Personally, I blame Fergie

Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column.

New Statesman
Hunter Davies' "The Fan" column appears weekly in the New Statesman magazine.

I made the most awful mistake last week. Not as serious as Fergie’s, but pretty embarrassing. Almost as embarrassing as that plastic-coated leather maxi coat the colour of light caramel I bought in the Sixties in Carnaby Street after a drunken lunch. Now that was embarrassing. But the bigger mistake was giving it away to a charity shop. Would have been a period piece by now. Comme moi.

That Downshire Hill house in the best part of Hampstead. I went to an auction in 1980 and could have got it for £57,000, but didn’t. What a mistake. But things we didn’t buy and stupid things we did buy, those are just normal, run-of-the-mill, routine mistakes.

This was a professional mistake. I was doing a piece about Gareth Bale and wanted to name his daughter. Really, just to impress my wife. She is always asking me how John Terry’s twins are getting on, and Stevie Gerrard’s three daughters, as if I should know. She never watches a game but knows vital details about the Prem stars. Well, she is an hintellectual.

I went on the net, no sign of Gareth’s daughter’s name. So I contacted a good friend at Spurs, long-serving, senior person who should know such things. Took him 24 hours but he emailed back to say the baby was called Ava. I rushed upstairs to where my wife was working, her Conway Stewart fountain pen in hand, opened her door and said, guess what.

“I am working,” she said.

No, you’ll be interested. I know the name of Gareth’s baby!

“It’ll keep,” she said.

Over our lunch, I said three guesses. Failed totally. I gave a clue – it begins with an A. She got it. And added that John Prescott’s granddaughter is also called Ava.

Then, bloody hell, five days later there was a piece in all the back pages in which Jermain Defoe talked about Gareth’s daughter – Alba Violet. Oh my God, what have I done? My credibility as a totally ace football expert is buggered. I contacted my Spurs contact, who apologised profusely. One of his assistants had got it wrong, presumably misheard Ava for Alba.

The point of this story is that it was not my fault, OK? Just as it was not Fergie’s. He totally blamed the ref who gave a red card to Nani for Man United’s embarrassing defeat by Real Madrid. I personally totally blame Fergie for what happened next.

He frothed, he steamed, he ran down steps, shouted at the ref, went red in the face, even redder than normal, and lost it . Because of his loss of concentration, he ignored what was happening on the pitch – which was total confusion and chaos among his players.

Now, it is a manager’s job, however stupid the ref has been, to keep calm and instantly reorganise his team, depending on which player has been sent off, or get them to stay solid and do what they are supposed to do in such circumstances. Surely they have practised playing with ten men enough times. That’s what training is for.

He did nothing when the players needed him most, and then for ten minutes they acted as stupidly and blindly as he had done. Meanwhile Mourinho reacted at once, not sending on Karim Benzema, whom he’d lined up, but instead Luka Modric, who waltzed around the midfield, taking advantage of all the space and United’s panic. Fergie is old, in his seventies, poor sod. But come on – get a grip.

Forgot to say, John Terry’s twins are called Georgie John and Summer Rose. Gerrard’s daughters are Lilly-Ella, Lexie and Lourdes. And, oh God, another awful mistake. She’s just told me it’s a Waterman pen not a Conway Stewart.