Tag Archives: Sir Alex Ferguson

“There’s Nobody Fitter At His Age………Except For Maybe Raquel Welch!”

……..This was how Ron Atkinson described the genius that was Gordon Strachan when he signed to play for Coventry in the twilight of his footballing career. But those words are more apt today than ever before, because the greatest player of all time is about to make the comeback of all comebacks – this guy hasn’t played since the 1990’s! Of course when I mention greatest player of all time most footballing aficionados would conjure up names like Messi, Best, Maradona, Pele, Cruyff, Cantona. But this is the player who tops all of them – in fact this is the player who is Messi, Best, Maradona, Pele, Cruyff and Cantona rolled into one! It is of course, Roy Race, player and then player-manager of the famous Melchester Rovers, a footballer so fantastic and so famous that he gave rise to the now oft-used cliched description of skilful football “This is real Roy Of The Rovers stuff!”

He is to my mind the greatest fictional footballer of all time (though admittedly it’s a pretty short list!)

©Egmont UK

No sooner had I written a post about the comeback of DI Rebus in the next Ian Rankin novel than I read that my all-time fiction hero Roy Of The Rovers, is to be resurrected in a new digital books series to be available on Apple.  Imagine it, a comeback even greater than that of DI Rebus. If someone now tells me they are also bringing back Alf Tupper, The Tough Of The Track, my life will be complete!

The story of Roy’s comeback was announced in a story in the Guardian a couple of days ago, which included Roy giving his backing to new England manager Roy Hodgson (I forgive Roy Race his love of England – it’s not easy but somehow I am able to see past it!) The Roy Of The Rovers comic strip is apparently due to be available soon through iBooks, and is being published by Egmont Publishing, who are specialists in children’s books.

I loved Roy Of The Rovers when I was a kid and my love for it continued well into adulthood. I’m a man who paid for copies of Roy Of The Rovers to be sent out to me when I lived in Spain!!! I am a man who got an adult sized Roy Of The Rovers strip for Christmas in his twenties – and wore it that day!!!! I’m a man who still owns Roy Of The Rovers annuals and Roy Of The Rovers Playing Histories!!!! I’m a man who was devastated when Roy announced his resignation to Richard Keys and Andy Gray live on Sky Sports (in a comic you understand!). So I for one will be signing up to follow Roy’s adventures through iBooks! Can’t wait!!!

The return of Roy Of The Rovers does make me refect on the relationship between fiction and football. It works in a comic but I’ve never really felt that it has worked in a novel – mind you I can’t say I’ve read that many! In fact, the only one I can think of that’s any good is the great “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby!

The first novel about football I ever read was a thing published donkey’s years ago called “They Used To Play On Grass!” co-written by Gordon Williams and Terry Venables. It’s really puerile nonsense about the lives and ego’s of a bunch of top foootballers – all 70’s coiffed hairstyles and with sexism reeking off every page! And look at the cover – if there’s a book that says “I’m the 1970’s so buy me!”, then this has to be it! Maybe it was so bad, it put me off for ever and so for many years I kept my two loves pretty much apart!

But then I discovered non-fiction and at last my two loves of books and football could go out together – not a ‘full on’ relationship or anything like that! But every so often, usually during the summer or at Christmas when there was an avalanche of sports biographies, they could at least meet up for a pint!

Of course for every great football biography I’ve read, there have been some stinkers – but hey for every great team like Manchester United there unfortunately has to be a down-side called Liverpool!!!!!!

So all this reminsicing about Roy Race and football biographies and non-fiction has left me wanting to write more about football! And as there is nothing more to be said about “They Used To Play On Grass” except to repeat that it’s absolutely bloody terrible, I’ll have to write in future about great football non-fiction – and I’ve plenty to choose from so I am now off to wallow for an hour or six flicking through them and deciding what to include in my “TheOnlyWayIsReading’s Great Footballing Non-Fiction List!”. Bet you can’t wait!

Till then, I leave you with this quote – for no other reason than it’s my favourite, it’s Sir Alex and it has a go at Liverpool – and what are Liverpool for if you can’t have a go at them!!!!!

“My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment. My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool off their fucking perch! And you can print that!” Sir Alex Ferguson

P.S. I think we’ve well and truly done the job of knocking them from their perch Sir Alex!


Update – If you are a Roy Of The Rovers fan/aficionado and want to follow Roy’s new adventures from Egmont you can get all the info and access you need from the iTunes site here! 

Did you hear the one about C.S. Lewis, Bill Clinton and Miss Piggy?………..

I am always intrigued by connections, things that are connected and how we make connections ourselves. On more than one occasion I let my thoughts wander from some starting point or other, almost sub-consciously, and then suddenly I become conscious of where my thoughts have ended up – and then I reflect back and try to work out how I got from A to B.

I had one of these moments this morning. I ‘joined’ Twitter some time ago but have only really got into it in the past couple of months. I don’t ‘tweet’ myself (I think my sum total of contributions is still in single figures). However I’ve refined the people I follow and Twitter has become so much more interesting. Essentially I ditched a lot of high-profile, oft-tweeting sportsmen who actually had little of any interest to say (the exceptions to this are Man Utd’s Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville and Michael Owen and Everton’s Tim Cahill who are all good!).  I now follow a mix of literature bloggers, book related tweets, journalists, writers and real people!

A couple of days ago I picked up a tweet about letters written to children by C.S. Lewis. I checked it out yesterday and it took me to a great blog called ‘Letters Of Note’ (it’s most recent post is about a great illustrated letter by Beatrix Potter!). The post described how much time and effort C.S. Lewis took in responding to what must have been the thousands of letters he received from children over the years.

The post included an example of a letter he’d written in reply to a young girl in 1956 and it was fascinating to read his thoughtful response to questions she’d obviously asked about writing in general and aspects of grammar and language in particular. What shines through the letter is his warmth, his ‘way with words’ and his wry, gentle humour! It also includes 5 tips from the great man about writing in general. Having read them I think they are as true now as they were then. My favourite of his writing tips was the last one – I think it’s definitely one I need to remember!

“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”

I can only begin to imagine how excited a child would have been to get a letter written with such care by someone like C.S. Lewis. I know how excited my daughter is when she gets a letter in the post – and that’s just  for mailshots that she gets because she has a “Bear Factory” reward card!!!!!!

Back in the days when I was a teacher, we had the idea of celebrating Book Week by writing to as many different famous personalities as we could – as I’m sure you’d agree an absolutely unique and original idea dreamed up by our school (and probably ten thousand other schools!). Neverthless we wrote hundreds of letters to singers, footballers, actors, writers, politicians, newsreaders and so on! I remember the palpable sense of excitement for the pupil who’d written the letter to which the first reply came – and then the excitement of the whole school at assembly when we read it out and the pupils realised they really might get a letter back from the famous person to whom they’d written!!! The excitement grew to such a pitch that many pupils frequently waited in the playground to ambush the postman on his way to deliver the mail each day! I think the pupil’s favourite response was one we got from Miss Piggy! (My own favourite was, of course, from Sir Alex Ferguson!).

I’m not surprised to now learn how much time and care C.S. Lewis put into these responses, for we found that authors were the most likely to respond and to respond in some detail. Newsreaders were pretty good too! Musicians weren’t great but worst of all were footballers – their responses (or more commonly lack of any response) at that time were a real disappointment to the pupils who’d written to them – I think they’d be better now though, for I know how much work some players, clubs and the Professional Footballers Association do to support literacy initiatives, especially for boys.

Without doubt though the most amazing response we got was from Bill Clinton. It wasn’t long or detailed but it had been done with thought and care and the personal touch of including several times the name of the child who’d written originally, which gave it a lovely conversational and light tone. I’ve no idea if Bill Clinton himself wrote it – he probably didn’t – but that didn’t matter because the fact that “the most powerful man in the world”, The President of the USA, had written to us in a Glasgow school was such a wonderful response for all of us! We put the many, many, letters we got on display in the school but nothing gathered more of crowd round it than Bill Clinton’s letter – well – except maybe for Miss Piggy! But if she knew, she’d have put that down to him only being the most powerful man in the world at that time, whereas she’s the most powerful woman!