Ron Atkinson interview

Big Ron on Manchester United, Big Brother and Sir Alex Ferguson

The former UK football player, manager and commentator chats to Peter Feely about managing Manchester United and Celebrity Big Brother.

You have experienced the manager’s dugout at Manchester United. Do you have any sympathy for current manager David Moyes?
I didn’t think it was going to be quite as transitional as it’s [turned out to be]. I think last year, Robin Van Persie covered up a lot of indifferent or below par [Manchester United] performances with his goals and that was a major factor in them winning the Premier League last year. Maybe he covered up one or two weaknesses on the playing side that people maybe hadn’t realised were there.

You were replaced as manager at Manchester United by Sir Alex Ferguson. What’s your relationship with him like?
When he was a manager in Scotland I was probably the manager he knew best of all in England and I’ve always had a good relationship with him. In fact, if I was going up to a game at Man U, he was the person I’d phone to sort tickets out. He was successful because he knew the game. He had strong principles and he had the backing at the time that enabled him to buy some very good players. Also, there was the big factor, which happens once in a lifetime: the so-called of ‘class of 92.’ Eric Harrison [coach], who bought that youth team through, I took him to Man United. He was a great pal of mine. They produced six or seven top of the range players – almost in one hit.

Talk us through some ‘Big Ron’isms’
A lot of that stuff, I never said and a lot of stuff was just training ground jargon. For example, ‘lollipop’ just means a stepover, so when we were training, I would say, ‘pass, pass, pass – do a lollipop.’ It’s like in cricket. People say, ‘why ‘lollipop”,and I say, ‘well why say “googly?”’ Small, skimming headers – I used to call those, ‘eyebrows.’ It was amazing how many players picked up what I was on about.

What possessed you to participate in Celebrity Big Brother UK and was it as horrible as it looked?
No, it was easy. I talked to Frankie Dettori [jockey] and Neil Ruddock [footballer] before I went in and they said that it was a walk in the park, which it was for me. I didn’t get involved in all the silly nonsense.

Did you have reservations about the show?
Oh yeah – my wife was saying, ‘you’re not doing that’. But my grandkids wanted me to do it because they liked the programme. I’d never really seen it beforehand.

Were you pleased that you got thrown out of Celebrity Big Brother UK quite quickly?
Oh yes.
Ron Atkinson will be speaking at the Sportsman Dinner on Friday February 28. Dhs300. Jebel Ali Golf Resort Hotel, Dubai (050 929 1805).

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