Legendary Scottish managers
By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
If You're Second You Are Nothing: Ferguson &
Macmillan, 399 pp, 10.99 pounds
While the last 10 years have seen foreign managers
claim most of the silverware in English soccer, homegrown fans who have done
their homework will know that "foreigners," albeit of a tartan hue,
have been well and truly in charge south of Hadrian's Wall since the 1960s.
Bill Shankly, a passionate man from Glenbuck, a
small village south of Glasgow, transformed Liverpool from second division
mediocrities to first division champions and F.A. Cup winners before handing
Bob Paisley the backbone of a team that would become European champions three
times before Shankly's death in 1981.
By that time, the dominance of Scottish soccer by
Glasgow rivals Celtic and Rangers was being challenged by Aberdeen, managed by
Alex Ferguson. Five years later, he would arrive at Manchester United and
eventually steer the Red Devils to eight Premier League titles and the European
Cup, maintaining a proud tradition of successful managers from north of the
border that the Glaswegian will be hoping to continue by bringing another
trophy to Old Trafford this season.
In If You're Second You Are Nothing, Oliver Holt
uses his experience on The Liverpool Daily Post, The Times and his current post
with The Daily Mirror to offer an insight into the lives of Ferguson and
Shankly, two characters from similar backgrounds, both of whom achieved results
through their single-minded determination to succeed.
The reader gets two biographies in one book, which
seems like a good idea, yet both of these larger-than-life characters have
published autobiographies and been the subjects of several biographies
previously, notably The Boss: The Many Sides of Alex Ferguson, Michael Crick's
epic volume published in 2002, and Bill Shankly: It's Much More Important Than
That by Stephen F. Kelly 10 years ago.
In the latest book's introduction, Holt writes,
"The point of comparing Ferguson with Shankly is that in many ways Shankly
shines a light on Ferguson's shortcomings and on his limitations."
This view seems to shape Holt's perception of the
two men and, for all his claims that Ferguson is "fiercely
intelligent...capable of great charm...and humour" he barely conceals
which of these great managers he favors.
Shankly's resignation as manager of Liverpool in
1974 at the age of 60 is compared with Ferguson's decision to reverse his
decision to quit as United boss at the same age in the summer of 2002.
He suggests that Shankly's "premature
retirement ensured his unblemished immortality," which would seal his place
as a club legend whose name is still chanted by the club's faithful--many of
whom never saw any of his teams play--who regularly fill Liverpool's Anfield
Ferguson's failure to leave Old Trafford, despite
Holt's recognition of him as "one of the greatest managers in British
football history," is seen as misplaced at best and a grave error of
judgment at worst.
There are few redeeming sides to Ferguson's character, according to Holt.
"Shankly...was a man of humour and dynamism grounded in the working
classes," while the Glaswegian's intelligence, charm and humor has been
"consumed by his anger and his pain and his hostility."
There are fascinating stories about two of the
most idiosyncratic men to grace English football management during the past 50
years, with contributions from former players and sportswriters, as well as
extracts from each of their autobiographies, and Holt even claims an exclusive
revelation of Shankly's recommendation as his successor.
As a football fan who saw Shankly's Reds in the
early 1970s and Ferguson's F.A. Cup Final victory in 1994, I found this is an
engaging read. But don't expect to see a copy lying on the manager's desk at