A week ago today I had the honour and pleasure of meeting Sir Alex Ferguson.
As a Manchester United fan it was understandably a thrill to meet the man who most people this side of Liverpool acknowledge as the best football manager of all time; to do so through what I do for a living was something that made me immeasurably proud.
Since then I’m constantly getting asked by friends and family what the experience was like so I thought I’d write a little about it.
By way of background, I contacted Sir Alex with the hope he would contribute something to the biography of Jimmy Murphy I am writing. I almost wasn’t going to but my wife insisted I should aim high (she has this way of making me smash what I thought were glass ceilings), and so, long story short, last Tuesday I found myself sitting across from this friendly and forthcoming man who has a bit of a reputation for not being so.
The most common comment to me has been ‘I bet you were nervous’ and the truth was that, oddly, I really wasn’t. I have to put that down to experience. I have been fortunate enough to spend time working with my all-time musical idol, and talking about the meaning of life with him – as I have done with a Hollywood star, after a meeting on Hollywood Boulevard. Throughout these incredible journeys I have trained myself to become almost detached from the experiences at the time so it almost feels like a movie. I am able to be present and, hopefully, professional, and what I sacrifice in acute emotion I gain in that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.
So, it was sort of like a movie – my previous experience of listening to Sir Alex speak which wasn’t on a microphone at a dinner or in a packed stadium has been through the television. To ask the great man questions and for him to talk football with me on a level that made me feel like – well, if not quite a peer, then still not at what our respective levels should have done – was an incredible experience, but more than that, his enthusiasm about the purpose of the meeting was fantastic and of course that was the most important thing. His contribution to the biography is above and beyond what I had hoped for. And I got a ‘well done, son!’ at the end, which I was keen to tell my friends after.
Working on the Jimmy Murphy biography has already been incredibly rewarding as I continue to discover amazing things about an amazing man. I only hope that I can do the story justice.
From one Welshman to another, and one book I am further along the line with is the autobiography of Clayton Blackmore. It has been a while since I worked on a Man Utd player’s autobiography and I’m thoroughly enjoying this time working with Clayton. Alongside Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes, his time at the club covers a unique period taking in the 80’s where United were entertaining but – arguably – underachieving – and then the 90’s when that unparalleled era of dominance commenced. His contribution is not quite understated – everyone remembers his fantastic performances in the 1990/91 campaign – but what may be revealing to some is how analytical he is about the reasons for the failures and the successes. I’m already looking forward to the story being out there because I’ve enjoyed reminiscing so much about those late eighties and early nineties days that it’s even better to do it on a wider scale.