Ferguson: Teacher's 'six of the best' inspired my success

LONDON Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:56pm IST

Manchester United's former manager Alex Ferguson looks up before the English League Cup semi-final second leg soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

Manchester United's former manager Alex Ferguson looks up before the English League Cup semi-final second leg soccer match between Manchester United and Sunderland at Old Trafford in Manchester, northern England January 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Nigel Roddis

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LONDON (Reuters) - Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson says he owes his success to being beaten with a belt by his favourite school-teacher when he stepped out of line as a schoolboy.

Ferguson, 72, the most successful manager in British soccer history, says he now has the belt in his study at home after it was bequeathed to him by the formidable disciplinarian Elizabeth Thomson before she died.

"Six from that belt and you were in absolute agony. That was the punishment you had, in my case, usually for fighting in the playground," he said in a feature entitled "My Best Teacher" published by the Times Educational Supplement.

Ferguson, famous for being a fierce disciplinarian himself whose "hair dryer" verbal admonishments of his players are the stuff of legend, said: "Elizabeth Thomson was an inspiration to me.

"She had a raw determination about her and she improved everyone she touched.

"Mrs Thomson endeavoured to make you be the best you could be. Yes, that part of me comes from her."

He says he kept in touch with her long after his schooldays ended, and while he was enjoying trophy-laden years of success at first Aberdeen and then Manchester United before he retired at the end of last season.

"When she died, I couldn't go to her funeral but months later I got a parcel. She had bequeathed her belt to me.

"Her nephew sent it with a letter saying 'You'll know more about this belt than anyone.' It's in my study now. My grandchildren are terrified of it."

Corporal punishment was banned in Glasgow schools in 1982. Ferguson went to school in the 1950s.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by John O'Brien)

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