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Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010

Ferguson says mother's will changed his life

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson revealed on Thursday he was once so downhearted with his career as a soccer player that he nearly quit the game and emigrated to Canada.

News photo
Mother knows best: Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's life almost took a different path. AP PHOTO

However, after some strong words from his mother the man known for his "hair-dryer" bawling out of under-performing players, scored a "life-changing" hat trick against Rangers.

Ferguson, 68, is now the most successful British manager of all-time, having guided Manchester United to 11 Premier League titles and two European Cups during his 24 years at Old Trafford amid over 30 trophies in total which also include domestic and European honors won with Scottish side Aberdeen.

But in the 1960s he was struggling to make his way in soccer as a center-forward with Scottish club St. Johnstone.

"I was part-time and in a reserve game against Airdrie I broke my eye socket, cheekbone and nose and was out for months. They put this massive plaster cast on my face," Ferguson told students in Glasgow on Thursday, with his comments carried on United's Web site www.manutd.com.

"After I came back from the injury I played three reserve games. We lost 8-1, 7-0 and 9-2. I said 'that's it — I am finished.' I took out papers to emigrate to Canada.

"On the Friday, my brother's girlfriend phoned up my manager at St. Johnstone and told him I had the flu. But when I arrived home from a night at the swimming baths with my pals, my mother tore into me.

"She said, 'I've had a telegram from your manager — get down to the telephone booth and call him.' The manager said: 'Report to the Bath Hotel tomorrow, you're playing against Rangers.'

"I scored a hat trick and became the first player to do so against Rangers at Ibrox — it changed my life. I became a full-time footballer in the summer and never looked back."

Ferguson, whose United side continue its quest for a fourth successive Premier League title against last-place Portsmouth on Saturday, said the attitude of players starting out in soccer had changed greatly during his years in the game.

"Young players now are more fragile, they are more cocooned. They are encouraged by an insatiable press to think they are better than they really are, and they are protected by their agents."

And Ferguson, who has a reputation as a no-nonsense manager, insisted that meant even he had to change his tone.

"You have to deal with that in sport now. You have to be very conciliatory."

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