Ed Miliband’s Conference Speech. Unedited Notes as it Happened

October 2, 2012

Tudor Rickards

Unedited notes posted immediately after Ed Miliband’s speech [3pm Tuesday 2nd October, 2012] Notes to be updated and revised later. [Asides by TR made at the time]

Relaxed style. Good confident start. Avoided podium and notes.. Speech had been leaked thoroughly.

Almost good joke to start. Told of his son who wanted to help him write his speech which must have ‘lots of dinosaurs in it’.

Strong style. Was it because his speech tics of Prime Minister’s Question time had been coached out?

Regulation applause seemed early on more obligatory than acclamatory. Evolked (surprisingly) Disraeli, for the concept of One Nation. Implicit ‘we are not under this Government, all in this together’.

Nice bit about understanding why people voted for David Cameron, acknowledging the tough start imposed..[slipped in a political swipe about the double dip recession worse than last one under a Tory regime].

If the medicine’s not working you change the medicine [warmer applause]. Adds [with good timing] …and you change the doctor.

Bit of millionaire bashing re ‘high tax rate rebate’.

Chief Whip bashing.

Nick Clegg bashing. [But aimed at the Leader not the Lib Dem party]

Good rousing attack on Government ineptitude (an ambush by multiple barbed arrows) gained louder applause. [TV picks out reluctant listeners and reluctant applauders].

Message to the banks: Fix it yourselves or we’ll fix it for you. If not The next labour government will sort out banks …once and for all.

Emphasized need to help give better chances for the 50% who won’t go to University. Technical Bacculaureate. Plans apprenticeship obligation for contractors.

Gove’s educational policy divisive. We won’t go back to that. [applause is warmer at last]

Attempt to deal with financial short termism. Offers to work with Business. Offers to be Euro-friendly.

“Here’s my difference on immigration. Recognise strengths as well wrong policies.”

[An aside from TR: That repeated clapping. Now I remember. It’s graduation day. Every one claps. It’s necessary, albeit tiring and mostly tiresome].

Magic of the NHS. Cameron has broken his election pledge to protect it. [Bit of a stage managed standing ovation]. Labour will repeal the NHS Bill. [Another aside: Not another reorganisation?]

Would there be a strong ending? Almost. Was it coherent? Yes. Was it a confident speech? Yes. It generally exceeded expectations (although expectations were generally low].

Reflections and analysis to follow


Queen’s Diamond Jubilee reveals a nation seeking consolation in past glories

June 6, 2012

 

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations in England took place across an extended public holiday. The festivities could be interpreted as capturing a mood of escapism to an Olde England, and a yearning for cultural continuity, in times of radical change

The novelist Julian Barnes described a surrogate England in the future which has been established off-shore with all guile and marketing skill of an all-powerful media magnate who was behind the venture .  Visitors could enjoy the nostalgia provided, cleansed of uncomfortable aspects of reality.

In that respect, the celebrations [June 2-5, 2012] of Queen Elizabeth’s sixty years as constitutional monarch, chimed with the dystopic vision in the novel.

Drizzle, drivel, and magnificent pageantry

The BBC reporting of any national event may be taken as convenient shorthand for an official State view of the nation.   It does so while signalling its commitment to free speech and yet offering provision for expression of alternative views.  

A Supernova and an informational black hole

Over the period of the celebration, the various events collectively produced a Supernova of dazzling intensity. Almost all other news disappeared into an informational black hole.

The BBC courageously undertook the required wall-to-wall coverage.  The procession of 1000 vessels down the Thames was magnificent. It was intended to surpass a royal regatta of  350 years ago.

The unremitting drizzle was creatively reported as demonstrating the British spirit when facing adversity.

The event lasted less than three hours, so that seven hours of radio commentary resulted in inevitable drivel.  I base this mainly on sampling snippets as I dipped in and out across the four days:

First snippet:  “What kind of dress would you say she is wearing”

Second snippet:  “The crowd are staying loyal although they must be very wet by now”. 

Third snippet:  “A bottle has floated down the Thames.  That’s brought a cry from the crowd”.

Fourth snippet: “You are dressed in a Union Jack.  Are you proud to be British [cheers from crowd]”. “Yes. Anyone who’s not should go back to wherever they came from” [more cheers].

Fifth snippet: “Everything has been a highlight…but perhaps the real highlight is to come with the appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace this evening”

Sixth snippet:  “The royal loo is now open to the public”

Seventh snippet: [Repeated chanting, apparently by young and female participants directed to an intrepid group of anti-royalists] “God save the Queen”.

Another marathon

The journalists, as indefatigable as the Queen herself, gallantly repeated the marathon at the variety performance.  This was another magnificent spectacle, drizzle count low, drivel count high, celebrity count very high. 

Somewhat strange end to the event: 

 

Prince Charles paid a personal tribute beginning ‘Your majesty… mummy’.  Mentioned sad news of his father’s hospitalization after the boat trip, and asked the crowd to cheer up Prince Philip with a cheer and another three cheers for the Queen.

Then The Queen lit  the last of 4000 beacons in an echo of the symbolism of  the Olympic flame, still in transit around the United Kingdom.

With still time to fill in, and suffering withdrawal symptoms, BBC’s Radio 5 resorted to phone-ins and crowd-sourced debates on  ‘Should we get rid of the Monarch?’ [No],  and  ‘Are you proud to be British?’ [Yes].  

 Behind the headlines

The event will become distilled into a footnote of Modern history. The orthodox version will accurately capture widespread respect for The Queen, observed in the four days, and  amplified into a popularist near-idolatry.

GB Limited

After the glitter has faded, the Diamond Jubilee will be examined for implications of the current and future branding of GB Limited.  Students of leadership may be motivated to contribute to reflections on the dilemmas facing hereditary monarchies around the world.

Apologies

Note: LWD still awaiting restoration of normal service. Apologies.


City fan has recurring nightmare that his team lost the Premiership

May 16, 2012

City fan Eric still has a nightmare that his team lost the race to the Premiership title

Eric was interviewed in Leaders We Deserve some years ago. It was at a time when supporting City was a burden to be carried. Eric was recovering from an era of successive relegations from the Premiership and then the championship. The joy of recovery was tinged with bad memories.

Then it all changed

In the early hours of Monday morning, [14th May 2012] having joined in the first night of celebrations over City’s greatest triumph, he went to bed a contented man.

His worse nightmare

But even at the moment of City’s greatest success, his worse nightmare began. Looking gaunt, he describes his nightly torments:

“I’m back watching the QPR game. We are well in control but not winning. Then Barton gets sent off. They are down to ten men. Even we can’t lose it now. The dream’s so life-like. I’m Pozning with glee.[The Poznan: Curious City celebration, involving synchronized jumping up and down].

Then they break away and score. We are going to lose. In my dream the whole stadium is full of jeering Reds. [gleeful United fans].

Then they score again. We go behind. The Reds are cheering.

We pour back at them. Wave after wave it was. But whatever we do, the goalie pulls off miracle save after save. Now it’s extra time. Only one minute! [here as elsewhere, Eric’s dream is a distortion of reality]. The Etiad [stadium] changes colour from blue to red. The whole sky goes red. The cheering and jeering is dreadful.

I wake up covered in sweat. I can’t believe it’s a dream.

Yesterday I went over to the celebrations at Albert Square. Fantastic. But after when I got home and got to bed, it was that same nightmare. Nothing changed. United win out again.”

True fans have to suffer

A truly sad tale. We send Eric our congratulations and condolences. True fans have to suffer. But not like this.


Breaking News: Aung San Suu Kyi is sworn in to Parliament

May 2, 2012

In an historic and symbolic moment, Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi entered parliament in Myanmar [Formerly Burma] to be sworn in to public office. Her personal and political struggle has lasted more than two decades against authoritarian rule, which she has spent mostly under house arrest

The Nobel Peace Prize winner signed a registration book inside the building before taking an oath as a member of parliament. This followed some resistance after her election victory, as Myanmar’s nominally civilian government continues to make reforms.

The Wall Street Journal was one of the first to break the news in the Western media.

Aung San Suu Kyi has recently been receiving increased attention from Western political leaders, including David Cameron and Nicholas Sarcosy.

The Myanmar Times reported this week [April 30 – May 6th 2012]

UN leader Ban Ki-moon on April 23 called for a “harmonious” deal allowing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to take an oath and enter parliament, ahead of his visit this week.
Mr Ban was expected to arrive in Yangon on April 29 to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time as well as President U Thein Sein. Mr Ban told reporters Myanmar’s transition has reached “a critical moment”.

“Now is the time for the international community to stand together at Myanmar’s side,” he added, hailing “landmark” by-elections on April 1. “But this fresh start is fragile.”
The UN secretary-general welcomed moves by the European Union and United States to suspend sanctions and said he would discuss ways the United Nations could help the country. “They deserve our full support,” he said.

Asked about a dispute between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the president over taking the oath of office, Ban said: “I sincerely hope they are able to find a mutually harmonious way to have smooth proceedings of the parliament.”

The dispute is the first sign of tension with the government since the democracy icon’s electoral victory.

We earlier reported her release from house arrest as “a Mandela moment”.

The New York Times gave a cautious welcome to her swearing in:

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s long resistance to Myanmar’s brutal dictatorship gave her people — and the world — hope that her country would someday be free. Her swearing in this week as a member of Myanmar’s Parliament is an important step forward, but the struggle to establish a real democracy is not over.


The remarkable Mr Galloway triumphs in Bradford West by-election

March 31, 2012

The charismatic politician George Galloway wins a remarkable by-election for his tiny Respect party in Bradford. His success resists simple analysis. A charismatic leadership style, campaigning focus, and voter disaffection with the major parties all appear to have contributed. Political clan politics, or Bradree, was also cited by members of the Muslim community

A BBC report stated the political statistics. Mr Galloway won the by-election by a staggering 10,140 votes, overturning a Labour majority of over 5,000 votes in the 2010 general election. The result came after a week in which the Government had suffered a series of PR blunders. The news turned the political spotlight away from the coalition, and back on the Labour opposition, and on Ed Milliband’s leadership credentials.

The celebrity candidate

The Guardian claimed to be the only newspaper at the by-election count:

Those who voted for Galloway tended to have a number of things in common. They were either a first-time voter or a disaffected Labourite, and all wanted to congratulate him on his robust stance against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many said they watched him on Press TV, the English language Iranian-controlled channel until it was taken off air by the government earlier this year. .

More still had watched YouTube clips of Galloway ripping into his detractors, whether in front of the US senate in 2005 or in a classically adversarial interview with Sky News about Gaza. Galloway proudly refers to these as his “greatest hits”. Only a handful recognised him primarily from his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, when he dressed in a red unitard and pretended to be [actress] Rula Lenska’s pussy cat.

Bradree

The Guardian also offered a diagnosis of the defection of the Muslim vote from the Muslim labour candidate:

A common theme on the stump was frustration at clan politics in Bradford, known by the Urdu word Bradree or Biradiri, meaning brotherhood or family, which here has become a byword for exclusivity.

Many felt that too many important decisions were taken in Bradford by a small number of Pakistanis who came from Mirpur, a small town in Kashmir, who had carved up the most important Labour party positions between them over the years.

The Labour candidate in the byelection seemed to fit into that mould. Imran Hussain, a 34-year-old barrister from Bradford with Mirpur heritage, was following in his father’s footsteps when he became involved in the local Labour party, rising two years ago to become deputy leader of the city council.

Great Expectations

Voters appear to have been swept up in George Galloway’s rhetoric. The result was hugely influenced by Labour defections and by first-time voters from the Muslim community. But there must have been a further contribution from the votes of defectors from all other political parties as well.

To be continued


Momentum Studies: Murray v Harrison Australian Open 2012

January 17, 2012

Ryan Harrison

Andy Murray was expected to beat Ryan Harrison in the first round of the Australian tennis Open in January 2012. After Harrison won the first set Murray won the second and commentators began to talk of momentum swing.

Andy Murray v Ryan Harrison Australian Open Jan 2012. Round 1

Sets 1-2

Murray faces promising but somewhat erratic young American. Expected to win. Early start for watchers in UK . Awoke 5.30 am to learn Murray had lost first set. By time I’d settled to watch, Murray was moving ahead in second set. He seemed a bit tentative but won with fewer errors. One set all. First mention of momentum swing by the commentators.

Set 3

Murray breaks early. Still appears a bit tentative. ‘Retains advantage but still unconvincing. [The playing] level from both has dropped.’ Harrison seems a bit more prone to error,

Idea: Momentum more likely to sustain if stronger player/team seizes it.

First racquet-chucking by Harrison.

Idea: Murray’s ‘momentum’ not helped by low 1st service %. Although 4-2 up, talk is not of Momentum. Maybe negative momentum (Let’s call it ‘NegMo’) for Harrison. Murray has chances but fails to capitalize on them for second break of serve. Murray wins set. Commentators assess performance as steady. Imply no momentum (or not sustained). My assessment: Murray playing well enough to win match.

Set 4

Murray drops four points (from three game points at 40-0 to break point at Advantage against in second game of set) before squaring at one set all. Conserving energy?

Second racquet chuck from Harrison. Conditions continue to change (Shadows). Harrison drops service. Murray now leads 1-2 with serve to come. But seems a bit listless. Poor body language. Commentator picks up possible shoulder trouble for Murray. Set continues, with Murray playing with little urgency (apparently). Breaks again for 5-2. Wins in over three hours.

Momentum check:

The notes above suggest that the remark about momentum was not much more than a commentator’s knee-jerk assessment when the stronger player recovers after dropping the first set.

A Similar note was struck on sky text: “Murray seized initiative in second set [and] maintained momentum when he broke Harrison again in the opening game of the third set”.

To be continued…

Subscribers are invited to join in on this examination of momentum. It’s a phenomenon frequently mentioned in sporting and political contests.


Tesco’s ‘near perfect succession plan’ coincides with period of business turbulence

January 15, 2012

Philip Clarke

When Philip Clarke replaced CEO Sir Terry Leahy in 2011, Tesco’s succession plan was described as ‘near perfect’. Within a year, serious profit warnings suggest it will be unlikely to deliver its strategic aims

The Guardian has followed the story closely, and analysed the succession plan in depth:

Leahy’s retirement has triggered a changing of the guard, including the departure of Andrew Higginson, its former finance and strategy director, who will step down as head of its retailing services arm in September [2012].

The Big Price Flop

The Big Price Flop, as some analysts now refer to it, also suggests the British arm is missing the influence of Tim Mason, the group’s deputy chief executive and Clubcard guru; he currently has his hands full with its heavily loss-making US chain Fresh & Easy.

The Terry, Tim and Andy show

One former executive argues the top team is depleted and weaker than when “Terry, Tim and Andy” ran the show, but adds: “Terry was always going to be a hard act to follow. He was a retail genius.”

When [Philip] Clarke, who first worked for Tesco in 1974 as a part-time shelf stacker while he was still at school in Liverpool, was appointed to succeed Leahy, their similar backgrounds and immersion in the business suggested they were cast from the same mould. Only time will tell if Clarke can have as much success.

So what went wrong?

If you consider the reported evidence, Tesco has had a tough time in the near recessionary conditions of 2010-11. Its failure to meet its financial targets was shared with most of its rivals. A few bucked the trend, notably Sainsbury, Morrisons, and the discounters Aldi and Netto.

Arguably, Clarke was too willing to accept the positive picture of a company requiring no major change of strategy. Forced to respond to market conditions, he and the respected top team appeared to have focused on an extensive price cutting plan of £500 million.

Black Thursday

As poor results at Christmas [2011] were unveiled, securities analyst Dave McCarthy talked of a Tesco ‘black Thursday’ as £5bn was wiped off the company’s stock market value and when the results showed that the UK chain, which generates more than 60% of group profits, was funding international losses.

“We suspect that when investors look back, they will view this day as the day the market recognised the fundamental changes that are taking and have taken place. A profit warning is the last sign of a company in trouble — and they usually come in threes.

Tesco admitted for the first time that it has long-standing problems around range, quality and service. It has slashed wage bills to try to preserve profits and that, like pushing prices up, is a short-term fix at the expense of future profits.”

Hero to zero again

Another Guardian story replays the hero to zero theme, comparing the rise and fall in reputation of Leahy’s leadership at Tesco with that of Philip Rose at Marks and Spencer.

More on Tesco’s succession plan

Tesco’s succession planning was covered in an earlier LWD post


Warnock fired, as Football’s naïve owners cling to outdated leadership beliefs

January 9, 2012

Another premiership manager is dismissed as football owners in the Premier League cling to outdated beliefs about the great man who will reverse the fortunes of their clubs

Neil Warnock was dismissed as manager of Premiership club Queens Park Rangers (QPR) yesterday [Sunday 8th of January] . The circumstances are all too familiar. Warnock is a controversial and outspoken character. He has a reputation of demanding the best from players often working with a limited budget. He is only eight years younger than Sir Alex Ferguson. Last year QPR gained promotion with him as their manager.

Events contributing to a sacking

Some of these events seem familiar for cases in which managers are removed from their positions in the premier league.

[1] A takeover after which the new owners take the opportunity to put ‘their’ man in charge
[2] The club does not perform to expectations in the ‘honeymoon period’ for the new owners
[3] A case of success elsewhere after a change of manager is noted by the new owners and the fans.

The Martin O Neill effect

All three factors are evident in the QPR case. Martin O Neill has hit the headlines after a great start at struggling Sunderland recently.

The Great Man Theory

The idea of a leader as hero/rescuer was popular a century ago, but has become increasingly challenged. In business, as in sport, the evidence for a reversal of fortune after introducing a dynamic new manager is contestable. There are other factors including the resources that are made available to the new leader to ‘make a difference’.

Fanciful expectations

Yes, a transformation in fortune will require effective leadership. The owners may well have found Warnock not the kind of manager they would have preferred for a fresh start. However, significant change will also require effective governance and expectations that are not too fanciful. And a Martin O Neill or a Kenny Dalglish is hard to find, and harder to attract without special personal reasons for accepting the challenge.


Antonio Horta-Osorio: Charisma and the fate of the heroic leader

January 8, 2012

by Paul Hinks

Antonio Horta-Osorio returns to his position as a CEO of Lloyds Bank on 9th Jan 2012 after his break suffering from serious fatigue and insomnia. It seems that even charismatic leaders suffer human weaknesses

When Lloyds Banking Group appointed Antonio Horta-Osorio as CEO in March 2011, they looked beyond their immediate internal pool of talent. What leadership traits were apparent in Mr Horta-Osorio, and not immediately obvious in an internal candidate?

A serial achiever

Mr Horta-Osorio’s impressive CV suggests he is a serial achiever; an individual whose energy is infectious, and clearly somebody who is very passionate in his quest for success. In short, a charismatic leader. Such individuals can be portrayed as all-conquering, with boundless energy when persuing their passions, often supported by a highly impressive list of achievements. They often appear unstoppable in their quest for success.

The Special One of the Banking Industry

Described as ‘The Special One’ or ‘The Mourinho’ of the banking industry, Antonio Horta-Osorio’s is seen as energetic, enthusiastic and completely at the top of his game. So when Mr Hotra-Osorio took extended leave in November 2011 citing extreme fatigue, there was understandable interest and analysis from the media:

The move by Lloyds to appoint Mr Horta-Osorio as its CEO in March 2011 had initially been warmly received by various stakeholders, and yet just eight months later – with Lloyds missing Q3 2011 targets – Mr Horta-Osorio was sidelined on medical advice.

Antonio Horta-Osorio versus Insomnia

Previous to his medical leave, it was widely reported that Mr Horta-Osorio had not slept for five days. He’s not alone though. Other famous leaders including Margret Thatcher & Napoleon are reported to have survived on little sleep [but did they ‘thrive or dive’ on it? Ed.]

In an article published in The Independent Mr Horta-Osorio alluded to treatment that he’s undertaken. It also provided an insight into the seriousness of his condition:

Mr Horta-Osorio said it was his wife who urged him to seek help: “I sought medical advice and went to see a specialist. He told me that in effect my battery was so run down that it was virtually on zero. I went to the Priory for a week just to rest. Then I went home and was immediately sleeping eight hours a day. By then I felt extremely well and was telling the chairman I wanted to come back to work. I spent the next five weeks in London and Portugal and took a few restful trips.

The treatment involved medicine to help me sleep and I am still on mild doses of that, which I expect to come off in the next few weeks.”

Mr Horta-Osorio’s treatment was paid for under the bank’s private medical insurance. He was astonished to learn how common insomnia is. “The official figures are that 30 per cent of the population suffers from sleep deprivation at some time but my specialist told me it was more like 50 per cent,” he said.

Unanswered questions

It’s interesting to consider why Mr Horta-Osorio would suddenly find himself suffering from insomnia. Was the job just too big? Did he feel isolated or threatened in the board room? Did external (media) pressure contribute to increased pressure in the job? Could there have been more support internally?

Expectation levels were understandable high, perhaps Mr Horta-Osorio felt an unnecessary urge to prove himself to his new colleagues, perhaps establish a power-base before he could build trust?

It was only a false start

As 2012 unfolds, spare a thought for Mr Horta-Osorio as he re-evaluates his own priorities and leadership style. Perhaps Mr Horta-Osorio’s false start at Lloyds is another blow to the theory of ‘super-hero’ leaders . As The Telegraph reported “Working until you drop” is no way to run a company. More recently, The Telegraph ran an article where Mr Horta-Osorio acknowledges he needs to change his Leadership style and delegate more. Perhaps power and control will need to make way for more trust-based and distributed leadership?

About the author

Paul writes: “I work for a subsidiary of Hewlett Packard where my career to date has been focused in the Enterprise Computing space. I have experience of working with businesses that operate globally, and I find cultural diversity another interesting dimension of leadership.

I really look forward to exchanging views and opinions with readers of LWD. I first became aware of the website when studying the Global Events and Leadership module at Manchester Business School in Jan 2011. I’m increasingly curious about leaders and the dilemmas they face. I have interests in Business, Politics, Sport and Technology. Having started as a passive reader of LWD, I decided it was time to make a contribution”.


Sir Alex Ferguson: He’s only human (like Desert Orchid)

January 1, 2012

It was a week when North Korea reported supernatural events on the death of their dear leader. It ended with a reminder at Old Trafford that even great leaders like Sir Alex Ferguson are only human, and will make mistakes from time to time

Let’s make this personal. Susan and I settled down to listen to the game between Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers, the mid-day match on New Year’s eve. The stated odds were twenty to one against a Blackburn Rovers win. For arcane contractual reasons there were no Premier League football matches televised that day.

More injury worries for United

We listened to the team news with surprise but only slight concern. United’s injury problems seemed to have become even worse with makeshift arrangements in defence and mind-field. And the latest casualty was Wayne Rooney, by general agreement United’s most gifted attacking player.
Still, Blackburn Rovers were in turmoil. They were bottom of the league. Their hapless manager was the target of a vociferous campaign to have him sacked. Sir Alex said Rooney would miss the game but would probably be back for the next one. Rooney watched the game from the Directors’ box.

The crowd sang Happy Birthday

The press had built up the occasion as the day when Sir Alex Ferguson would celebrate his seventieth birthday, and when United would leapfrog their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City to head the league table at the start of the New Year.

The nightmare begins

Sometimes you can anticipate when a team that starts badly is going to get worse. This began to seem one of those times. United were playing as if it were only a matter of time before Blackburn would drop out of the two horse race, leaving the thoroughbreds to canter on to the winning post. But Blackburn defended grimly then broke away and scored. “That’s what the neutrals wanted” said the commentator. “Now we’ve got a game on our hands”.

The nightmare continues

At half time the game remained one goal in Blackburn’s favour. United’s patched-up team had begun to run out of attacking ideas. Then the next blow. Another breakaway goal. The inexperienced defence exposed again.

A brief time of hope, and then

Unlike proper nightmares, there was a brief time of hope. United scored within minutes of conceding Blackburn’s second goal. But then the nightmare continued. Yet another piece of poor defending by United and Blackburn score again. The Old Trafford fans were silenced, as their lambs were despatched. The game ended Manchester United 2 Blackburn Rovers 3. “It’s a disaster” said Sir Alex

The story behind the story: bend it like Beckham?

Within hours the story behind the story broke. Wayne Rooney had mightily displeased Sir Alex, and had been dropped as a disciplinary measure. It all sounded a bit like the famous David Beckham episode resulting in Beckham’s injury from a flying boot, not on the field but in the dressing room.

Perhaps coincidentally, Rooney had made a very public joke about that incident a few days earlier. He had also broken the strict training regime having dinner with a few players and wives after the last United match. A confrontation with the notoriously prickly Sir Alex, and some punishment was inevitable.

He’s only human

I couldn’t help remembering the words of a stable girl after another great sporting personality, Desert Orchid, failed surprisingly. “He’s only human” she said in Dessie’s defence.

Maybe we should remember the same point about Sir Alex. Even the greatest leaders sometimes struggle with the dilemmas they have to deal with.