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editorial 313

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    editorial 313


    Two of the funniest ever players to wear the Manchester United shirt have been in the news for non-footballing reasons lately. Gordon McQueen, the former defender who described himself as the team’s social convener, has not been in the best of health and has vascular dementia. His family are trying to raise awareness of what daughter Hayley describes as a ‘cruel disease’. Big Gordon is the man who dropped his towel while rooming with Kevin Moran and inadvertently ‘followed through’ on the Dubliner.

    Bryan Robson, the best player in the team McQueen played for, adored the Scot and confided in him about the pressures of fame and fortune. Robson took him to Middlesbrough as his assistant and McQueen settled close to the area. It’s there that McQueen decided to warm me up with four pints before our interview started for one of my books. Then the proper drinking began. Five hours later, his wife Yvonne picked us and remarked: “You’ve had a few.”
    “It’s close season, I’m allowed to relax,” replied Gordon.

    “You retired 18 years ago, love,” she said, before dropping me at Yarm station. That’s where I had a tip that Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy had had a big argument in training and my editor wanted the story written within 90 minutes. I managed it – somehow.

    McQueen is the man who, when European champions Bayern Munich wanted to sign his best mate Joe Jordan at Leeds, answered the phone to their manager while on tour pretending to be Jordan and said “I’m interested, no problem, but you should sign the defender McQueen too.” The German couldn’t tell the difference between two Scottish accents.

    “McQueen is a good central defender but we have Beckenbauer and Schwarzenbeckwho play all the time.’
    “They couldn’t lace McQueen’s boots,” replied, er, McQueen. “They are not in the same class. You don’t know what you are talking about.’” Jordan never did move to Bavaria. We wish Gordon and his family well.

    And then there’s Lou Macari, another Scot who excelled at United after rejecting Liverpool who were convinced that they had done he deal as he sat in the main stand watching them ahead of being unveiled. It was a coincidence that Paddy Crerand, then assistant manager at United was sitting close by. Crerand had a word, Lou admitted that United had always been his team in England and loved the idea of Best, Law and Charlton. He signed for United.

    In non-Covid times, Macari can be found on the Stoke to Manchester train going virtually unnoticed. He and his family stayed in Stoke after he managed there. He’s a hero there for what he did as manager – and that includes having a kit man with learning difficulties. The Macaris stayed in Stoke because they didn’t want to be far from where their youngest son took his own life. Lou’s life is tragic and triumphant. He’s put so much time and energy into providing homes for people without them. It’s not slick, he had no interest in PR, it’s just, Lou, a man who lost his father when he was 16 and his son Jonathan aged 19.

    “It was easily the worst thing that has happened in my life and my outlook changed dramatically. What did results matter when I’d lost my son?” he told me. “What did results matter when I’d lost my son?” Management’s loss was society’s gain.
    What he sees fills him with sadness and he offers no panacea for the drug addiction which grips so many he helps, but he finds light amid the darkness. He found it hilarious that one United fan on twitter said his ambition was to replace his homeless facility with luxury flats.

    This is a man who likes to laugh. When Juventus came to Old Trafford, their press played a game against the English journalists the day before the match at the Cliff. As the match was in progress, Macari sneaked into the dressing room, cut the ends off all the Italians’ socks and dropped them in the teapot. He took great delight watching them drink their tea through the keyhole and heard them making noises as if they were enjoying the traditional English tea. “Then they started putting their socks on and they went right up over their feet. They didn’t have a clue what was going on.”

    McQueen and Macari made people smile. Fans because both were cracking players who took risks in the name of entertainment, teammates too. They grew up close to each other in North Ayrshire and had interesting lives before and after United – the main club of their careers. They’ve had major ups and downs, but we should be proud that they wore the red shirt. Gordon’s got his challenges now, Lou too. We should be proud of both.

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