They Played at The Showgrounds: Sir Alex Ferguson
IN the continuation of the mini series, colerainefc.com’s Jonathan McNabb delves into the archives to remind supporters of great names who have graced the turf on the Ballycastle Road…
For the fifth issue, we remember striker Alex Ferguson who made an appearance at The Showgrounds in a pre-season friendly back in 1964 for Dunfermline.
Ferguson would start his career with Queen’s Park, before enjoying a spell with St. Johnstone. He would become a full-time professional in 1964 when he joined Dunfermline and his strong performances earned a move to Rangers. After a two-year stint at Ibrox, Ferguson would end his career on the books at Ayr United.
The 78-year-old is commonly known for his managerial stint at Aberdeen where he won three league titles, before spending 26 years at Manchester United, winning 38 major trophies in the process.
Ferguson’s playing career began as an amateur with Queen’s Park, where he made his debut as a striker, aged 16. Despite scoring 20 goals in his 31 games for Queen’s Park, he could not command a regular place in the side and moved to St Johnstone in 1960. Although he continued to score regularly at St Johnstone, he was still unable to command a regular place and regularly requested transfers. Ferguson was out of favour at the club and he even considered emigrating to Canada, however St Johnstone’s failure to sign a forward led the manager to select Ferguson for a match against Rangers, in which he scored a hat-trick in a surprise victory. Dunfermline signed him the following summer (1964), and Ferguson became a full-time professional footballer.
The following season (1964–65), Dunfermline were strong challengers for the Scottish League and reached the Scottish Cup Final, but Ferguson was dropped for the final after a poor performance in a league game against St Johnstone. Dunfermline lost the final 3–2 to Celtic, then failed to win the League by one point. The 1965–66 season saw Ferguson notch up 45 goals in 51 games for Dunfermline. Along with Joe McBride of Celtic, he was the top goalscorer in the Scottish league with 31 goals.
He then joined Rangers for £65,000, then a record fee for a transfer between two Scottish clubs. He performed well in Europe during his two seasons with the club, scoring six goals in nine appearances in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup including two against 1.FC Köln in the 1967–68 competition, and an important strike against Athletic Bilbao in the 1968–69 edition which helped Rangers into the semi-finals, but on both occasions they were knocked out by English opposition. He was blamed for a goal conceded in the 1969 Scottish Cup Final, in a match in which he was designated to mark Celtic captain, Billy McNeill, and was subsequently forced to play for the club’s junior side instead of for the first team. He would later spend four years at Falkirk, before finishing his career with Ayr United in 1974.
In June 1974, Ferguson was appointed manager of East Stirlingshire, at the comparatively young age of 32. It was a part-time job that paid £40 per week, and the club did not have a single goalkeeper at the time He gained a reputation as a disciplinarian, with club forward Bobby McCulley later saying he had “never been afraid of anyone before but Ferguson was a frightening bastard from the start.”
The following October, Ferguson was invited to manage St Mirren. While they were below East Stirlingshire in the league, they were a bigger club and although Ferguson felt a degree of loyalty towards East Stirlingshire, he decided to join St Mirren after taking advice from Jock Stein
Ferguson was manager of St Mirren from 1974 until 1978, producing a remarkable transformation of a team in the lower half of the old Second Division watched by crowds of just over 1,000, to First Division champions in 1977. Remarkably, St Mirren have the distinction of being the only club ever to sack Ferguson.
Ferguson then enjoyed a highly successful period as manager of Aberdeen, winning three Scottish league championships, four Scottish Cups and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983. This means he is the last manager to win the Scottish league championship with a non Old Firm team. He briefly managed Scotland following the death of Jock Stein, taking the team to the 1986 World Cup.
Ferguson was appointed manager of Manchester United in November 1986. During his 26 years with Manchester United he won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two UEFA Champions League titles. He was knighted in the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to the game. Ferguson is the longest-serving manager of Manchester United, having overtaken Sir Matt Busby’s record on 19 December 2010. He retired from management at the end of the 2012–13 season, having won the Premier League in his final season.
Ferguson is the joint-most decorated manager in European football competitions with seven honours, a record he shares with Giovanni Trapattoni and Carlo Ancelotti. Ferguson won the top division title in England a record 13 times, more than twice as many times as the next most successful manager. He is also the first manager in the history of the English league to win three consecutive league titles, which he did twice. Ferguson won 10 Manager of the Year awards, 27 Manager of the Month awards, and managed the most games in the UEFA Champions League (190). In 2017, Ferguson was named among the 10 most influential coaches since the foundation of UEFA in 1954.
The match was played at The Showgrounds on Monday, August 3, 1964 as both clubs got ready for the upcoming campaign.
The official report from the game read that the Bannsiders’ display against the Scottish First Division side Dunfermline Athletic “did not turn out just as pleasing” as the fans had hoped.
After the Bannsiders held their own for the opening half-hour, they fell behind as George Miller scored from the spot, before further strikes from Alex Ferguson and substitute Harry Melrose sealed a 3-0 win for the Pars.
The report also noted that the unfortunate feature of the game was the loss of the ‘Friendly’ tag in the second half when there were a series of nasty incidents.
COLERAINE: Hunter, McCurdy, Campbell, Murray (Nicholl), Davey, Peacock, Dunlop, Kinsella, Halliday, O’Neill, McCarroll.
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC: Herriott, W Callaghan, Lunn, Thompson, McLean, Miller, Edwards, Kilgannon, Dickson, Ferguson, Peebles.
Subs: Whitehead, P Callaghan, Sinclair, McLaughlin, Melrose.
*Many thanks to Hunter McClelland for the research*