Sir Alex Ferguson is Britain’s most well known manager. He was a legendary coach known worldwide for his exploits with Manchester United. The iconic boss led the Red Devils through the finest period in their history.
Known for his authoritarian way of management, Ferguson ruled with an iron fist wherever he went in his managerial career. After experiencing a decent playing career, he took over as head coach at East Stirlingshire at the age of 32.
In his four short months at the club, his reputation as a promising young manager and strong disciplinarian grew. It attracted the attention of St Mirren, and on the recommendation of outgoing boss Willie Cunningham, Ferguson linked up with the Buddies in 1974.
Ferguson had little in terms of managerial experience, so it was a big jump to go to a club like St Mirren at an early age in his managerial career. He lasted four years at Love Street and completely galvanised the faltering Buddies. Despite this, he couldn’t prevent himself from facing the axe in 1978 over incidents with the players and St Mirren’s club secretary.
It meant that the Paisley side were the only team to sack the iconic manager. Whilst the Saints seen a raw version of Ferguson, they really defined his managerial career.
St Mirren highs and lows
The Buddies boss immediately went about installing discipline to his side. Players feared Fergie’s wrath. Their manager was not one to shy away from brutally telling players where they went wrong and what he thought of them.
St Mirren were stuck in the lower reaches of the old Second Division, playing to crowds of just over 1,000. In the space of three years he had took that side and turned them into First Division champions, with young talent like Billy Stark and current St Mirren CEO Tony Fitzpatrick playing key roles in Ferguson’s St Mirren revolution.
The Paisley outfit played high energy football under the young manager, whilst also possessing the ability to fight and scrap for the ball, a trademark in all of Ferguson’s teams. He created a youthful side made up of local talent. His league winning side had an average age of 20 and his captain Fitzpatrick was just 19.
20,000 plus people were turning up at Love Street to watch St Mirren play. Who knows how big they would have become if Ferguson stayed in Paisley for the long term and what could have been achieved.
The club had accused him of intimidating the club’s secretary and not speaking to her for weeks on end. Others claimed it was because of various breaches he made into players contracts. Whatever the reason, The Buddies had sacked Britain’s most promising manager. It clearly added flames to an already big fire within Ferguson. He was relentless in his pursuit of success, something which he later found on a regular basis.
St Mirren left to wonder what could have been
After leaving Love Street, Ferguson joined Aberdeen and brought in the club’s golden generation. It was at Pittodrie where he made a name for himself. He made them champions of Scotland in just his second season in charge.
Ferguson went on to win four Scottish Cups, one League Cup and another Scottish Premiership crown in 1985. Perhaps his biggest achievement of all was winning Aberdeen’s only European trophies in their history, securing the European Cup Winners Cup and the European Super Cup in 1984.
He brought major success to the Granite City, something no Dons manager will ever get near to again. Ferguson developed rapidly at Pittodrie, with his tactics and disciplinarian approach to management working wonders for Aberdeen. He’s their most successful manager and was rewarded with a move to sleeping giants Manchester United in 1986, following a brief spell as Scotland coach alongside the late Jock Stein.
United were second bottom in the English first division when he arrived. By the time he retired in 2013, they had won everything there was to win. With 38 trophies to his name, including 13 English Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies, Ferguson really conquered club football in Manchester.
All of this happened as a result of St Mirren sacking a young Ferguson in 1978. Sure he would have eventually moved on to greater things, but who knows what would have happened had he stayed on at Love Street that extra bit longer.
It’s a shame for St Mirren as who knows how big they could have became in Scottish football.
For Ferguson though, after his Paisley dismissal, the rest is history.