“Just say sorry”

Wednesday, June 4, 2008 by

Crikey, almost a month since the last OTT blog entry? Well, allow me. I’ve just watched the Sky Sports exclusive interview with Sir Alex Ferguson, as conducted (and executively produced) by Sir David Frost.

Now I find Frost hard to warm to. I love the grainy images of him playing the part of Disraeli on TW3, using a 19th century First Lord of the Treasury to have a big pop at Alec Douglas-Home, but as he aged, he switched sides. His days as the leading satirist of his generation (can you believe that this obsequious, slurry-spoken, red-socked knight of the realm used to be more highly regarded than Rushton, Wells or Ingrams as the leading satirist of his generation?) are but a distant memory, and for most of his days in colour television he has given political figures and the powerful and pompous a notoriously easy time.

So, we get to him and Ferguson. I was very cynical as I tuned in. I’m no supporter of Manchester United but I adore football and its hold on the country, and I am an admirer of Ferguson’s achievements and fascinated by his life. For all that, I want Paxman to grill him (“so then Alex, you assaulted your star player with a spare football boot, didn’t you?”) but that clearly won’t happen, irrespective of who Paxman’s employers are. What on earth can one knight who never offends draw from another who never bites?

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Tagged as Ferguson’s first feature-length interview for a decade, Frost asked him about selling Jaap Stam and whether it really was about the unwise revelations in the Dutch defender’s autobiography which forced Ferguson’s hand. Nope, an Achilles injury, a loss of pace and a massive offer from Lazio. We can choose not to believe Ferguson, of course, but that depends on whether you support Liverpool or Manchester City or have dinner regularly with Laurent Blanc’s agent.

Also, Ferguson’s relationship – or utter lack of – with the BBC came up. I was genuinely shocked and very pleased it did. Ferguson simply wants an apology from the corporation (he’s refused to speak to the Beeb for many years since a documentary said unkind things about his son Jason’s dealings as a football agent) but admits he is unlikely to get one. It remains very unsatisfactory to United fans and football fans in general to listen to Carlos Quieroz bleating about refs each week on Match of the Day but at least we’ve heard Ferguson’s word on it now.

Frost didn’t press Ferguson on his hypocrisy over referees – calling for them to be respected and supported one week, then laying mercilessly into them the next – but apart from that this was the most fulfilling piece of television I’ve seen Sir David complete since he dribbled over Debbie Greenwood on Through The Keyhole.


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