Sir Alex Ferguson's Honesty Should Be Applauded Not Scorned

Sam PilgerContributing Football WriterOctober 25, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Sir Alex Ferguson poses during a press conference ahead of the publication of his autobiography at the Institute of Directors on October 22, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

As reported in The Daily MailLiverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that Sir Alex Ferguson has damaged his legacy with some of the comments in his new book published this week.

It is patently absurd to suggest giving a few opinions about players in a book could ever impact on a legacy that includes winning 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues.

And so it has been a strange couple of days watching the football community react to Ferguson’s book as managers and fellow writers have lined up to complain about his honesty.

What do they want? Bland platitudes offering no insight and no revelations in which he hides how he really felt?

Do they instead want him to say just nice things about everyone?

English football remains horribly protected and insular compared to American sports.

In the U.S., whether it is the NFL or the NBA, the media are allowed in to locker rooms before and after games to ask any question to any athlete they want.

Of course that doesn’t happen in the Premier League. Players can avoid the media for months and years if they choose to.

It means that Wayne Rooney has still not answered the question about whether he asked to leave Manchester United at the end of last season.

He can hide in plain sight in the Premier League. 

It means even when Ashley Cole is made England captain he is allowed not to do the customary press conference.

Beyond the sweat-soaked and breathless post-match interviews, which they can even refuse to do, how often do you see Premier League players asked questions and speak with freedom and honesty?

But when Ferguson gives his opinions, yes in the course of hawking a book, he is reprimanded for it.

We should encourage honesty and real opinions, however much they hurt, not jump up and down in mock indignation.

What did Ferguson say that was really that shocking?

We already knew he fell out with David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ruud van Nistelrooy, that much was obvious because he sold them, and here in his book he provides the reasons why.

In response Roy Keane has complained, as reported by the BBC, that, "I remember having conversations about loyalty…I don't think he knows the meaning of the word.”

I bow to no one in my admiration to Roy Keane, a brilliant footballer who I always enjoyed interviewing, but he can’t take that position when he published his own book over a decade ago that criticised some of his former United teammates, including Peter Schmeichel and Teddy Sheringham.

One of the reasons Ferguson sold Keane was because, as he expands upon on in the book and talked about at his press conference on Tuesday, his former captain criticised his teammates in a MUTV interview.

“For some reason he decided to criticise his teammates…We couldn’t accept it,” said Ferguson, as reported by The Daily Telegraph

Was that Keane knowing the meaning of loyalty?

Of course it would be wrong to hail Ferguson as a beacon of honesty, with his long record of banning journalists and not speaking to the BBC for seven years. In the book too he sidesteps several issues he would rather not talk about.

But football should not be scared of players or managers expressing their real opinions, they should embrace it. 

The day after Ferguson’s book was launched, Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway resigned. He could have made something up and hidden behind a long list of platitudes, but instead, as reported in The Guardian, he was honest and said he was too tired and probably not capable of keeping the club in the Premier League.

So is honesty beginning to creep in to football? Judging by the reaction to Ferguson’s book this week it doesn’t seem wanted.