Dear Sir Alex,
Firstly, I’d like to start by wishing you a very Happy 80th Birthday and a fruitful 2022 full of Manchester United victories!
I’d also like to say that it was truly heart-warming to see you looking so sharp and healthy in your recent interview with Gary Neville.
The way you commanded his respect was a clear sign that you’re very much back to your usual, formidable self. Put it this way, he’s never that docile around Jamie Carragher!
In some ways I’ve been putting this letter off for a long time. Like all United fans, my heart sank when I heard about your health worries and I didn’t want this to come across as maudlin.
Believe it or not, we have a (loose!) personal bond. Admittedly, it’s one you probably don’t remember but, nonetheless, it’s one I’ve taken real pleasure in expressing in great detail to a long list of awe-inspired friends, acquaintances and, well, anyone within 10 feet.
Back in the mid-80s, my Gran suggested I write to then-Reds’ boss Ron Atkinson about becoming a ball boy. She was an indomitable character who always chose to ask ‘why not?’ instead of ‘why me?’. Very much like yourself, I’d imagine.
Inspired, I started scribbling away. Alas, a couple of letters to Big Ron didn’t lead anywhere and I found myself shelving my grand plans to become United’s new number 9 via the lesser-known ball boy route.
In the Spring of ’88 she took me to Old Trafford; a regular day out for this snot-nose kid from Salford. We went around the museum and gift shop and were about to leave when you pulled up outside the ground.
I felt a bit too overawed to come over and say hello – but she insisted – and we eventually spent a good 10 minutes chatting with you about football.
You were very engaged – and engaging – and even complimented her on her skin – a story she, herself, expressed to her own long line of future acquaintances.
She mentioned my love of the club and desire to become a ball boy and you jotted down my address and said you’d see what you could do.
I honestly didn’t expect anything to come of all this, but a few weeks later received a letter with the United postmark asking for my measurements to fit a club tracksuit.
Sure enough, you’d found me a place at the Theatre of Dreams.
I cannot explain how giddy – and grateful – I was to be given the chance to spend time among such personal idols as Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce. It was a dream come true.
And, while I have many great memories from my time as a ball boy, two incidents really stand out. The first: I was asked to take a tray to the door down the hall and found myself serving refreshments to you and Martin Edwards.
I was so nervous I almost spilled the entire tray over you both! You instantly put me at ease with your warmth and openness.
The 2nd, with us a goal down against Nottingham Forest in the QF of the FA Cup, I controlled a stray pass on my chest and passed it back to our player.
You said “Well done ball boy” and made me ridiculously proud, in spite of the eventual defeat. Luckily, much better days were on the horizon.
I’m blessed to have had a personal connection with you but, even if my memories were limited solely to Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager (and not my first boss!) I’d still consider you one of the most cherished people of my lifetime.
Very few individuals have brought as much unadulterated joy into my life as you have. Your wonderful United sides have run parallel to, and enriched, my life – from school to University and from marriage through to fatherhood.
From Wembley in 1990 to Manchester in 2013, your glorious sides – and the incredible memories they created – have brought so much pleasure into my life.
And this sentiment goes for every one of the millions of Reds who were lucky enough to grow up with you and your boys; from Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister through to Javier Hernandez and Robin Van Persie.
Seeing your recent interview brought back fond memories my now sadly-departed Gran and reminded me that life is short and happiness a blessing.
I really wanted you to know that you’ve illuminated the lives of so many and have given us enough pleasure to last a million lifetimes.
Every single one of us will always hold a special place in our hearts for everything you’ve done for the club – even the ones who weren’t lucky enough to be your ball boy.
Happy 80th birthday Sir Alex and thank you for EVERYTHING.
Scott Eckersley @ The Peoples Person