Some things are more important to recognise than a new contract of your own. @TheBig_Sam celebrates his great pal, Alex Ferguson…
A blisteringly hot day in July 2011 and Big Sam is hiking around the gorgeous surroundings of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne with a friend. As tiredness begins to take its toll on my taut yet weary limbs, I stop and lean shakily against an old wall. Despite being assured by the lads at Opta that my lungs are in the top one per cent of lungs in the game, I am wheezing like a Victorian whore.
As I splutter and cough myself into a dizzy stupor, bits of Mr Kipling Manor House splatter across my lapels, and my cheeks become imbued with the reddish hue of exhaustion. I sit down and place my head between my knees. I’m not usually prone to melodrama, but at this point in time, I am certain I am about to die.
Sir Alex is God
Then something incredible happens. I feel my Regatta Seacombe sandals being removed gently from my cracked and broken feet. A bottle of Evian is then poured soothingly over my tootsies, before they are dried delicately by an outrageously soft Sheridan Egyptian hand towel. I grin knowingly, and raise my head to see a pair of shimmering blue eyes and a smile that could make a lesbian queef. He is surrounded by light and emits a glow of pure celestial radiance. As he washes my feet with a humility that is as startling as it is moving, he reaches out and strokes my cheek.
“You’re my tired little bear, aren’t you?” he says, with a chuckle. This was the moment when I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Sir Alex Ferguson was descended from the right hand of the Father.
My friendship with Sir Alex needs no introduction, embellishment or fanfare. He is the single most important part of my life. Everybody knows it; my wife knows it, mother knows it. I remember one particular moment at an LMA barbeque; they’re always lavish, raucous affairs, and Sir Alex and I were killing it with a cracking comedy routine about race relations. It was both provocative and uproarious, and had the room in absolute stitches. Afterwards, a still-chortling Howard Wilkinson came up to us and said: “You two are utter bloody perfection together. Sir Alex is the cake, and Big Sam is the icing.” It was as touching a compliment as I’ve ever been given, and I’m not afraid to admit that I cried. Everyone shifted around in embarrassment for a few seconds, before Sir Alex cut the tension by throwing a nearby Stephen Hawking over a hedge, and shouting, “Look – it’s Bernie Clifton!” His razor-sharp wit saved the moment, and had us all in kinks of laughter again. His charisma can destroy all kinds of barricades.
This week, after a glorious managerial career that spanned an incredible five decades and saw him snag more glittering silverware than Bobby Moore in a jewellery shop, Sir Alex announced his retirement, and plunged the country into a deep, dark well of mourning. This man has been a constant in my life for as long as I remember. If I ever needed advice or guidance, he was always a phone call away. Whenever I’ve needed a recommendation for a job, it was Sir Alex I turned to. That time I got my Xbox 360 Media Remote wedged into my anus, the great man was the only person who could see past the ramifications and social degradation, and fish it out without judgement. I’m going to miss him more than words can ever express.
Sir Alex is that warm cup of coffee that jolts me into action in the morning; he’s the satin sheets that envelope my writhing, naked body at night. He is my rock.
A word about Paddy Crerand
I’ve spent the last few days trying to find the perfect gift for Sir Alex; something that shows my devotion to a man who has done so much to shape the very hulk of granite and elegance that is Big Sam. Chocolate, flowers, Cath Kidston tote bags; nothing I found could even come close to evoking my feelings. In the end, I stripped it all back and recorded a raw, aching version of ‘re: Stacks’ by Bon Iver, and sent it to him. I’m yet to receive any feedback, but I don’t need any. He’s got a heart bigger than Katy Perry’s forehead, that man. He’ll have felt it. By Christ, he’ll have f**king felt it.
On Wednesday evening – mere hours after the announcement – certain intermediaries made it very clear to me that, should I want it, the Manchester United job was mine. Paddy Crerand even called me up and said that a contract had already been drawn up and was waiting for my signature. He did, however, also tell me that he was on the hunt for communists, before loudly vomiting on the handset and blurting out a rather bizarre non sequitur about dwarves being “a shower of bastards, on the whole”, so I’m not convinced Paddy is the most reliable of sources.
I don’t want to embarrass Sir Alex by fixing their midfield
In the end, I decided I just didn’t want to replace my hero. I want his achievements to remain crystallized and etched in ancient footballing stone. There are few sadder, more poignant moments in this life than the son surpassing the father. Sure, I could go to Manchester United and fix their midfield, or improve their frankly wretched record in the UEFA Cup, but is it worth it to see Sir Alex squirm with shame, as his legacy is shattered to dust by my own meaty hands? I think not. I’ll forge my own dynasty here at West Ham, if it’s all the same to you.
Despite having a vast treasure chest of memories involving Sir Alex, I am always drawn back to that summer’s day spent rambling in Northumberland back in 2011. It came amidst a difficult time for Big Sam; while Sir Alex was still basking in the glory of winning his 12th Premier League title, I was unemployed, miserable, and spent my days watching ‘Baise-moi’ on repeat, eating Findus Crispy Pancakes by the dozen and calling in bomb-threats to a wide range of national retail outlets.
Sir Alex dropped by the house to check on me one afternoon, and found me in the kitchen, sagged into a half-deflated paddling pool. He saw the pain I was in, and knew in an instant what was needed. “Get up you fat f**king poof, and pull yourself together,” he roared, with legendary ferocity. “There are people in this world with no legs or pensions, and you’re behaving like this? Bloody disgrace.”
How the great man saved me
In a flash, I was plucked from the tree of self-pity, and catapulted straight back into the lush garden of real life. “Let’s go walking,” he added, a smile replacing his furious scowl. As he was helping me up, he glanced at the colour of some of the liquid that was under me in the pool. I’d be lying if I said it was all water. “Squeaky-bum time?” he asked, before giving me a wink, ruffling my hair and making me feel like a million f**king dollars. That one minor incident charted and displayed all the traits that make him the man he is; from steely-willed enforcer, to tender guardian, and then to hilarious, self-referential showman in a matter of minutes.
I know Sir Alex is not leaving my life entirely. I’ll still see him at LMA functions and at lacrosse practice. It won’t be the same, though. I am entering a dark new world of terror and fear, but I have to be strong.
One thing I must do is visit the great man at his place of work — his kingdom — one last time before he retires. I think it’ll be cathartic. I want to stand opposite Sir Alex in his office, and enchant him with one of my favourite lines of poetry:
‘Me? ‘I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.’
I’ll get him to ask me a relevant question first, so the quote makes sense. Otherwise I’ll look like a right ballbag. And when it’s all said and done, he’ll be gone. And then only Big Sam will remain. And then I’m the daddy, now. Everything is going to be fine.
- Dive into Paddy Power’s, er, Squeaky-bum time special on Manchester United v Swansea right here
- Read more from Not Big Sam on Jessica Ennis, Rafa, Aston Villa, and more, over here
- Watched Hitler’s reaction to Alex Ferguson’s retirement yet?
Not Big Sam is a parody account on Twitter which can be found here. It is in no way related to Sam Neill, Sam Adams, Sam Allardyce or Sam Fox.