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Published: 19 May 2002

Michael Crick : The Programme, the Book, the Man - my thoughts
by Peter Hargreaves

The one thing which I could not decide, nor come to terms with, was why he (Crick) has done what he has done. Having watched the television programme I think Crick suggested that it was to 'give an accurate and important view of Sir Alex Ferguson'. He most certainly suggested that he had not done it for the money as, he told us later, what he has received from both sources (programme/book) is nowhere near as much as that earned by many at Old Trafford!!! Moreover as (he is, almost certainly) one of the most dedicated Manchester United supporters who has ever lived, Crick, by his own statement, has spent a small fortune following the Reds and any income should be considered against that which he has paid out. I wonder how much he has spent on Manchester United. I wonder how much he earned from the book and the programme. Perhaps Crick might be kind enough to tell us.

Between us, my dad and myself have been watching Manchester United for very nearly one hundred and twenty years. We have never, ever, considered 'using' Manchester United in order to recoup the money we have spent. I feel sure that we've spent far more money than Crick. You see what we have spent, we have spent for love; on the love of our lives. It has never, would never, cross our minds to do anything which might be harmful to Manchester United or any of it's universally beloved people, just to recoup a part of what we have spent. I think that most people who love Manchester United (I mean REALLY love Manchester United and not just say they do) as much as my dad and myself would consider that to be an obscenity.

I don't know Crick, though I have been 'snubbed' by him on several occasions. He has encountered people he knows, who know me and were talking to me, and managed to completely ignore me and cut me out of the conversation. That is fair enough for I AM a nobody and Crick IS a very important person.

As I understand it Crick and I maybe fellow Mancunians though if you heard me speak you would never know it. He has no trace of a 'Mancunian origin' in his voice - I wonder why. Perhaps he has 'developed' his dulcet, middle-England sound in order to ingratiate himself with the 'important' people. He would NEVER be accepted by people like that if he sounded like me. Plainly to do the job he does (as an aside I'd sooner be a pox doctors clerk, or a whore, than do what he does for a living) he needs to 'circulate' amongst the 'important' people in whichever area he is 'working' and establishing his information base. Then again perhaps he has never sounded like me. Perhaps he was brought up in an environment where to sound like me, to sound 'Mancunian', was unacceptable.

Perhaps he is not a Mancunian at all. But then Crick is (or suggests he considers himself to be) one of the greatest Manchester United supporters in the world and thus he just can't be an 'out-of-towner', a 'gloryseeker' - can he? No, that would never fit the image - would it?

As I understand it Crick went to Manchester Grammar School. This is probably the best school in the north-west of England. Lots of influential people (and Crick is, most certainly, one of those) went to this school. What I don't know is whether Crick came from a ragged-arse background like me and passed the entrance examinations and was 'funded' from some public-donated pot, or whether Crick comes from a privileged background and his family paid for him to go. Whatever, I understand he then went on to Oxford so he must be very clever.

In intelligence terms I'm closer to our cat, Bert, than I am to Crick. He really is bright. He makes loads of money by 'exposing' other people's weaknesses. Now that really does take a special kind of talent. Earning a living by destroying the character (and life) of others is admirable - isn't it? He really is some sort of special person, Crick, isn't he? But then aren't all seagulls wonderful, honourable and decent people? Or are they a complete set of tossers. Who knows? Crick probably does.

Crick tells us that he has been going to Old Trafford since he was twelve and has thus been watching and supporting Manchester United for the past thirty-two years. I think that's what he told us. I have no idea whether this is true or not. I can tell you that I cannot ever remember seeing him during the 70's or the 80's and most 'distinguished' faces, and 'loud' voices, from that time, are known by me and my dad. Anyway one would assume that he has a deep-seated love for Manchester United. If this is the case then, again, one would assume that he would never, ever, knowingly do anything to 'hurt' Manchester United or anybody within the organisation who is universally loved.

On that tack, that 'I-have'nt-missed-a-match-for-two-hundred-years' tack, I wonder why Crick never mentions the adult who MUST, surely, have accompanied him during his early Manchester United days. You see Crick says he started going (home and away) in the early 70's when he was a very young boy. Me and my dad had been going together for sixteen years by that time and we knew what to look out for and how to avoid the trouble that was a constant at that time. Maybe Crick was smart (and tough?) enough to look after himself, but somehow I just doubt that. So I wonder why we never hear, in any of his regular outpourings, just who the adult was. I always make a big thing of thanking my dad for taking me to Old Trafford in the 50's and early 60's, when I was a young boy. But, of course, that means telling people that somebody else was responsible for me, took care of me, and thus suggesting that I wasn't a 'jack-the-lad', or a 'big-kiddie'. Strange, isn't it, that I've never heard anything along those lines from Crick. But then it might just be me who is ignorant, might it not?

I watched the television programme. It told me very little that I did not already know. It most certainly did try to tell me that Sir Alex Ferguson is not a 'decent' man.

I did not know about the court case involving St Mirren Football Club. I do know that St Mirren are no-marks in Scottish football, unlike Aberdeen where, presumably, Sir Alex Ferguson was 'allowed' to manage in the way that he wanted to. I heard what was said about the St Mirren case and was left thinking how stupid the Board of that club were at that time. If they had allowed him (Sir Alex) to do his job in the way that he wanted to (and, presumably, in the way he did do at Aberdeen and has done at Old Trafford) then perhaps St Mirren might have become a respected football club in Europe, rather than the set of no-mark, nobodies that they are. Crick (or the programme) made a great deal out of this St Mirren situation - all the way through I kept thinking "Thank God that the Board at St Mirren are (were) such a set of tossers - if they hadn't been we might never have got Sir Alex". Crick, surprisingly (as a man who loves Manchester United oh, so much), never pointed this out. I wonder why.

It occurred to me whilst watching the programme that most of the people that Crick interviewed were either players who had never really made it at Old Trafford or those who had left because they had failed to reach (or maintain) Sir Alex's (and most supporters) expectations. I'm pretty daft but it does seem to me that if you use people like that, those who have left Old Trafford 'under a (small) cloud', then the likelihood is that they will not have that much to say which is good. But I feel sure that Crick would tell us that everybody he interviewed gave a 'balanced' assessment. Stop laughing that person at the back!!!

One, Gillespie I think, told us that, horror of horrors, Sir Alex used to ask him to run errands, place bets, for him. I always thought that the 'office junior' was expected to undertake menial tasks like that. I most certainly was. I wonder if Crick was ever an 'office junior'. No somebody as clever and special as he is would never have started at the bottom - would they?.

Is this story, the Gillespie story, worthy of being told, or is it just bollocks included to try and add to a (contrived) picture of a man (Sir Alex) who 'uses' people? We'd need somebody as clever as Crick to tell us. There was an undoubted suggestion from both Gillespie and the programme that it had been that influence which had taken Gillespie down the slippery slopes of gambling. My grandad would have told the "If I put my head in the fire, would you?", story. It almost insults my intelligence - or it would if I had any.

I thought it significant that Crick used McGrath and made mention of Whiteside in the programme. Both men, by their own admission, are (or were) piss-heads. Sir Alex gave both men short shrift at Old Trafford and he had/has my total support for taking that action. I wonder if Crick was amongst the disgracefully small crowd who attended Norman's testimonial - me and my dad were. Yes, I'm sure Crick was - he hasn't missed a game, an important game, home or away, since he was twelve - has he?.

Two of the people interviewed, Giggs and Cantona, only said nice things about Sir Alex. Both said that he had supported them at different times during their careers. Both showed (to me at least) that they (like me, and a lot of others - not Crick, obviously) love the man (Sir Alex). But could you ever doubt that?

I'll admit that I probably don't know even a quarter as much about football as Crick. I often wonder which teams he played for? I occasionally wonder if he ever played the game at all? Of course he must have - mustn't he? He must have played to a pretty high standard to be able to speak on matters football with such 'authority'.

He interviewed another 'failure', Lee Sharpe. I thought that Sharpe had the potential to become one of Manchester United's best wingers. He didn't, he was sold just when he ought to have been establishing himself both with Manchester United and England. His career has plummeted ever since. I don't know why Sharpe was sold but I have heard stories which are not complimentary to Sharpe as a professional athlete. I understand that Sir Alex 'bent over backwards' to try and help Sharpe to overcome the problems which were 'threatening' his career. That is my understanding. I don't really know what those problems were - wouldn't somebody as 'in the know' as Crick be aware of this - he didn't tell us in the programme if he does know.

My wife, Cathy, has worked with children with behavioural problems for the best part of thirty years. She should be considered an expert in this field. At the end of the programme she said to me that one of things which had been brought out, particularly relating to that said by Sharpe (and Giggs when talking about Sharpe), was what a good 'parent' Sir Alex Ferguson is. She knows better than anyone (probably even better than somebody as clever as Crick) how important parenting is when dealing with young boys. She knows how vital is that 'controlling role' when young boys, with money beyond anybody's wildest dreams, come to a football club and leave, in most cases, the parental home. She believes, as I do myself, that Sir Alex Ferguson has, through all the actions described in that programme, set standards for parenting that are absolutely excellent. I wonder if Crick really meant to give that message?

So I return to why the programme was made (and the book written). Crick assures us it was not to make (much) money for himself and I'm definitely daft enough to believe that.

So then, was it produced for 'us', the supporters of Manchester United? Did it paint the picture of Sir Alex Ferguson that we would want to see? I think not. Though to contradict myself, it did portray Sir Alex Ferguson as a man driven by the need for success (in whatever venture he is involved) and to me that drive, Sir Alex's drive, has brought me, and Manchester United, successes and joy beyond my wildest dreams. I had the honour and privilege to know Sir Matt Busby as a family friend. I had the chance to talk to him about himself and his time at Manchester United. There is NO doubt in my mind that he was driven by the same desires, the same passions, that drive Sir Alex Ferguson. The parallels between the two men are there for all to see. Both are (were in the case of Sir Matt) very great men indeed. Both men are very, very tough (in whatever way you want to interpret that word). But what they have both given to me (and, I think, all true Manchester United supporters) through their hard work, dedication and, yes, GENIUS, will put me forever in their debt.

Was the programme produced, then, for the ABU's? I think so. They must have loved (just loved) every minute of it. As I saw it Crick spent, what, an hour, attempting to 'destroy' Sir Alex. Attempting to suggest that he did not treat his work colleagues correctly. Attempting to suggest that the dealings of his sons were not honourable. Attempting to portray Sir Alex Ferguson as a 'bad man'. The ABU's must have filled their pants. The ABU's must have been beside themselves with joy. The ABU's must have been - well, ABU's!

Crick tells us that he is a 'good supporter' of Manchester United. No, he suggests to us that he is one of the very best Manchester United supporters around. He tells us that he didn't work for eight months, dedicating that time to driving off Murdoch's (Sky's) bid, and you don't come any 'bigger', as a Manchester United supporter, than that - do you?. This may be true. But rich people can afford that. Moreover if your job is a 'flexible' one then that sort of time just fits into you work schedule anyway. So it might be total bollocks.

If Crick was the 'supporter' of Manchester United that he claims to be then I don't think he would EVER have produced such a programme; would EVER have written such a book. But then perhaps what he is telling us about his reasons for so doing has an agenda which we don't understand. Only Crick knows that doesn't he?

Some of you may know that Crick has written a book about Sir Alex Ferguson. I'm sure that Crick's programme, timed, as it would appear, to coincide with the book launch, was not produced to boost sales of the book. Yes, I am that naive.

I will not buy the book. I would not read the book should Crick send me a free copy. I guess, though, that having spent all, or most of, his money following Manchester United, he couldn't afford to give me a copy anyway. Could he?

I understand that the book also contains information which is not known to me. I understand that it contains information which was not given in the programme (though I don't know why some things were left out of the programme). I understand that it might contain information concerning Sir Alex's 'very private' life. If that very private information concerns the conduct of his marriage to Lady Cathy then that is, I believe, a total and utter disgrace.

I wonder if Crick is married. If he is, I wonder if his wife has ever been unfaithful to him. That happened to me with my first wife. It is a very difficult situation. I wonder if he has ever been unfaithful himself. Wouldn't that be awful - particularly if it were ever to be made 'public knowledge'. I have no knowledge of such things. If you get through a marriage problem like that then it is something that you really don't want to think about again. You want to move on. The person who is really hurt by 'airing' something like that is the 'innocent' spouse and any children.

If Crick has made mention of anything really private, relating to the Ferguson family, then the person he may have hurt is Lady Cathy. I have met her very briefly and know that she is a wonderful person. There can be NO doubt that she has supported her husband in his total dedication to his work, and that that has been of benefit to all supporters of Manchester United (and Aberdeen). If Crick has mentioned something like that in his book (and I understand that he has) then he is an even bigger tosser than I thought he was. But I've not read the book so I only have second-hand information. What I've been told may not be true. Pages 260 and 261 may be blank. But if it IS true then that alone should be enough to tell you all you need to know about Crick, his likely motives for producing such a book, and why, I suggest, you should not, under any circumstances, buy it.

I do implore you not to buy this book. I'm feel sure that Crick will not be penniless if you do not buy the book. I feel sure that Crick will still be able to afford to go to watch Manchester United if you don't buy the book. Crick is, by my standards, a very wealthy man. He does not need your money and you, I suggest, do not need to read the absolute nonsense he has written. Sir Alex Ferguson is a good, decent and, above all, honourable man. I KNOW this to be a fact from personal experience. The book (and the programme) attempts (attempted) to suggest otherwise. Please don't buy the book.

If Crick gets to read this mailing (and I'm sure a 'clued-up' man like him must read all the stuff written about Manchester United) then I can make him an offer. I'll gladly buy him a meal in the Red Cafe on any date, at any time, of his choosing. We can then discuss what I have had to say in this article and what his responses are. I might even invite Sir Alex (and MUTV) to join us as I feel sure he'd be thrilled to bits to meet Crick (who wouldn't be thrilled to have the opportunity to meet such a 'great man' - great, my arse). If, on the other hand, Crick does nowt then I'll have to assume that he is a bully boy who is too afraid to meet up with people who have the temerity to disagree with him. It's dead easy to 'hide' behind a book or a television programme, it's another to actually confront somebody in person. That said I think Crick might, under that 'Harry Potter', 'Always-had-an-excuse-for-games' exterior, actually be a real hard man. Let's face it to go to places like Cardiff, Leeds and Liverpool on your own, as a twelve-ish year old, marks you as some sort of exceptionally hard sod - doesn't it? Bloody hell, I'm now cacking my pants at the thought that he might just take up my offer.

Or is it all bullshit. The whole bloody lot of it. Who knows? I'm not bright enough to work it out, that's for sure.

Keep the faith, but not in people who say one thing and do something else.

Peter Hargreaves

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