As someone who idolises Sir Alex Ferguson for what he has done at Manchester United in a quarter of a century, the second last thing I want to see is for him to walk away, saying with rightful satisfaction ‘Mission Accomplished’. The only thing worse would be to see a repetition of what happened to his good friend Jock Stein in the mid eighties – even though Sir Alex may think that if the end is destined to come in an Old Trafford dugout, it will be highly appropriate.
63 year old Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier may have issued Ferguson with an unintended warning this week after he was admitted to hospital with chest pains. The United boss is fast approaching his 70th birthday and has experienced taking charge of Scotland in the 1986 World Cup after witnessing Stein’s fatal heart attack in the dugout at Cardiff a year earlier.
Sir Alex had a pacemaker fitted in 2004 after he was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and has admitted that “Some mornings I wake up with aches and pains and I worry what it is. I sometimes tell my doctor I’ve got a pain here and a pain there and he says ‘it’s your age, you’re growing old’.
“That’s what happens” he says “you hope you can keep your health. Modern nutrition and lifestyle mean people live longer, but it doesn’t guarantee complete health all your life. I had a pacemaker put in seven years ago. That was the first indication that your body is not working the same as 20 years ago. You have to pay attention to your health when you get older. It doesn’t come without penalties.’
Ferguson keeps a balanced view of the stress that football management brings with it however saying that “It’s all about how you deal with stress. Sometimes people feel pressure getting an electricity bill. It depends on what state of life you are in and what your conditions in life are. Dealing with stress is always there for everyone in different ways. How you deal with it does make a difference.”
We all want Sir Alex to stay around for many years to come so here’s a tip from someone who’s pretty much the same age “Have another large whisky mate, it helps your heart stay strong.” At least that’s what a doctor told me many years ago – and I stuck by his advise ever since!
Is football management a danger to good health?