Sir Alex Ferguson’s Hair Dryer

21 Oct

They call it “the hairdryer.” It is one of the most feared spectacles in soccer. Manchester United’s coach, Sir Alex Ferguson, ignites his temper with a blast of scalding curses blistering his trembling victims. Over the years, many players have felt the burn, the latest being star Wayne Rooney.

Wayne Rooney, man of many parts, is set to leave Manchester United after Fergie, Sir Alex’s nom de guerre, switched on the fury. Fergie seethed when he saw newspaper pictures of a drunk, smoking Rooney staggering from a nightclub at 5am, followed up by a performance with hookers as his pregnant wife sat home alone. Naturally, Rooney’s goal scoring prowess went flaccid after his nocturnal exertions. Sir Alex, being an old school soccer master, brought the caning to an end by dropping his shooting star from the team.

To understand Sir Alex, visit a neighborhood called Govan in Glasgow, Scotland, where in 1941 on New Year’s Eve, Alex Ferguson was born under a tenement roof shaken by Hitler’s bombs. Govan, on the River Clyde, was the heart of the world’s shipbuilding industry riveted to the consciousness of Glasgow’s working class. The neighborhood was uncompromising, filled with revolutionaries and militants and fiercely independent, yet hostile to Glasgow’s immigrant other half, working class Catholics from Ireland who settled in the city’s eastern end, up river. Govan was Protestant. Rangers played there, the city’s Protestant soccer team. For most of the twentieth century Rangers refused to sign Catholic players. The atmosphere in their stadium was like a furnace of fury forged from the shipyards nearby. Ferguson’s father worked in the yards, Alex followed, his socialist creed formed on Red Clydeside. He was a trade union shop steward. But socialism, like God, had to wait in line behind soccer.

Fergie played for Rangers in the sixties. His steeliness grew from there. But Fergie became an outsider in Govan in one crucial way. He married a Catholic girl and while he claims this did not affect his career at Rangers, other Rangers players who married across the divide soon found themselves looking for a game somewhere else. It is hard not to believe that Fergie’s next chapter, shaking Scottish soccer to its foundations, was not inspired in some way by this awkwardness.

Sir Alex Ferguson is arguably the most successful and influential coach in club soccer history. His glorious record at Manchester United speaks for itself but his brick-minded Glasgow born toughness flourished from his years in charge of the Scottish club, Aberdeen. It was from the oil rich city in Scotland’s North East that Ferguson loosened the stranglehold that the two massive Glasgow teams, “Protestant” Rangers and “Catholic” Celtic, had held on the Scottish game for a century. Fergie was born to take on the all-powerful. No one would stop him and his hairdryer. Provincial Aberdeen became the dominant Scottish club in the eighties. Manchester United followed. Player legends like Cantona, Beckham, Van Nistelroy, Giggs, Ronaldo and many more came under the wing of soccer’s toughest nut.

So when a spoiled ego like Wayne Rooney wants to bolt and insults Sir Alex in the process, it’s really no contest. Fergie learned to put down the show offs and the powerful in the shipyards of Glasgow. The hairdryer will blast Rooney out the door.


8 Responses to “Sir Alex Ferguson’s Hair Dryer”

  1. Rob Carey October 21, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    Great point Alan,
    As much as I detest Ferguson, I respect how he has been able to adjust his management style to suit modern day professional football without compromise.
    That Nike world cup commercial got Rooney down to a tee, in a few years time he’ll be living in a mobile home with his wife beater, beer belly, and ginger beard.

  2. John October 27, 2010 at 6:17 pm #


    The Celtic-Rangers soccer rivalry and surrounding religious sectarian nonsense is a very complex issue that should be treated with respect as the surrounding mythology of both ‘sides’ sometimes leads to innocent men being injured or murdered. I don’t believe you showed such respect, and the fact you declared in the comments that you were a “Celtic fan as a boy” and bizarrely that “being [a] Celtic [fan] was a more developed tolerant consciousness” should surely set the alarm bells ringing regarding your viewpoint.

    This does not mean you cannot be on the side of civilized values, but if we read a hatchet-job on Palestinians and found out in the comments section that the writer was a supporter of Zionism and found Israelis a priori a more tolerant people, we would be concerned.

    (For the record I am a Rangers fan who is a militant atheist of the Richard Dawkins variety, with a Protestant Father and a Roman Catholic mother who has a proud Catholic Irish history.)

    The first paragraph started out balanced, if simplistic, but even someone ignorant of the issue can see that you deliberately focused on being negative towards Rangers fans that read more like childish pay-back than a mature attempt at analyzing occasionally moronic tribalism – except for a sentence on Celtic fans singing about the IRA killing Protestants – and even that wasn’t accurate.

    Celtic fans certainly do sing about the terrorist organization but it should be pointed out that they don’t mention Protestants in those songs. The songs are offensive enough without embellishment and one also wonders how you can see this as a more developed consciousness.

    Other inaccuracies include saying the fans don’t fly Scottish flags when both clubs do – the Rangers fans to a much greater extent ( ); that the ‘Battle of the Boyne’ in 1690 was, “the year the Protestants famously defeated Catholic troops in a battle on Irish soil — 1-0 to Rangers” even though this has nothing to do with soccer and some of the best troops who fought for William of Orange were Dutch Catholics and fought under a Papal banner.

    You confused “Fenian” with Roman Catholic, when a basic knowledge of history would discover many Fenians were Protestant, and also failed to point out the former Celtic player Aiden McGeady was booed at most Scottish grounds, including the historically Irish-Catholic, Hibernian FC.

    Your final anecdote about the barbarism of your wife wearing a green raincoat in summer and nearly being attacked for it in a “Rangers” area is too perfect. Not because it isn’t true, but because you have deliberately picked out such a story to leave a negative impression to the reader for one side only.

    Nearly every Glaswegian, including myself, has a negative story on Celtic or Rangers fans who act like idiots, but most would understand it is a complex issue that has more to do with education and primitive tribalism that soccer clubs worldwide seem to attract – only this time tainted by hundreds of years of religion and politics.

    We will not solve the issue by projecting on “the other” but with simple realization that using soccer clubs to settle historical grievances is itself moronic, and that as fellow Glaswegians there is no “other”.

    I would suggest that far from being against such tribalism – by pushing half-truths and idealism of one side that you are unwittingly part of it.

    • Alan Black October 28, 2010 at 11:37 am #

      Thank you for your well thought out and strong post. I take your points well including the factual points. Indeed, my own impressions are by no means certain in an objective way as the experience of the Old Firm set up, growing up, left me somewhat conflicted. The ban on Catholic players at Ibrox was a singular strand that stood out for me, even though I was brought up Protestant in a mixed home like yourself.That always bothered me. And I saw Orange marches as a little scary. I attended both Rangers and Celtic games as a kid, supporting both sides at different games but never wholly fitting in to the frame. Indeed, my football season ticket was at Shawfield supporting Clyde but wandering into the Old Firm was necessary as one needed atmosphere. It made me wonder who was benefiting from the set up – the Catholic Church segregationist public education, the rich seats at Parkhead and Ibrox, maybe the State with its Irish/Brit proxies occluding Scottish nationalism(?), the chippies and pubs around the grounds, and the fans – the Old Firm game, no match for it. I guess I can ask you – can there be a Glasgow United? That would be team that would challenge.


      • John October 28, 2010 at 2:08 pm #


        It is quite right to criticise Rangers for not signing Catholics, but to continue to criticise the present for the actions of the past is wrong-headed. It also fails to put actions into context and continues intolerance rather than ends it.

        The Church of Scotland produced the infamous and disgusting “The Menace of the Irish Race” but you could not find a more liberal Christian Church in the world today.

        The Roman Catholic Church has officially ordered the death of people because they were Protestant – and even made commemorative coins in celebration – actions needless to say in another universe, never mind time, to the present Church.

        The Labour politician John Wheatley, who I greatly admire and who has probably helped give me a better life in Glasgow’s east-end, belonged and promoted Catholic-only organisations for the poor.

        I know I am labouring the point, but with the Churches above, continually writing about the above issues and how terrible they were, when the organisations have completely changed, would not be seen as anti-sectarianism but as a fixated obsession.

        We would wonder if the the goal was not civilised values, but really victory against “them”. (There is also an irony that both Chrurches and their followers demonise others as beyond reproach, when they have done far worse.)

        Football fans, especially Old Firm fans, find it difficult to quieten the tribalist within and I think too many anti-sectarian crusaders fail to see they don’t really want zero tolerance, but to settle old scores. To do one for the tribe.

        When we get to a stage where anti-sectarian charities have academic anti-sectarian reports, written by people who declare to be a “fan” of pro-PIRA websites*, and do not see any problem or bias, we need to take a step back.

        I am a Rangers fan. I believe in zero tolerance and non-violence. If a neutral read your HuffPo piece and met me, would she be more informed about the issue or more primed to demonise me and carry over old hatreds?

        Bill Shankley was wrong – it is only a game.

  3. Alan Black October 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    Hi John,

    Yes, I have taken your points and given them much thought and I can say they have prompted a reflection of some magnitude. The embroilment of the past snapped at me on a return to Glasgow in the summer during the marching season, the personal affecting the perspective, and while the article drew criticism from Celtic supporters, and was an an attempt to shine light on the Mc Geady affair that was reported in the Scottish press, I take your point that the piece does not add to a strategy of progress, defined by a day to come when the past is not the fuel depot for the ugliness in certain sectors of the seats. I like your Shankly revision.

    I am considering two options with this piece. Unpublishing the piece as it has those faults mentioned by yourself – among the other issues, the personal anecdote was a mistake, prompted by seeing my kids affected by the incident. Unpublishing is not something I take lightly but being open to the dangers of personal perspective should be important to a writer, at least to me it is, as clarity and confidence is learned and shouldn’t be confused by arrogance or insult. Alternatively, I may follow up the piece with a revision, should the site accept it, a bit of Chairman McMao self-criticism.

    With that, let me ask you a few questions and offer an anecdote. Have you ever sang The Billy Boys in the public space? Is it appropriate for Rangers fans without the perspective of sectarianism to demand cessation with the past from those inclined to push on with the “score one for the tribe”?

    The anecdote – I work in a bar in the US. A past year, Rangers Supporters Clubs descended on the tavern, and roused themselves with the songbook of the flute bands. When it came to the Billy Boys, the roof was raised, the famous line magnified. Some faces seemed sheepishly self-conscious, maybe even embarrassed. The guy who worked with me, a Glasgow Catholic, was a bit nervous. This was around the time the club was introducing the idea of changing some songs. How is the song shift working at the stadium?

    Finally, I’m wondering if writing about the Old Firm in a science fiction genre would be interesting where the past, which was too “tense,” was abandoned by some magic blow of a ref’s whistle. Nothing like the present or future tense to work in.



    • John October 29, 2010 at 2:16 am #

      Hi Alan,

      With regard to your HuffPo article, I wouldn’t get it unpublished. If you wish to add another article it would be more interesting rather than less.

      As to your questions, I have never sang The Billy Boys in a public place, but I did sing it at Ibrox until my late teens when I stopped due to discovering my own brain cells.

      It had completely stopped at Ibrox and almost completely at away grounds, but is making a comeback this season. Most Rangers fans on the forums who wish for its comeback give justification that others can sing what they want so why shouldn’t they?

      What has actually happened is that we have two issues that are being conflated. We have sectarianism and we have offensive football songs. Sectarianism that kills, injures and discriminates will not end by stopping offensive football songs. Offensive football songs will end by stopping sectarianism.

      Will anti-Semitism in the Netherlands be stopped when Feyenoord fans cease “hissing” to Ajax fans in an unbelievable attempt to simulate the gas chambers of the Holocaust? Will there be a two-state solution in the Middle-East when Beitar Jerusalem fans stop chanting “Kill all Arabs”?

      Stopping those songs should be attempted, but we would be astounded if Dutch or Israeli politicians and charities focused on the football songs to the exclusion of the underlying cause. Something we actually do in Scotland.

      Your story of the singing at the bar is inexcusable behaviour. It should be condemned but here is the trap most decent Old Firm fans fall into. Being an Old Firm fan means you think about your club all the time. Working-class Glaswegians read the paper from the back-pages to the front. In the great scheme of life it may be embarrassing to say, but we identify with our “people.”

      (‘Let THE people sing’ say Celtic; ‘We are THE people’ say Rangers)

      I am a Rangers fan. I truly love my club. I identify with all things Rangers. Now your story hurts. It embarrasses. So I either justify an idiotic song which is wrong, or don’t justify it but side-step to tell you the other side are worse. “Look, they are worse, they sing about the Pope/Queen/IRA/UVF”.

      It’s easily done, and I feel most decent people fall into secretly defending their tribe, and stay locked into the confines of the old hatreds. So I can understand why you wrote your article. This is not normal. It should be spoken about and discussed. It should be ended.

      However, as much as your distance gives you perspective and normality to judge it by, you also may miss the changes that are positive. Twenty years ago a Roman Catholic from Port Glasgow who supported Celtic as a boy, but now refers to Rangers as “we” – as Neil McCann does – would not be possible. Nor would a Catholic Captain and Manager. We wouldn’t have a former Republic of Ireland player in the backroom staff, nor a Republic of Ireland youth player, or Irish youth teams being invited over to play.*

      I am aware it is terrible these things were not normal at one time, and some would say we should not praise having basic civilised values we should always have had anyway, but as much as we still have a way to go, we should recognise times have changed for the better in most ways.

      Finally, thanks for your replies. I wasn’t expecting acknowledgement never mind open and frank dialogue. I greatly appreciate it. Do you have a contact page I could send you my email address? I am thinking of writing a book on this topic and it would be nice to get some advice from an established writer.

      All the best, John


      PS. The Old Firm in Science Fiction? There is a bestseller there somewhere, as long as the referee is the bad guy! 🙂

  4. Stefanie Oates November 2, 2010 at 11:13 am #

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  5. riccardo December 23, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Hi mate, nice blog…really! I’m the admin of Stadio Goal, a blog of soccer similar to yours….i would like to make a link exchange….do you? Let me know if you are interested in it…have a good day and happy christmas

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