I was recently reading a copy of FourFourTwo magazine. There was a feature article on car pooling in the lower divisions of the football league. A nice piece about instances where players travel from different parts of the country to training and cut the cost, and their carbon footprint, by sharing a lift. One of the players featured was Febian Brandy.
Brandy is one of those players Football Manager enthusiasts always remember. A name that pops up on Soccer Saturday now and then and makes you reminisce about the team that you led to world dominance in 2020. But in the real world, he was a rising star in the Manchester United youth team until the club released him, presumably having assessed that he didn't possess the attributes to break into the squad that had been totting up trophies for fun.
In the article, Brandy made passing reference to an event that has nudged his career back on course. After failing to get a contract in Britain, he was sofa-surfing in Greece and playing for free. He got a phone call. It was his old boss. Who proceeded to give him "a kick up the backside."
One can only imagine how tall a call from Sir Alex Ferguson must have made 5"6 Brandy feel.
The trophies are the most important thing. The way Ferguson lead us to triumph after triumph. The way he enriched our lives, moulding team after team that took us through the emotions that only football can. For those in my generation of the global United fanbase he has helped to fuel, it is no exaggeration to say this man that the vast majority of us haven't even met has helped shape who we are through his exploits.
But Febian Brandy's story is part of the Ferguson story that goes beyond United.
For Brandy, read Casper. Or Gibson. Butt. Neville. Gillespie. O'Shea. Brown. Pogba. Pique. Rossi. Heaton. Morrison. Savage.
The list of names could go on. The players schooled at United. The youth that Ferguson obsessed about but didn't quite make the grade or moved on. They went on to enrich other clubs. Some won league titles, domestic cups and European Cups, bringing joy to millions of others.
And there's another list. It features McLeish, Bruce and Ince. Solskjaer, Hughes and Blanc. Managers who have worked with Ferguson as players and gone on to work at all levels of the game, nourishing it here and abroad. And an unnervingly high number of them seem to have had the same experience as Brandy. A call, out of the blue, from "the Boss".
His legacy on United needs a series of books to shed any light on. The impact he has had on my life is undeniably huge. But his footprint on the sport is monstrous and probably impossible to comprehend.
Everyone's getting their tribute in. Mine is mainly for therapy: Ferguson has managed United since the year after my birth. The image of him and Brian Kidd jumping onto the pitch after that crazy Steve Bruce winner is bound up with all of my childhood memories like my first bad school report or the first time I rode a bike. This change is a break from something I have always known. As unnerving as a first day at a new school. But few of the tributes have been as surgical as the one from Premier League chief Richard Scudamore: "No one has made as great a contribution to the Premier League than Sir Alex Ferguson. His drive, ambition, skill, passion and vision have not only shaped Manchester United, but in many ways the game of football as we now know it."
To me, there are 2 reasons why people just can't understand what it is to live and breathe as a United fan: Munich and Ferguson. But football fans across the world, and the football world itself, will all realise the significance of this event. As the colossus of the Theatre of Dreams finally leaves the stage.