By Mitch Phillips
SIR Alex Ferguson has been unmasked as the man Europe captain Paul McGinley has asked to address his team on the eve of the Ryder Cup but the former Manchester United manager will be leaving his hair dryer at home.
McGinley had said previously that he had a big name in the pipeline but the secret was let out when Ferguson was seen on the course this week.
“The one thing he asked me to do was keep it quiet, we wanted a bit of a surprise for the players. But I guess it’s not a surprise,” McGinley told a news conference.
“There are a number of things that he’s dealing with that he was particularly good at that I think he’ll be a particularly strong fit. There’s a lot of similarities, and I’ve met him a number of times over the last few months. The more I’ve met him, the more there was just such a natural fit.”
McGinley said he played with Ferguson in a pro-am 15 years ago and, after a few subsequent meetings, asked him to help out once he had been named captain.
There will be none of Ferguson’s firebrand changing room roastings, however, with his famous ‘hairdryer’ assaults on errant players left firmly behind in the world of football.
“This is not about him being a headmaster and coming in and preaching to them. This is about fun,” said McGinley.
“The areas that I’ll be talking to the players about, him relating it to football and getting some football stories. So I very much like to think that we’re both coming from the same direction and he’s talking along the lines that I’ll be talking this week.”
Ferguson stood down as United manager following the 2012-13 season and has had to suffer on the sidelines since, as first David Moyes, and now Louis Van Gaal have failed to maintain the high standards he eventually set after his own shaky beginnings.
“He is a big fan of golf, as we know,” said McGinley. “He knew a lot about the players and he’d watched them and observed a lot of them and was very keen on getting to meet the ones he had not met. And of course the players are mad about football, every one of them.”
Ferguson is the latest in a long line of motivators, alive and dead, used to inspire the two Ryder Cup teams.
Former Wales and British Lions scrumhalf Gareth Edwards gave a rousing speech at the Welsh resort of Celtic Manor four years ago.
The ‘spirit of Seve Ballesteros’ was called upon by Europe throughout the 2012 tournament, while uplifting notes quoting Bob Torrance, respected coach and father of former Ryder Cup favourite Sam, are posted around the European team room at Gleneagles this week.
The Americans too have looked for outside help. Captain Corey Pavin brought in Major Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot and Iraq war veteran, to address his team in 2012 while George W. Bush, then Governor of Texas, gave something of a tub-thumping speech to his country’s team in 1999.
There was a little less gravitas around in 2008 when European captain called in disc jockey DJ Spoony and Nicko McBrain, the drummer with rock band Iron Maiden. Europe went down to what remains their only defeat in the last six matches.