I chose Gordon Strachan for the second of our ‘Big Interview’ podcasts because he was the Andrés Iniesta of my era. If you aren’t of an age to have seen Gordon play at his best then, boy, you missed something.
He was one of the most skilful, inventive, creative, brave players Britain has ever produced. Ever. Not identical to Iniesta, but cut from the same cloth. Great spatial awareness and technique so that, often, players who tried to close him down were ‘spun’ and left looking stupid.
That’s a habit Gordon has carried on into his managerial career. He’s intelligent, witty, really quick minded – sometimes even quicker tongued. Journalists can be left looking stupid too.
Two things stood out to me – this is a man who cares passionately about the game played the way that excites and interests me and who is both intelligent and practical enough to so something about it. Secondly, he’s very funny.
The fact that he can be a bit prickly when he’s asked foolish or rude questions means that he’s gained something of a reputation and I think it’s one which does no justice to a clever, curious, interesting mind … and so we sat down to talk.
Unsurprisingly, he’s brilliant on Iniesta … but what took me a little by surprise was his strong contention, and explanation, about this being the all-time golden age of football. No rose-tinted specs about the past with Gordon.
When he talks about being driven by anger, when he describes Shunsuke Nakamura’s unusual training regime, when he talks about Eric Cantona and why it was right for him and Leeds to do the deal which changed Manchester United’s history – during all of this Gordon is fascinating.
I deliberately chose not to raise Sir Alex Ferguson because I knew, I just knew, that if the chat was going well then Fergie would be brought up by my guest. So it proved. What he says about the former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager is remarkable. If not for Fergie then Strachan would have been a legend at Real Madrid.
There’s punch-ups in Aussie Rules football, weeping football psychologists, alcohol bans and then the daddy of them all – what Gordon does for half an hour in his garage when he’s frustrated about the state of our skill deficit in UK football. What comes out strongly is the power of his voice. He speaks like a leader, like a thinker, like someone used to communicating his message.
We don’t speak about it in this interview but I know that Gordon is devoting loads of personal time to helping kids who have fallen away from football and lost their path in life to find discipline, education, improved diet, a second sporting chance and, in some instances, financial support to study for a career. I wish there were more people like him in our society and in the sport we all love.
Little wonder, knowing him, that he won 18 major trophies, numerous personal awards and achieved that rare feat of winning the FA Cup and league title in both England and Scotland; plus he became part of a small band of men, numbering just 10, to start in two UEFA trophy winning sides as part of a Scottish club side.
There’s something specific in there for fans of Barcelona, Aberdeen, Manchester United, Celtic, Southampton, Scotland, Leeds – and Aussie Rules team Melbourne FC. But if you are a fan of football in any shape or form you’ll lap this one up.
Tune in. Enjoy.
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