Exclusive: Gordon Strachan talks Sir Alex and the Hairdryer with Football.com
By Oliver Wilson
Few men have spoken about Sir Alex Ferguson’s “hairdryer” treatment that he used to dish out in the Manchester United dressing room at Old Trafford and across the country.
Of the handful of those who have spoken about it few of them have laughed it off almost flippantly when discussing it. Gordon Strachan, though, is no average Joe.
A man who fell out, famously, with the now retired Manchester United Manager during a feud that stretched out over 20 year, is known for being a little candid when dealing with the media but in an exclusive interview with Football.com, the Scottish national team manager spoke about his relationship with Sir Alex and what it’s like to be a player under, arguably, English football’s greatest manager.
“We’re fine now,” said Gordon when asked about his relationship with his former manager at both Aberdeen and Manchester United.
“In a room in Glasgow a couple of years ago we sat down for 15 minutes and it’s fine. We’ don’t send Christmas cards to each other but I’ve nothing against him and whatever happened, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
The pair first fell out when the red haired Scotsman signed a pre-contract agreement with Cologne just before the end of the 1983/84 season, a move that upset the Aberdeen manager.
"Though I always felt there was a cunning streak in Strachan, I had never imagined that he could pull such a stroke on me," said Ferguson about the move.
Cologne, though, never beckoned for Gordon and he arrived at Manchester United in 1984 with a spring in his step, a spring that may have left the good natured Edinburgh native when Ferguson crashed down at United in ‘86.
Strachan played for just three more years in Manchester before being Sir Alex moved him to Leeds United United in 1989, with the United boss saying in his 1999 autobiography that “there was little evidence of the zest and cocky assurance that characterised Strachan's play in Scotland”. Strachan replied by helping his new club to the Division One crown in 1992 at the expense of his old side.
While the frosty relationship between the two continued into Gordon’s club management days, Strachan believes that any player who is mentally strong enough to go into management after their footballing career is going to fall out with their managers as a player, even when your boss is Alex Ferguson.
“If you look at most of the guys he had who managed against him, they’re not all hunky dory [with Ferguson].
“Ask Roy [Keane] ask Brucey [Steve Bruce] ask Hughesy [Mark Hughes], it’s not all hunky dory. All these guys you’re talking about are all strong-minded and have come into conflict with him in one way or another.”
When players have clashed with Sir Alex in the dressing room and on the training pitch they’ve been subjected to that most infamous of footballing dressing downs, the “hairdryer”. Rather, thought, than discussing the rollicking that many before and after him have faced – including England’s golden boy David Beckham, who once took a flying boot to the face mid rant – Strachan has fonder memories about the outbursts and reflects on it with his almost uniquely positive outlook.
“I didn’t make me a weaker personality, it didn’t make me feel any different as a person,” is how the now 56-year-old looks back on those noisy and aggressive moments.
“I was fine and by the time the next day comes you and your mates are just laughing about it, you’re rolling about laughing. It hurts at the time but you’re rolling about laughing, not because you think it’s stupid, you just think ‘oh, it’s a part of life’.” It wasn’t good at the time but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“It’s like getting the belt at school, I used to get it and then be laughing two hours later with your hands still stinging.
“The belt didn’t do me any harm, I knew right from wrong and it’s the same with that style of management, you knew what was right and wrong.“
While the physical scars of his time at school are gone, the impact of Sir Alex lived long in the psyche of Gordon, so much so that just before he stepped into fulltime management at Coventry City, the pintsized midfielder found himself recreating Ferguson’s management style in a post match speech.
“Ron Atkinson once asked me to say something after a game [at Coventry],” he recalled.
“I went into this sort of sudo Alex Ferguson nonsense, and I walked around the room like I was Basil Faulty. I thought ‘what am I doing, I have to be me’.”
The hatchet has been buried between the two now and Strachan has his own way of doing things on and off the pitch but he still enjoys talking about the old days at United and Aberdeen at his after dinner speeches and hosting events.
“I’ve done a lot of good things in football but I get more of a laugh about the bad games when Sir Alex was ripping my head off. It wasn’t good at the time but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”