Friday, May 27, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson, Soup and Super-injunctions

If football's ability to constantly surprise is one of the things that keeps Alex Ferguson so hooked on the game, then one wonders what he's made of this past week.

Could he have imagined, in the build up to tomorrow's Champions League final, that it would be Ryan Giggs who was dominating the media for non-footballing reasons?

Back in the day, ensconced as manager of Aberdeen and building a footballing force at Pittodrie, a young player - it might have been Alex McLeish - informed his boss that he'd be leaving the parental home and moving into his own flat.

"Can you make a pot of soup?" Ferguson asked.

"No, no idea how to make soup," came the reply.

That, Ferguson declared, was proof positive that the youngster was incapable of surviving alone. Until he could provide basic foodstuffs for himself, flying the nest was off the agenda.

Nae soup, nae bachelor pad.

On Monday an MP named Ryan Giggs, Ferguson's most senior player, as the footballer at the centre of stories regarding an alleged affair with minor celebrity and occasional tabloid favourite, Imogen Thomas.

This came after a super-injunction saga that struck at the heart of the UK's privacy laws - or at least how judges interpret those laws for the benefit of the rich and randy.

Questions were raised about the relationship between Scots media law and English and Welsh media law when the Sunday Herald named the player in question.

A can of worms regarding the status of laws built for an old media structure in a new media age was blown open as Twitter descended on the carcass of a costly and failed super-injunction.

The freedom of the press to titillate readers with tales of the bedroom derring-do of footballers was debated.

And Monday was the day when a footballer's rumoured sexual shenanigans seemed to pitch parliament against the judiciary.

Football's rebirth as the apparent centre of our national life has brought Ferguson both riches and success. In his career he has seen much, managed some bad boys, had players capable of some extreme behaviour.

But never, I think, would he have imagined that allegations about a shagging footballer would end up rocking the constitutional boat.

Does he, in quieter moments, ever think longingly of simpler times, of the days when the only worry he had about his players was whether or not they'd paid attention the day their domestic science class had made Scotch Broth?