Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has revealed he was so disillusioned with professional football at one point in his playing career that he almost quit the game and came close to emigrating to Canada.
However, he had a change of heart after harsh words from his mother and responded with a “life-changing” hat-trick against Rangers.
Ferguson, 68, may be the most successful British manager of all time but back in the 1960s he was struggling to make his mark as centre-forward with St Johnstone.
He said: “I was part-time and in a reserve game against Airdrie I broke my eyebrow, cheekbone and nose and was out for months. They put this massive plaster cast on my face.
“After I came back from the injury I played three reserve games. We lost 8-1, 7-0 and 9-2. I said ’that’s it – I am finished’. I took out papers to emigrate to Canada.
“On the Friday, my brother’s girlfriend phoned up my manager at St Johnstone and told him I had the flu. But when I arrived home from a night at the swimming baths with my pals, my mother tore into me.
“She said, ’I’ve had a telegram from your manager – get down to the telephone booth and call him’. The manager said: ’Report to the Bath Hotel tomorrow, you’re playing against Rangers’.
“I scored a hat trick and became the first player to do so against Rangers at Ibrox – it changed my life. I became a full-time footballer in the summer and never looked back.”
Ferguson, who related the story to students in Glasgow with his remarks posted on the club website, www.manutd.com, also gave an insight into how football has changed.
He is in his 24th year at Old Trafford and has won over 30 trophies, including 11 Premier League titles and two European Cups.
United, who are looking to make it an unprecedented four successive Premier League crowns, are at home to struggling Portsmouth on Saturday.
Ferguson is as driven as ever but is not certain many share his undying love for the game.
He said: “Young players now are more fragile, they are more cocooned. They are encouraged by an insatiable press to think they are better than they really are, and they are protected by their agents.
“But you have to deal with that in sport now. You have to be very conciliatory.”