of his decision:
'The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so. The quality of this league winning squad, and the balance of ages within it, bodes well for continued success at the highest level whilst the structure of the youth set-up will ensure that the long- term future of the club remains a bright one.  Our training facilities are amongst the finest in global sport and our home Old Trafford is rightfully regarded as one of the leading venues in the world. Going forward, I am delighted to take on the roles of both director and ambassador for the club.'

But he also spoke sympathetically of the Glazer family, who tookover United and who many up here in Manchester despise, he said:
'Over the past decade, the Glazer family have provided me with the platform to manage Manchester United to the best of my ability and I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with a talented and trustworthy chief executive in David Gill. I am truly grateful to all of them.'

In July 2010, Ferguson said: 
'When Manchester United Football Club went plc without doubt it was always going to be bought. Somebody was going to buy it. It was inevitable. It's unfair that because a particular family like the Glazers have bought it, they should come under criticism when anybody could have bought it.  I have to say they've done their job well. They support myself, the manager, they've supported the players. I've never been refused when I've asked for money for a player, so what can I do other than carry on the way we're doing it, and the way I'm allowed to carry on? I've no complaints.'

Since their takeover in 2005, Ferguson has consistently supported the Glazers but these comments are pointed at a time of widespread unrest among fans over the club's ownership and ability to attract top talent to Old Trafford. At that time the United manager, who then also reiterated that he has no immediate plans to retire, said:
'The debt has come through the club being bought out by an owner. You know very well that no matter which business is bought nowadays, it's usually bought with debt. Because it's a football club it seems to attract a different type of negative reporting via the media or particularly some of our fans.

In 2004, writing in his autobiography 'Granny Made Me An Anarchist', the Scot, Stuart Christie, was to write:
'We shook staid Central Scotland to the core, or so we thought... Four years earlier, in 1959, there had been a strike of Glasgow apprentices, something previously unheard of in industrial relations (the strike committee included men like Sir Alex Ferguson, Gus Macdonald and Billy Connolly, now lords or millionaires, or both).'

That engineering apprentice strike was to spread from Glasgow in May 1959 to Manchester, and much of the rest of England.  I got involved when it came to Tweedale & Smalley, Rochdale in Lancashire.  Clearly there is a lot more to Alex Ferguson than meets the eye. 

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