Sir Alex Ferguson hit with a belt: School punishments played part in success at Manchester United, and may have inspired 'hairdryer' treatment

Ferguson still possess the belt that his primary school teacher Elizabeth Thomson used to beat him when he misbehaved

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he still possesses the belt that his favourite school teacher used to beat him, crediting her with making him the great manager that he went on to develop into.

Ferguson attended Glasgow’s Broomloan Road Primary school as a child, and credits the “gritty determination” of Elizabeth Thomson for inspiring him to greatness. He maintained contact with the school teacher throughout his playing days with Rangers as well as his spells as manager of Aberdeen and Manchester United.

The recently retired manager also revealed that he was sent the belt shortly after her funeral, and has kept the prized possession that still terrifies his own grandchildren, and could go a long way into explaining his strict disciplined ways and famous ‘hairdryer’ treatment that many of his players experienced over the years.

 

“It’s in my study,” Ferguson said of the belt as part of The Times’ Educational Supplement’s feature 'My Best Teacher'. “My grandchildren are terrified of it. Six from that belt and you were in absolute agony. I used to try to draw my hand away.

“But that was the sort of punishment you had if you stepped out of line. In my case, it was usually for fighting in the playground.

“When she [Thomson] died, I couldn’t go to the funeral because Manchester United were playing abroad, but months later I received a parcel.

“She had bequeathed her belt to me. Her nephew sent it to me along with a letter that said: ‘You’ll know more about this belt than anyone’.”

The 72-year-old went on to recall his school days under Thomson, who he labelled an “inspiration”, and said that her defining characteristics of personality, determination and energy are a must for anyone tasked with leading other people – such as a football manager.

“Elizabeth Thomson was an inspiration to me,” Ferguson continued.

“That’s the perfect word to describe her. The area of Glasgow I grew up in, Govan, had one of the highest truancy rates in the city. She came from a different world, really. She was from a middle-class, wealthy family, but she had a raw determination about her.

“When she first got to Broomloan Road Primary, she went round to the house of every student who wasn’t in her class that day and said, ‘If your kid isn’t in school tomorrow, I’ll be back at your door’.

“Maybe 2,000 teachers turned the job down, turned down that sort of challenge, but she thrived on it. She improved everyone she touched. She actively sought out challenge.

“The three ingredients to Elizabeth, when I think about it, were personality, determination and energy. Anyone who’s in charge of someone else needs those three ingredients. It just won’t work without them.

“When I think about her now, I realise that it wasn’t all about education. Mrs Thomson endeavoured to make you want to be the best you could be.

“Yes, I think there’s part of me that comes from her. That determination and that sense of drive. That ‘never give in’ attitude she had about all her students.”

The ‘never give in’ determination that Ferguson speaks of was seen so regularly in his Manchester United side’s, with the famed ‘Fergie Time’ becoming a regular occasion in the Premier League as his United players refused to accept defeat – scoring late goals so often to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Sir Alex Ferguson is a patron of the education charity Shine, which runs the competition Let Teachers Shine to help fund innovative teacher-led ideas and raise attainment in the classroom.

To apply for a grant of up to £15,000, visit shinetrust.org.uk

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living