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The Times - Extract from Ferguson Biography

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This is only part of it...


McGhee made no pretence at sobriety and, on the flight home from Gothenburg, the flow of champagne was maintained. Among the crew on the aircraft was McGhee’s wife, Jackie, who made sure everyone who wanted topping up was looked after. The cup was filled with champagne and passed from seat to seat, players, staff, directors and even journalists taking turns for a toast.


An open-top bus greeted Ferguson and his players at Aberdeen airport and the procession began. “Union Street was jam-packed for its entire length,” Strachan recalled. It took two hours to reach Pittodrie, where a full house stood ready for the lap of honour.


McGhee was still drunk as he and the rest of the players got changed into their red club tracksuits. The players were standing in the tunnel waiting to run out with the cup when someone mentioned that Ferguson and Willie Miller were missing. Club employees were sent in various directions to find them and, during the delay, McGhee noticed that the trophy was lying on its side on the tunnel floor. He bent down to stand it upright but, as he laid hands on it, Ferguson suddenly appeared from behind and wrenched it from his grasp, snarling: “Willie’s taking that out.”


Something in McGhee snapped. He had never had any intention of usurping the captain’s place at the head of the team and was consumed by outrage. He seized Ferguson by the lapels and, before Knox or any startled team-mate could react, ran him back up the tunnel to the door of the boot room, which was half-open and through which he propelled the manager before taking a first swing at him.


At that opportune moment, the peacemakers arrived to grab McGhee’s arm just before his fist could connect and drag him away — though not before Ferguson had got in a retaliatory blow (had he wished, the manager could have claimed both self-defence and, because the swing found its target, victory on points).


A still seething McGhee was taken to the boardroom, where family members and the chairman, Dick Donald, helped to calm him down in time for the second lap of honour. He had missed the first and a photograph of it in a book commemorating the season records, by way of explanation, stated that McGhee had been “too overcome by emotion” to join his team-mates at the outset.


He kept his distance from Ferguson for the rest of the day and woke the next morning at dawn. You can imagine his feelings as those bleary eyes opened: “What have I done? Did I really do it? And what do I do now?” He decided it was best to face the music: to apologise and take whatever punishment was coming.


Knowing that Ferguson would be at Pittodrie before anyone else, McGhee went straight to the ground to wait for him. Although it was barely eight o’clock, the metal shutters on the main door were already open. McGhee walked through and there was Ferguson in the foyer. McGhee started to apologise, but Ferguson cut him short. “It was my fault,” he said. “I behaved badly.”

McGhee continued down his own road of penitence, adding that he had been drunk and . . . “Forget it,” said Ferguson. “It’s done. Now you and I are going down to the car ferry.” And they did.


Ferguson and McGee drove down to the harbour to meet the St Clair with its cargo of fans returning from Gothenburg and brandished the cup at them as they lined the decks. Ferguson had promised to do that and there he was on the quayside, he and McGhee with a hand each on the ears of the trophy. It was as if nothing had happened between them. The tunnel episode was to remain inside Pittodrie’s walls.


McGhee respected Ferguson more than ever. Far from losing credibility, the manager had surprised his men once again, and pleasantly.

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