Ex-Man United coach received Alex Ferguson’s wrath for bringing a “spy” to training

Eric Steele recalls Alex Ferguson wrath.

Former Manchester United goalkeeping coach Eric Steele has recalled being blasted by Alex Ferguson for bringing what the Scot thought was a “spy” to training.

Steele worked with the Red Devils goalkeepers from 2008 until 2013 and during this time, he learned that Ferguson’s infamous “hairdryer” treatment wasn’t just reserved for the players.

Eric Steele brings guest to training.

In a piece for The Athletic celebrating Ferguson’s upcoming 80th birthday, Steele is one of the interviewees tasked with painting a picture of the legendary manager’s personality and, in doing so, he tells the story of a time he invited a guest to training.

“Tony Franken, the national goalkeeping coach of Australia, was over,” Steele says.

“I’d agreed to have dinner on the Thursday night. Out of courtesy, I went in to see the gaffer. He had the phone to his ear. ‘Steeley, what do you want?’

“‘I have a guest coming in tomorrow, have you any objection?’

“‘Aye, alright. What’s he doing?’

“‘See training, chat with me, then eat afterwards.’ Off I went.”

All well and good but Steele explains, the request hadn’t registered with Ferguson as much as he thought it had.

Alex Ferguson: “He shouldn’t be here!”

“Next morning, Tony Franken turns up. I was doing set plays. Next thing, the gaffer looks over, ‘Who the fucking hell is that?’ All the lads look straight away.

“‘Gaffer, it’s my guest.’

“‘Shouldn’t be here! Could be a spy!’

“I got the full lashing. Just that split moment. It wasn’t just the hairdryer, it was nuclear-powered. The skin got thicker on the back of my neck. He’d forgotten. He thought I’d planted a spy. I had to walk over to Tony and say, ‘Tone, if you don’t mind, could you just go to the canteen.’

“I came back and I remember Rio (Ferdinand) and that lot laughing their heads off. The gaffer went, ‘Steeley, carry on with the set plays.’

“Bless him, typical of the manager, at lunch he came over and was as nice as could be. ‘Sorry about that — how long you over for?’”

Eric Steele’s time at Man United.

While it can be argued that Ferguson may have over-reacted to the presence of a so-called spy at training, the story is testament to how much he valued a tight-knit culture at Man United.

Steele was key to Ferguson’s successes during the later years of the manager’s career, working with the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Ben Foster and, later, a young David de Gea.

Famously, Steele was credited for his use of an iPod to aid Foster ahead of a penalty shoot-out against Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the 2009 League Cup Final, something that was seen as innovative at the time.

Ahead the spot kicks, Foster was seen studying Tottenham’s previous penalties on the device, before going on to save from Jamie O’Hara as United took the trophy home.

Overall, Steele contributed to three Premier League titles, two League Cups and a Fifa Club World Cup during his time at Old Trafford.

Sign Up For The LOI Arena Newsletter

Read More About: , ,