Desmond Kane

Brown and Ferguson should be lauded in ageist era

Desmond Kane

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Titter ye not. There was a time when a portly John Boyle was depicted as having a touch of the late English comedian Frankie Howerd about him, but the lampooning of the gloriously reformed, all-action Motherwell owner belongs to yesteryear.

Like his refreshed vision for the Scottish Premier League concern, Boyle is more svelte these days. Gone are the days of the late nineties when a bloated and slightly effeminate Boyle threw millions at Motherwell in purchasing figures such as John Spencer, Andy Goram and Don Goodman from the loftier regions of the English game.

Boyle and Motherwell have slimmed down after a period of enforced administration around 2002, but the chairman of the board clearly remains in the mood for a bit of Carry On Up the SPL. He continues to have an air of the theatre about him. The scenes that shrouded the full-time whistle of a 2-1 win over Aberdeen on Saturday remain truly astonishing.

According to local reports, Boyle washed up at Motherwell's Fir Park ground in a taxi in the death throes of the match. He proceeded to waltz up the touchline to confront an unsuspecting Craig Brown, who was the manager of Motherwell until he departed for Aberdeen in December. This is a development that has clearly left some scar tissue in deepest Lanarkshire some four months on. 

Boyle shook hands with Brown before whispering something in his ear, allegedly about him being a hypocrite. This prompted the visiting coach to chase Boyle up the tunnel of the quaint little arena. Perhaps more Benny Hill than Howerd, one would think. Boyle's tie was pulled and hauled amid a sludge of bodies. It was an embarrassing footnote to the match for all parties concerned. 

Boyle was unhappy about Brown's decision to accept an offer from Aberdeen. There have been claims that his ongoing displeasure emanates from Brown's alleged pursuit of unpaid bonus money from the club, but that does not excuse the Motherwell chairman's cheap antics on the touchline.

If Brown is in the wrong, the appropriate forum will find in favour of Motherwell. If they do owe Brown bonus money, they should pay the man. This is hardly a matter for a Crimewatch reconstruction. The Scottish Football Association should make it their business to speak to Boyle and Brown, coming so soon after Neil Lennon's regrettable meet-and-greet with Ally McCoist at Celtic Park last month. It was quite a bizarre sight.

Having interviewed Brown several times over the years, I have found him to be nothing more than courteous. At the age of 70, he remains a vibrant figure, a considered coach who is well versed in enhancing the ability of younger players.

It used to be said that Brown could get a draw with any team in the world when he was Scotland coach. Despite his critics deriding him as negative, he remains the last Scotland manager to lead the country to a World Cup finals. That was 13 years ago, a time when Boyle was throwing several million pounds on to the financial bonfire that is Scottish football.

There is a more poignant point about Boyle's conduct at the weekend. British society is blighted by a lack of respect for one's elders. Life is such now that people cannot see beyond themselves, or their bottom line.

Whether or not Brown's pursuit of money from Motherwell is wrong, Boyle lost the chance to adopt the moral high ground by indulging in such tomfoolery. It was classless to say the least, but what do you expect when people are wrapped up in their own self-importance? This came on a weekend when a man lay dead on a Glasgow bus for five hours without anyone noticing.

Brown was a fine coach for Motherwell. He came in from the cold to spend a year at Fir Park, burnishing his reputation. He succeeded Jim Gannon before leading the club into the barren promised land of the SPL's top six, snagging several managerial trinkets for his output.

The harsh facts of life remain that larger clubs will seek out successful managers. Despite an apparent dearth of funds, Aberdeen remain one of Scotland's leading attractions outwith Celtic and Rangers. Brown should have been thanked for his work and wished well for the future, not pursued on the touchline like some sort of moral-sapped maverick. 

Aberdeen's greatest sporting son Sir Alex Ferguson, who like Brown has a CBE to his name for services to the sport, has been causing similar consternation in recent weeks in England. He is apparently planning on staying on as manager of Manchester United for the next three years. This will carry him beyond the age of 70. There are more than a few folk who would like to see the back of him. 

Ferguson banned United from speaking to the media in the aftermath of a defeat to Liverpool. A lot of frazzled journalists complain that Ferguson's behaviour at the age of 69 is childlike, some say downright vindictive, but Ferguson's job is not to please the media. His only job is to deliver trophies for his club's fans. If you are successful, everything else is immaterial.

Ferguson bans reporters and berates them, but this only reflects badly only upon himself. If you are unpleasant at 20, you are unlikely to be a good-natured bundle of fun at 70. Having attended a few press conferences when Ferguson has attacked reporters, I can testify to the accepted wisdom on the subject, but the same media types will happily sit back, laugh and let put-upon colleagues suffer the jarring. You are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. There is no honour among thieves.  

Why should Ferguson change the habits of a lifetime solely because he is approaching his 70th birthday? People are living longer and working longer. Put on your shoes in the morning rather than slippers, as is said. The ambition that made Ferguson so successful continues to burn brightly. Why should this diminish with the passing of years?

"Retirement is for young people," said Ferguson. "I'm too old to retire. I would have nothing to do. As long as my health is good, I will carry on."

One remembers being shown a letter at primary school back in the 1980s from a retired policeman, who kept a regular correspondence with Ferguson when he possessed one of the finest teams in European football at Aberdeen. 

Nothing much has changed. Much of the same stuff Ferguson was spouting back then when he was complaining about the national media in Scotland failing to see beyond Rangers and Celtic remains in play these days. If this is what inspires Ferguson and his teams, who are we to say he is wrong? Assembling a collection of 46 trophies in management since he ran St Mirren in 1976 suggests he got it right.

He has never forgotten his roots in Govan, and is welcomed back with open arms. Personally, I always find Ferguson brings a smile to the face, because he is his own man.

Whatever is made of the foibles of men like Brown or Ferguson, their work ethic cannot be disputed.

Not everybody urinates on war memorials, but British society has a problem with respecting its elders. The sight of families coming together to rejoice in India's wonderful win in the cricket World Cup over the weekend remains an image that is foreign to modern life in the UK.

Listening and learning has become a lost art form, but experience remains an invaluable commodity in any walk of life. At least Aberdeen and Manchester United have recognised such values. You are either good at what you do, or you are not.

A hundred years from now, none of this will matter, but it remains important to rage against the dying of the light, no matter what stage of your journey you are at.

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