I’m glad Sir Alex Ferguson is talking to BBC TV again, after his seven-year sulk, but would feel a great deal happier were he attending post match press conference, which is surely still more of a scandal.
When will the Premier League muster the courage to bring the proper pressure on him? As for the silly vendetta with the BBC over the agency activities of his son Jason and the now defunct Elite agency, the way that father and son emerged unscathed from the Tim Howard affair and the fact that Ferguson reportedly tried to induce young United players to leave their agents and go to Elite, makes one less than sympathetic with his stand.
One remembers the tangled Howard affair when, signing from the States, United paid a large sum of money to an obscure Italo-Swiss agent who allegedly had enabled Howard to get a work permit. It was then reported that the money went to an agent called Mike Hammond in Monaco and from him to Jason and Elite in Manchester.
The point embarrassingly being, that as I knew full well having been on the relevant Department of Employment appeals panel for two years – though not on that particular appeal – that no agent could ever get near us. Plus the fact that Howard had just played so well for the USA in France in the Confederations Cup that there was never any chance that his and United’s appeal would be refused.
Gary Neville, United’s former right back and captain, eight five times capped for England, now tells us that his international career was a waste of time, and that England would do nothing of consequence for at least another ten years.
He is particularly hard on Glenn Hoddle, scorning the way Hoddle foisted the eccentric healer Eileen Drewery on the squad. The woman who, after England had gained a battling draw against Italy in Rome, maintained that she herself had prevented Ian Wright with a spell, from scoring a winning goal, for fear of the chaos which might result.
Neville has always been a combative fellow, once – nicknamed Fred Kite, after Peter Sellers’ supremely satirised shop steward – trying to bring the whole England squad out on strike, before an international, in support of Rio Ferdinand, who had just quite properly been suspended for avoiding, eluding, forgetting (?) a drugs test at United’s training ground.
Hoddle certainly made his mistakes, not least when he published his wretched diary, soon after the 1998 World Cup, but at least he got England all the way to France and the finals, where they could well have gone further, had David Beckham not petulantly kicked out at his Argentine opponent, and got himself expelled.
Remember, pray, that it was David Davies, then a senior official at the FA, who ghosted Hoddle’s book, when he surely should have censored it. And when Hoddle was abruptly sacked for declaring, on radio, what he had previously said before, with no reaction – that according to, was it Buddhist lore, some sinners were fated to return to earth after their death as cripples. Needless to say, the ineffable Tony Blair jumped on that bandwagon and told a morning TV show that he agreed that Hoddle should go.