Graham's Blog

Guest #100 Rio Ferdinand: Sir Alex and my Champions League Quest

In 2008, Rio Ferdinand’s Champions League dream came true on a rainy night in Moscow. The final against Chelsea was a game Rio was terrified to lose. He had to take a penalty in the shootout, an experience he says you simply cannot prepare yourself for. But his mum just loved it when he walked up to lift the big trophy.

Rio once raged at Sir Alex Ferguson from the pitch. The manager was so angered that he would have sold him had he not apologised. Fergie was a genius, a man with an incredible personal touch. Pep Guardiola was the only guy who could have filled his shoes. United had beaten Barcelona in the ’08 semi, but Pep’s team were a different beast in the 2009 and 2011 finals. Rio felt embarrassed after those games and said that Barca ripped the soul from that United team.

Thanks Rio.

Graham

Guest #100 Rio Ferdinand: Addicted to Winning

We promised you a special 100th guest … so who better than Rio Ferdinand, a man with a Champions League, six Premier Leagues and 81 England caps under his belt. Rio was a centre-half so elegant that he could have played in midfield. Damn it, he could have played up front if he wanted.

He left Leeds to join Manchester United because he had a burning desire to win. He got his hands on the league title in his first season at Old Trafford but that merely fuelled the addiction. He wanted European glory. He wanted the Champions League.

At Leeds he had come close, scoring a sublime header in a quarter-final against Deportivo. But the Valencia of Juan Sánchez and John Carew taught them a lesson in the semi. At Man United they ripped Juventus to shreds but a year later Real Madrid narrowly put them out in a ding-dong 6-5 aggregate win, when Raúl stretched him like never before.

This is a brilliant 100th Big Interview.

Graham

Dietmar Hamann: The Return of Il Trap

There were mixed European fortunes for Dietmar Hamann at Bayern Munich: a famous triumph in Barcelona followed by a UEFA Cup final win over Bordeaux, but also a tough lesson from an Ajax side which Dietmar describes as one of the best ever.

After head coach Otto Rehhagel was undermined by certain players, Giovanni Trapattoni was soon back and Dietmar won his second German title. Trapp also issued the most famous outburst in German football history. Newcastle then came calling, and life in England sparked a love affair with that other beautiful game: cricket. There was an FA Cup Final defeat to the mighty Manchester United but Dietmar’s Tyneside days set him up for a move to Liverpool, where greatness beckoned.

Enjoy

Graham

Dietmar Hamann: Me and The Kaiser

Dietmar Hamann is one of the beautiful game’s most engaging characters; sheer class as a guy just as he had been sheer class as a player. Before his breakthrough, he was a marauding offensive midfielder, but after he caught Bayern Munich’s eye he was given the holding role, a position he made it his own.

Head coaches Franz Beckenbauer and then Giovanni Trapattoni were massive influences at Bayern. ‘Der Kaiser’ had an aura about him when he walked into a room and took a relaxed approach. ‘Il Trapp’ was different: an emotional man and a hard taskmaster, but still loved by his players.

Dietmar describes what it was like to come off the bench to score his first senior goal in a 5-0 victory over Nuremberg as The Bavarians homed in on their first Bundesliga crown in four years.

Enjoy

Graham

Pat Bonner: The Loneliness of the No.1

In the sweltering heat of Orlando Pat Bonner misjudged a net-bound shot during Ireland’s knock-out defeat to the Netherlands at USA ’94. Getting over setbacks like that, and indeed the whole psychology of goalkeeping, has obsessed him ever since he hung up his gloves. He has been a top-level coach, he has developed goalkeeping courses and he has been a consultant to the major footballing bodies.

In this brilliant lock-down Big Interview, he is incredibly insightful on the nature of modern goalkeeping, especially on how the No1 has now become a player in his own right. It is little wonder Pat is such a sought-after broadcast analyst. He is also one of the true gents of the beautiful game. Thanks for breaking the lock-down monotony, Pat.

Graham