You might have missed this, but Sir Alex Ferguson retired. I mean, there wasn’t much coverage beyond pages 1-16 of certain newspapers, with a 10-page pull-out supplement.
And let’s not forget the 24-hour news channels, who were reduced to talking to a man who stood next to a man who used to go to school with him.
No sooner had the king stepped down than the hunt was on to find a prince whose foot would fit the boot, and lo, they found one. Right age, right experience, and what seemed to be even more important, the right accent.
Manchester United, it would appear, only responds to the tones of the West of Scotland. The accent, if not the ghost, of Sir Matt Busby has never really left Old Trafford.
Now, Sir Alex had a very particular management style. The term used to define this technique was The Hairdryer. Apparently, Sir Alex would express displeasure at offending team players by bellowing at close quarters at the back of their heads.
Our cousins in the North (of England, that is) seem to think this is some sort of cutting edge motivational technique. Tosh. This was a standard procedure in Scottish secondary schools until fairly recently.
Why, who amongst us Scots can forget the moment when Mr Thompson the maths teacher – it was usually maths, although both chemistry and woodwork were also dab hands at this – would suddenly appear behind you just as you had written a note to your bestie pal and announce his presence with a roar of hot air and invective so fearsome your perm straightened on the back of your collar.
Hairdryer, indeed. We felt like a Harrier jump jet had snuck up behind us.
Sir Alex’s replacement, I understand, is a very different sort of manager. The Hairdryer will not be deployed. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Oh, but we know better. Oh yes, that Harrier jump jet could come in and give you a new side parting for a forgotten chemistry ink exercise, but who can forget the low rumble of, say, Mr Henderson who taught physics? He’d suddenly materialise right in front of you and dissect your various academic failings, your personality flaws and your future career prospects, all in forensic detail before a sniggering audience of your so-called pals.
Be careful, Manchester. The Hairdryer might have been unplugged and switched off, but that accent is just as devastating when the abuse is dished out at a volume barely above the conversational.
Hurling stuff was part of job
In Scottish schools during the 60s and 70s, high octane verbal abuse was the least of our worries. Teachers back then had not only an entire arsenal of heftable ordinance, ranging from blackboard dusters to bits of chalk, but their right to fire at will was unchallenged, indeed, I suspect it was encouraged.
Most of our male teachers had done National Service, which probably accounted for their sniper-like ability to take out a talker at fifty paces with a well aimed Child’s Garden Of Verses between the shoulder blades.
Mr Macmillian, our English teacher, was a stunningly good shot. Minor grammatical errors would trigger the hurl of the blackboard duster. When it landed, it threw up a seriously impressive mushroom cloud of white powder.
To this day,
the sight of a misplaced apos-trophe is enough to make me dive for cover. I used to regularly walk past a prominent city centre hotel, which proudly advertised itself as You’re Place To Meet In The City.
The staff inside must have wondered why the strange lady always raced past the front door hunched over like the last man on a Vietnam patrol.
Big effort for summer please
It is more in sorrow than in anger that we write to express our disappointment with your efforts of late. It is not good enough that you blame “outside” interference from the Arctics, and that Azores ate your homework. We have given you as much support as we can reasonably be expected to give, from persistently believing your promises of a “good summer”, to encouraging your attempts in short bursts to warm up.
Upon receipt of this written warning we expect to see a serious application of effort and an improved outcome. Or we will get Sir Alex Ferguson to chuck a boot at you.