THE sheer force of his personality aside, Sir Alex Ferguson can win any argument about his judgement simply by pointing to a) his longevity and b) a shedload of trophies. He’ll easily win any argument with Preston North End – and I don’t think it will do his son Darren’s managerial career the slightest bit of good.
Ferguson senior decided to recall Ritchie de Laet and Josh King from their loan spells at Deepdale within 24 hours of his son’s sacking as North End boss. It is understood he would also like to recall Matt James from a season’s loan. On the back of that, the Manchester United manager’s close friend Tony Pulis ordered Michael Tonge and Danny Pugh back to Stoke from their Deepdale loan stints.
Most observers have noted the timing, and drawn their own conclusions – including, I suspect, a few club chairmen.
There are a few managerial jobs going in the top two divisions at the moment, and there may be one or two more within the next couple of weeks. But I just wonder if, in a boardroom somewhere, there’s a chairman looking at Ferguson junior as a potential manager of their club, and looking at the troubles Preston are now facing after losing key loan players, and thinking: “He’s got great contacts, he can call on his dad for advice, and we might event be able to get some really good Manchester United youngsters in on loan. But what will be the consequences if we have to sack him one day?”
Let’s not forget that Darren Ferguson was, relatively recently, seen as one of the country’s brighter young management prospects. When Wrexham sacked Denis Smith in early 2007 and appointed Brian Carey, it was widely suggested that they had got it wrong by not giving a chance to Ferguson junior, who was on the playing staff at the time.
Having missed out on that job, he instead went to Peterborough, and won them two promotions in two seasons. Sure, the side he built looked out of their depth in the Championship, but he was rather unfortunate to be sacked in November 2009, and he was quickly linked with the job at Bolton.
Instead he ended up at Preston – perhaps the wrong job at the wrong time, in hindsight. For one thing, he succeeded the popular Alan Irvine, who had led North End to the verge of the Premier League, and whose sacking just over a year ago baffled just about anyone with a passing interest in football. For another, Ferguson arrived at a time when Preston’s financial situation meant they had to start cutting back.
Billionaire businessman Trevor Hemmings, a close friend of Ferguson senior, had to pile a small fortune into the club just to keep it going when he took over in June, but chairman Maurice Lindsay has made it obvious that is not going to become a habit, and that North End must become more self-sustaining.
Under those circumstances, Ferguson junior was unable to prosper, and the Deepdale faithful were calling for his departure several weeks before it came.
The thing is that Darren Ferguson showed himself to be an astute manager in the lower divisions, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t get another chance in management, perhaps if a vacancy were to come up at an ambitious League One club, for instance. But not if the consequences of failure are the sort of mess that Preston have been plunged into.
In other news, a man who Alex Ferguson loaned to Preston 16 years ago looks as if he might be coming back to the Premier League.
MOTD’s final match: Tottenham 1 Fulham 0
Commentator: Steve Wilson
David Beckham’s reputation as crosser extraordinaire and king of set-pieces was forged on United’s training grounds, but came to wider public knowledge during a month on loan at Deepdale in March 1995. He made his mark on debut by coming off the bench to score direct from a corner against Doncaster, then followed it up with a brilliant swerving free kick against Fulham seven days later.
Beckham’s done all right for himself since. Then again, so have Fulham.
Their New Year’s Day Premier League trip to Tottenham was overshadowed by reports carried in every national newspaper that Beckham is ready to move to White Hart Lane on loan from LA Galaxy.
Harry Redknapp is keen to make it happen, while the attraction for Beckham – apart from the chance to return to a league he left seven-and-a-half years ago – is that Tottenham were the club supported by his grandfather, Joe West, who died just over a year ago.
While there might be a question mark as to just how effective Beckham could be on the right side of midfield at the age of 35, the thought of him being able to pass on some of his savoir-faire to Aaron Lennon on a daily basis would be an exciting prospect for both Tottenham and England.
While Lennon can be inconsistent on the right, Spurs are pretty well served on the left these days, although Beckham might be able to pass on a trick or two to Gareth Bale as well. Bale has added headed goals to his repertoire too, diverting Rafael van der Vaart’s first-half free kick to win the match.
The Tottenham deal is far from cut and dried, and they are not the only English club interested – as Newcastle and Everton are also in the frame. I think, though, you can be pretty sure that Beckham won’t be going back to Preston.
1. Fulham: 6 (2L: 4, 3L: 1)
2. Wigan: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
3. Stoke: 4 (2L: 5, 3L: 3)
4. Bolton: 4 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
5. Everton: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 3)
6. West Brom: 3 (2L: 4, 3L: 1)
7. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 3, 3L: 6)
8. West Ham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
9. Birmingham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
10. Wolves: 3 (2L: 1, 3L: 3)
11. Sunderland: 2 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
12. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
13. Tottenham: 1 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
14. Blackpool: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 3)
15. Aston Villa: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 2)
16. Chelsea: 0 (2L: 2, 3L: 0)
17. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 2)
18=. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Liverpool: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
18=. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L=On second last (Stoke 2 Everton 0)
3L=On third last (Sunderland 3 Blackburn 0)
(Teams are awarded one point every time they appear last on Match of the Day. Teams level on points are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. Teams still level at the end of the season will be separated by the drawing of lots at a glittering ceremony in Belfast, hosted by Sepp Blatter, Peter Robinson, the chairman of NI Water and Tony Gubba, with music from Wet Wet Wet.)