Ferguson and Allardyce: Grow Up

Ferguson and Allardyce: Grow Up
April 17, 2009 Paul Tomkins

I am still in shock at the reaction of Sam Allardyce and Alex Ferguson to a gesture made by Rafa Benítez after the second goal against Blackburn Rovers last week.

I’ve never heard anything more pathetic in my life. The gesture that has led both men to publicly attack Rafa is so vague that he may as well have blown his nose or belched and been labelled as ‘disrespectful’ towards the Blackburn manager.

I’ve watched the incident in question over and over, and for the life of me I cannot see what they are getting at.

For anyone to suggest Rafa thought it was game over with a two goal lead and 60 minutes to play is outrageous.

How can they infer he meant this from one movement of Benítez’s hands? After all, I can’t understand 99.9% of the strange semaphore he comes out with, so how the fuck can people get uppity about this?

A goal is scored, and for once Rafa smiles. He does not pump his fists, or turn to the Blackburn bench. He does not drop his trousers and moon Big Sam.

His action of crossing his hands, made in the direction of the Liverpool players, could have meant anything; most likely, it meant ‘forget my previous instructions’ over the free-kick. He’s used the same gesture before to say “no, no, no” to his players to stop what they’re doing; never “game over”.

My guess would be that he told Xabi Alonso to hit it towards the far post, as most managers request, but that the midfielder went for the near post. If anything, Rafa looks embarrassed.

However, if Rafa thought it was game over, why didn’t he take off Torres there and then? Or any other players? It’s patronising to suggest he would have thought that.

After all, this is a man who never sees any game as over until the final whistle; a man who was incredibly pissed off that his team only beat Aston Villa 5-0 having eased off in the last 20 minutes.

How it can be interpreted as anything more is alarming, and indicative of two managers ganging up on another like a pair of classless bullies.

[As has since been pointed out to me, Allardyce had no problem at the time, no problem after the match when shaking hands, but as soon as he mentions it in a press conference six days later his good friend Ferguson is doing the same thing at the same time. Collusion? I think so. The Guardian’s Fiver sums it up perfectly, even pointing out that Ferguson backed up Allardyce even before Allardyce had said anything publicly! – FIVER ]

Ferguson has allies at numerous clubs, including several ex-players who have worked under him. In this case he is getting into a battle that is not his own, and yet again, for a man who never talks about Rafa Benítez, he’s talking about Rafa Benítez.

Rafa has brought on a fair amount of the Ferguson media storm himself, notably by responding in January to Ferguson talking about Liverpool with a list of what he saw as facts about United, but there is this very alarming collective amnesia when it comes to acknowledging that Ferguson has never been slow to rise to the bait, or indeed, launch his own verbal attacks.

After all, Ferguson spent a press conference after the defeat by Liverpool stating woefully wayward figures [which were laughed at by some Fleet Street journos] about Rafa’s spending. How has that been so quickly forgotten? He spent the week before they lost at Fulham consulting with people at his own club about money spent by Liverpool, which is very bizarre behaviour.

And look at this equally bizarre reporting on Football365:

“And while Ferguson has tried to resist the temptation to respond, this time he felt he needed to make a stand against the Liverpool manager.”

This time?

To me it’s been constant [and tiresome] tit-for-tat between the two men, with the media acting as the tell-tale. One says something, the press goes to the other and says “he’s talking about you”, to which he replies with his own comeback. And repeat.

But this is starting to seem a bit more sinister. This is some kind of witch hunt, focusing in on Benítez; finding him guilty of something “beyond the pale” that, frankly, is not even remotely clear-cut.

Listen to this pathetic drivel from Allardyce:

“I wanted to clarify his gestures. I think you’ll see them as pretty dismissive to me and to Blackburn Rovers’ team as a whole.”

How? Because some paranoid manager thinks so, it is so?

“I think they are disrespectful and quite humiliating.”

The only humiliation was from the way your team was outclassed, Sam, after you left a top-class striker, Benni McCarthy, on the bench, despite his good record against Liverpool, and played a lumbering centre-back up front.

“I waited to have a word with Rafa Benitez in his room after the game but as usual, and unfortunately, he didn’t turn up.”

Why not just go and wait in Rafa’s house, Sam? Camp out in his shrubbery? Stalk the man?

It’s his room, and up to him where he is after the match; presumably he has better things to do that deal with some pathetic gripes from a man sounding like a two-year-old girl.

But even though Sam didn’t get his clarification, he’s attacked Rafa all the same. Tried by the kangaroo court of Ferguson and Allardyce, Rafa has been found guilty of something any normal court would laugh out on the grounds of it being utterly inconclusive.

“I was hugely disappointed by those gestures and having re-looked at them this week I think I’m right and I think everyone will see why I’m complaining.”

Everyone? I know I’m biased, but Jesus Christ, I can’t see a single thing wrong with Rafa’s gestures. They were made in the direction of Liverpool’s players; not Allardyce, not the Kop.

“The game is hard enough as it is without a fellow manager trying to do, what seemed to be, an undermining gesture.”

Ah, fucking diddums. “What seemed to be…” basically means “what I interpreted it to be, as a very, very paranoid man”.

Then Ferguson wades in.

“… arrogance is one thing. You cannot forgive contempt, which is what he showed Sam Allardyce last weekend. When Liverpool scored their second goal he signalled as if the game was finished. I do not think Sam deserved that.”

“Sam has worked so hard for the LMA (League Managers’ Association) and he’s had a weakened team. I just thought it showed contempt.”

Again, how can the gesture Rafa made be interpreted this way by any sane individual? It’s all a case of reading far too much into a tiny little gesture that could mean a million and one different things.

“In my experience no Liverpool manager has ever done that. It was beyond the pale.”

Beyond the pale? Did he piss on someone’s grave? Call someone’s mum a whore? Microwave someone’s goldfish?

No. He made one simple gesture. To his players. And he looked happy that his team had scored – the disrespectful sod.

The whole thing is pathetic. The next time Alex Ferguson spits out his chewing gum after a goal, or waves his fists in the air in celebration, will we get such a load of old nonsense?

[Addition: talking of Ferguson growing up, here’s evidence of the 67-year-old acting like a 6/7 year old a couple of days later, when his team failed to win a penalty.]

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