Reading all the tributes about Sir Alex made me realise that the man is more than just a manager… He’s a leader, teacher, father, coach, friend, mentor and even a “pastor” of sorts (among countless other roles) to not just the football players but the entire football club. He’s built not just a few football teams but an entire football club.
When you have a “manager” attending youth training sessions, attending employees’ bereavements and sending personal letters to grieving fans, texting former players and calling up fellow managers to support them, you know that he’s so much more than just a salaried man. If only I had the chance to have coffee with him…
The dedication to the job, the desire to win and the demand for excellence… We are not replacing any other man. We are replacing a football institution. And how is it even possible? I cannot imagine anyone else in the dugout because truth is, no one else has been in there except him!
Fans of rival clubs and haters will never understand how we feel (and it’s even harder for non-football people to get it). He’s been around before I started supporting United in 1994 and he’s the only manager I’ve known since. Only United fans can say something like that. He’s brought United from nothing to something, so that’s why he’s everything to United and all of us.
United is a machine – his machine – and this club will move on. But it will never be the same again. Sir Alex has always said that nobody is bigger than the club. But I think maybe… Just maybe… Ferguson is as big as the club because he IS the club. His retirement feels like something is being ripped out from my heart. It was hard when Cantona retired; Ferguson retiring is the same gut-wrenching feeling magnified multiple times over. Supporting United will never feel the same again.
Legend, legacy, longevity. He’s not just a football manager. He is Sir Alex Ferguson – the greatest EVER football manager in all of history.
Let me declare this from the onset: I’m not in the business of replacing great leaders of the past, but in the business of raising good leaders in the present, so they can become greater leaders in the future. After all, I believe that youth ministry is about seed-planting, not fruit-plucking.
R-AGE is going through a season of transition and that means over the next half a year, we will see key leaders move on to another season of their lives. I think this is good for them, and honestly, I also think it is good for the ministry. People come and go, but the Lord’s work continues to be done; when the Lord tells me it’s time for me to go, I will leave, knowing that God has been, is, and will always be in control of my beloved youth ministry.
I share the same sentiments as Sir Alex Ferguson – you can never replace (great footballers like) Scholes, Keane, Giggs or Beckham like-for-like, but you can raise other players to take over their responsibilities. But you must also recognise that their roles in the team on and off the field will never again be duplicated; everyone brings something different to the team.
Even though I’m not in the football industry, I see many similarities in the succession-planning principles between a trophy-winning football team (like Manchester United) and a thriving youth ministry (like R-AGE).
I stand true to my principle of leading young people to lead young people. Look at the recently concluded R-AGE Olympics – it was led completely by a team of youth leaders who were leading a team of youths. A total of 145 people turned up and 38 of them were newcomers! What a mammoth effort by Bradley, Tiffany and their team, for a groundbreaking event such as this!
When I joined the pastorate in 2009, I told myself not to meddle in events planning – that’s not what I joined full-time ministry to do. Yes, I will still get involved, but never on the same level as the committee members. I believe in young people wholeheartedly and that includes taking risks with them, to simply let them lead (while I walk alongside them).
I’ve always told my young adult leaders that they can stay in youth ministry for as long as the Lord leads them to (or for as long as they want), but they should never remain at the expense of another youth leader rising up. This sounds a little cruel and makes me out to be a little unsentimental, but my heart beats for the long-term future and sustainability of the ministry, not to mention a certain kind of cultures I want to imbue into the youths.
I’ve repeatedly told many of my youths leaders that as their youth pastor and ministry leader, I don’t really care for their contributions towards this ministry. No, I care more about their growth. If they spend two years with me in shepherding position and yet have not grown, I have failed as their youth pastor in shepherding them.
For the record, I’m not here to grow the ministry. No, I am here to grow the ministers. If the ministers grow, the ministry will naturally grow. Conversely, the reverse can’t be said. There is no ministry without ministers. You may win or lose if you invest in a project or programme, but if you invest in people, you always win.
The youth ministry leaders of old (are different from the leaders today and) have added to the ministry in their unique ways. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the Lord for them and what they have done. But the truth is, we can never do what the yesteryear leaders have done. No, I don’t plan to match their achievements.
I plan to surpass it.
But only if God wills it and gives me the grace for it. My mentor often tells me: Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship.
By God’s grace, I want to lead and pastor a youth ministry that will be remembered for all eternity, and not as one that tried to live up to their inherited expectations. And if you think you belong to yesterday’s group of youth leaders, don’t rest on your laurels and start fading out of the ministry – may God forbid that! Instead, do whatever it takes to help this generation of leaders surpass you and all that you’ve ever accomplished. I pray that you will find great joy in doing behind-the-scenes work as you mature in your faith and ministry.
So come on, dear friends… Regardless of your age or season of life, let our good God blow your mind on the minister He alone can transform you into. And if you’re working with young people, be patient with them… One day they will surprise you with how good they can be.
We can’t replace good leaders, but we can raise better ones.
Redeemed youths redeem youths.
If there was anyone in the world I could ask to mentor me in spotting and developing potential, it would undoubtedly be Sir Alex Ferguson. One day, I will meet him, along with Eric Cantona and John Piper – these are the few people whose hands I’ve yet to shake and whose feet I will sit at to learn from.
I couldn’t help but to rack up my respect for the Gaffer with his latest statement on Rooney. Absolutely classic. I completely resound with the Boss.
… But Ferguson ratcheted up this extraordinary public battle, with a powerful and idiosyncratic late night explanation of why Rooney should have invested faith in his proven ability to spot talent and why the grass might not be as green as the striker really thinks it will be at Manchester City. “Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in the field,” Ferguson said. “It never really works out that way. It’s probably the same cow and its not as good as your own cow. Some players like to think there’s a better world somewhere else. It never really works.”
As metaphors go, it was about as memorable as Eric Cantona’s “seagulls follow the trawler” story, though and it was accompanied by Ferguson’s revelation that a lack of belief in his judgment in the transfer market had once persuaded a player – possibly Roy Keane – to leave because he thought Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were not good enough. “He was not prepared to wait until they were good enough,” Ferguson said.
“But that’s the trouble with potential,” he went on. “People don’t identify potential. They’re very poor at it. I’ve identified it all my life – the potential in young people. I know potential. I know how to develop and have faith in young people, who surprise you when given the opportunity and that’s what this club is all about. When you see Manchester United at the moment with all these young players, 14 under 22, you can’t see Manchester United three years ahead.”
(Source: The Independent)
WOW! What a statement of intent! I could totally see myself saying the same thing as Sir Alex! I always believe that we must be infinitely patient with (young) people, because one day, they will surprise you with their goodness. I’m sticking to my guns with this philosophy in my ministry. You can even look at the Bible to see traces of older men believing in much young men to mentor and take over their ministry.
I’ve achieved what I’ve intentionally set out to do – to lower the average age of all my first tier leaders. No, it’s not meant to declare anarchy or rebellion but to simply demonstrate my absolute belief in young people – by putting them on the frontline of leadership. I’m already thinking about the members of my first tier leadership team in 2012! The first thing I told these my current leaders is to find a successor. I believe it’s all well and good if one of my leaders want to remain in young ministry and serve until they’re old like me – in fact, I’d rejoice and praise God for their commitment and passion to serve the youths alongside me! But it should and must never come at the expense of preventing another young person from rising up in ministry. As long as I’m in charge, I will never allow that to happen. Leadership must always renew itself (although I must state my caveat that the higher the position, the harder the succession, and the lengthier the process).
Never, EVER, tell a young person he is a failure and will never make it. Remember one thing – he or she is still young! They have the licence and the privilege (just as you had when you were young!) to make mistakes and more importantly, to learn from it. Our hearts with wrench each time we see a young person falter, but it’s all about the recovery process – never forget that! I remind myself time and again that I’m never looking at the final product. Youth ministry is known to be transient and quite rightly so – the young person you see before your eyes today is far from being the polished individual you will see years later. I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to play my role in cleaning and sharpening this young person.
If I may reiterate Ferguson’s words, there are two lessons to learn and two principles to cherish if you’re in youth ministry:
- Be patient to wait until they come good, for they surely will, with the right guidance from you.
- If you can’t see their potential – that’s your problem – it doesn’t mean they do not have potential!
I’ve stated it on this blog before and I’ll happily post this paradigm-shifting quote again from the legendary Sir Matt Busby:
If you are good enough, you are old enough.
The funny thing is, the reverse may not be true! Again, I’m spilling my heart out on this matter because I’m so passionate about believing in young people. You’ll do yourself and the young people you are working with a world of injustice if you merely look at ability and age instead of potential and possibilities. You can limit yourself. But never, EVER, limit a young person. OH YEAH, THE SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH!
P/S: I’ve really missed the catharsis of writing daily!
I’ve been a United supporter since 1994 and I’ve seen Ferguson build countless squads. A lot of media furore is going on now about Ferguson declaring that Rooney wants out. Of course, hordes of people from our rival clubs are gloating. But frankly, there’s nothing to worry about.
Come on, we’re talking about Sir Alex Ferguson here, the famed gaffer who has sold Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes in the same season, only to replace them with kids. We’ve also seen him sell of the rock-of-a-defender Stam and goal-machine Van Nistelrooy. In recent times, we’ve also seen Ronaldo leave. I was personally sad to see the former World Player of the Year leave for Madrid, but hey, life moves on at this great club.
Now, I’m a Singaporean and I have never been to Old Trafford, or stepped foot in England. The closest I’ve been to this team was to see them emerge out of Changi Airport, watch them train in the National Stadium, sit beside the legend Giggs and P.Neville in a meet-and-greet session and drove four hours from Shanghai to Hangzhou to catch them in action. I’ve stopped collecting jerseys and magazines because they just got too expensive to keep up. My only investment and sign of loyalty is to subscribe to cable TV just to watch United in action every week. And of course, every once in a while, post something that’s related to United on Facebook.
For crying out loud, 90% of United fans in Singapore won’t even be able to tell you where the Stretford End is if you showed them a picture of Old Trafford. But does it stop us from feeling for the club? I guess emotions have seeped into this harmless weekend activity, as we lend our support to a club which doesn’t really need our support.
But I’m posting this because I think United is more than just one fan. United is more than just one player. United is more than just Yanks. United is more than just one team. We’ll make it without Rooney, as we’ve made it without Beckham and Keane. We’ve even made it without Cantona – oh the reason for my love of #7, United and through passes. Look boys, we will survive! Fergie > Rooney < United.
What we must hope for now is to fetch the highest possible price for Rooney, regardless whether we spend the money or not; that’s secondary. It’d be nice to buy Akinfeev, Sneijder and Benzema with the extra cash, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care who owns or manages the club. I don’t even care who plays for the club or if the latest jersey designs are nice. I care for my weekend dosage of entertaining and sometimes heartbreaking football. I won’t find that with other clubs, not because they play horrible football (like Liverpool) but because I do not have affections for them.
When Cantona retired, a lot more supporters (like me) were devastated. How were we going to replace such a talismanic figure? He revolutionised the way we played football – with flair and arrogance. Let the Scousers laugh at us. Let the Wastelanders mock us. Let the media make an earthquake out of this. United has and will always move on. We never look back, only forward. I couldn’t care less if Rooney retracts his words. I care more for the team. I like what Ferguson told Rooney, that he should “Respect the club”.
Gents, we’re on good ground. We have good talent coming through. Every time he was on the pitch, Chicharito looked so much more dangerous than Rooney this season. I won’t comment on unproven potential like Bebe or Obertan, but I will make an exception for Cleverly. He’s got United written all over him. He’s direct, creative and most importantly, he plays with an arrogant swagger, knowing that he can trust in his own ability.
Even the biblical adage hold true; new wine cannot fit in old wine skin. Similarly, not all old wines taste great – some are just really expensive vinegar! Let Rooney go. He will realise that there’s no other club in this world who has fans that will stick with him through thick and thin and adore him wholeheartedly. I won’t bother about his off-the-field behaviour; I will only state that if he is not keen to play for the world’s greatest club, then he should just leave. We don’t need uninterested players, but players who realise what it means to play for the shirt.
Rooney should understand one thing though, that if he wants out, he must leave the country. It’d be travesty if he joined any other English team. Rooney would make Tevez look like a hero if he swapped red for blue. That would be career suicide for him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he received death threats from the real fanatics if he tried that. Assuming he will leave us, what Rooney must do now is to play his heart out for the team whenever he’s not frozen out by Fergie, and leave with his head held high – just like Ronaldo, who incidentally was the only player who turned up for the Champions League Final against Barcelona; he wanted to win the lot again before he left. I have no ill-feelings about Ronny and I think I, like most United fans, would welcome his return with open arms. So Rooney has to learn to do this well.
At United, we’re never about one player. We will make a player but a player will never make us. I would support United even if they got relegated. It doesn’t matter. If Rooney stays, good; if he goes, good. But honestly, I don’t care. Forget about Rooney, everyone. We’re United and we’re bigger than that.
I like what I read on another United blog:
Adversity may be looking us in the eye, but we will spit in it. We may be about to take a huge emotional pummelling, but as we fall to the canvas all bloody and broken, we will look up at our detractors and enemies… And we will laugh at them. Yes, the joke will be on us, but we are galvanised by history. Things may be about to get ugly… But that’s life… …The wheels have started to turn. If he stays we will rejoice. But if he goes we will be ready to roll up our sleeves and we will build again.
We’re not arrogant, just better. Our history makes us strong, your hate makes us stronger. GGMU!
In football (or any sport), there is would be nothing more humbling and sobering than to have a 18-year-old take the place of a 28-year-old in the first 11. And it is because of this youth threat that teams like Manchester United, Barcelona and Arsenal would always be ahead of the pack in the longer run. Both teams do it differently – United and Barcelona are not afraid to blood their own youngsters by replacing senior players in the big games while Arsenal is simply a youth team with a couple of senior players.
That has to be the greatest vote of confidence that Sir Alex Ferguson, Josep Guardiola or Arsene Wenger could give to the younger ones. This “I believe in you” that the vastly experienced managers tell the vastly inexperienced kids give them the drive to succeed and the belief that they are actually good enough. This realisation probably sounds like this, “Wow, this world-class manager actually believes that I can go on and help team win. I cannot disappoint him!” And the introduction of youth forces the senior and more established players to sit up, roll up their socks, get their act together and start to pull their weight and measure their contribution to the team like multimillion-dollar paid players.
The introduction of youth brings a certain amount of vigour and reinvigoration to a team. I’m sure the older and slightly more jaded players get refreshed by the sheer enthusiasm and energy that these youths have for football. That is the reason why we enjoy watching the three teams that I’ve mentioned and we tend to switch off when we watch a team like Chelsea, which Sir Alex has famously said before, “A team over 30 doesn’t improve a lot”. AC Milan is the odd exception though, being a retiree’s home; while the departure of Kaka has made them a less attractive football spectacle, they still play some decent football; putting Ronaldinho, Beckham, Pato and Pirlo together still produces a fair amount of flair and good football.
When I examine Chelsea – a team with everyone on the wrong side of 30, I see a 32-year-old Frank Lampard backed up by a 34-year-old Michael Ballack and a 28-year-old Petr Cech backed up by a 35-year-old Henrique Hilario. They do not produce their own youngsters (buying doesn’t count!) and they currently do not have any outstanding youngsters that look like they could successfully replace someone in the first team. In short, I think that there is no future in the team. They are all hanging on to current and former glories and can only hope to sustain its success by preserving its existing team. If you want to determine the long term regenerative success of a club, you simply need to scrutinise the set-up of its youth academy. Just look at teams like Olympique Lyon and Ajax Amsterdam as good examples.
It’s commonly said that “Form is temporary and class is permanent”. May I add on my five cents worth and say that while that is true, it is the average age of the team that determines its long-term reality; if you have no youth, you have no future. Many times we hear the statement, “The youths are the leaders of tomorrow”. I think that that is euphemised rubbish from cowardly leaders who do not put their money where their mouth is – it’s like saying, “Yes, yes, you do have potential, but you don’t have ability yet, so I can’t give you the platform to perform“. I, on the other hand, believe that the youths are the leaders of today. It applies to football and it applies to any organisation. In the words of the legendary Sir Matt Busby, “If they are good enough, they are old enough”. I rest my case. May the youths of today pave the way for the youths of tomorrow.
But I digress. Now back to football, it’s three youthful and resounding cheers to the United, Barcelona and Arsenal philosophy of playing their football. Keep watching, keep believing in youths.