The best football season since the mid-eighties (apart from 1991-92, obviously) is almost upon us. Despite the recession, austerity, bankers bonuses and the scandalous price of a pint, I’ve rarely felt so positive and optimistic about the immediate future. Even the fact that Leeds United are crap, and will almost certainly remain crap despite the best efforts of poor old Brian McDermott, my outlook is one of sunny anticipation and excitement for the feast of football that awaits my tired and cynical old eyes. And why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because Fergie’s gone, that’s why. Say it again and say it with relish. Fergie. Is. GONE.
Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t his annoying habit of winning things for the Mighty Man U that bothered me. It wasn’t his oft-paraded bloody stop-watch held up as a mute instruction to the ref regarding time-keeping. It wasn’t even his arrogance over whether he chose to adhere to various rules which bound other managers, things like press interviews, his notorious BBC ban, stuff like that. The fact that he clearly considered himself above mere rules was irritating, but not on its own the reason why I loathed him so much. It was none of these things in isolation. And after all, when he lost it was such a pleasure. Thank you Leeds in ’92, Blackburn in ’95, City in ’12 and a few others. But it didn’t happen often enough, and really, he was almost as horrific in defeat as he was in – shudder – triumph.
The real problem with Fergie was the sheer, all-round, ever-present, all-pervading unpleasantness of the man. His particular brand of arrogant Glaswegian gittery and the way in which he held sway over the entire game and media too – the whole Fergie package – that’s what got my goat. Whoever we support, we’ll have had managers who crossed the line in this or that respect, and made you see why fans of other clubs regarded them as less than nice. But Ferguson exceeded all these limits, most of the time – and not in a good way. Comical defeats apart, I really can’t think of a solitary redeeming feature. If I absolutely HAD to put my finger on one thing that annoyed me above all else – it was the demeanour of the man when he was happy, when he’d just won or when Man U had scored a goal. Sadly, these events happened all too often, and the results were always utterly repellent. When the Mighty Reds scored, there he’d be, emerging from his dug-out in that annoying daft old man shuffle, fists clenched and waving in uncoordinated celebration, casting a glance of odious triumphalism at the sullen members of the opposition coaching staff, champing away happily on his ever-present wad of gum while his nose throbbed an ugly shade of victorious purple. A most unpleasant sight.
Happily though, it is one we shall behold no more. Fergie has retired upstairs, where his baleful presence need be of concern only to the inheritor of the poisoned chalice, David Moyes Esq. Moyes may wish to cast his mind back 43 years to the effect a newly-retired but still-powerful-in-the-background Busby had on HIS successor. But that is his problem. All we need wish is that an early and unceremonious exit for Moyes – should he fail – isn’t a signal for the caretaker return of the Govan Guv’nor, just when we all thought that nightmare was over. Perish the thought.
So I’m really looking forward to a Fergie-less season, and even to the slight bewilderment of the assembled media, who will be wondering where to brown-nose, who to target for their obsequious flattery. Again, their bereft sadness is not my problem. I’m just going to enjoy the football scene as it will appear to me – bright and shiny, replete with promise and optimism after the removal of that horrible, nasty man. Man U will be that bit more difficult to hate, with the really-quite-likeable Moyes in charge, however long that lasts. But I’ll manage, it’s in my DNA as a fan of the One True United after all. And Mourinho is back, and Wenger is still there – men you can’t help but respect and admire. It’s going to be a good season in the Premier League, something I can really enjoy for once, whatever my beloved Leeds United do to screw things up one division lower.
And it’s all thanks to That Man finally being gone. Hallelujah!!