Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he turned down the England job twice before Kevin Keegan and Sven-Goran Eriksson were individually appointed, calling the job a “bed of nails I was never tempted to lie on”.
Despite Ferguson having had continuous success with Manchester United – not to mention hailing from north of the border – The Football Association felt they could lure him to take over the Three Lions when the job became available.
In his book Ferguson claimed that he was asked to replace the recently sacked Glenn Hoddle after the former Tottenham and Chelsea player made inappropriate comments about disabled people.
A conflict about the time of the approach comes from former England chief executive David Davies though, who admitted in his autobiography five years ago that it was in fact 1996 – not 1998 as Ferguson suggests – that the FA’s “kingmaker” Jimmy Armfield was deployed to try and persuade the Scot to take up the role.
But Ferguson issued a no-nonsense response in his book, admitting: "There was no way I could contemplate that. It wasn't a bed of nails I was ever tempted to lie on.”
Although the first approach may be slightly inaccurate in terms of the timescale, Ferguson is a lot clearer on when the second offer came. He writes that Adam Crozier, who was FA chief executive at the time, had a face-to-face meeting with him in 2001 after Keegan had made his dramatic resignation at Wembley, just a year before the 2002 World Cup.
Encouraged by Ferguson’s own words that he would retire at the end of that season, the FA were confident that they would get their man this time, but again they were denied as Ferguson made a U-turn and remained with the Red Devils for another 12 years, when he retired in May this year after claiming his 13th Premier league title.
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