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Frank O'Farrell: In The Shadow Of Busby
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TOPIC: Frank O'Farrell: In The Shadow Of Busby

posted 29-12-2011 21:37
Anyone who has access to RTE might be interested in this, a documentary on Matt Busby's successor. Bit of a surprise to find it on the schedules, to be honest. But it should be interesting. It starts at half ten.

The story of the only Irishman to coach Manchester United, and his power struggle with father figure of the club - Sir Matt Busby. Frank O'Farrell played for West Ham United and Preston North End as well as earning nine international caps, and in 1971 he agreed to take on the job at Manchester, a role he kept for 18 months before being sacked. With contributions by David Meek, Peter Shilton, Wilf McGuinness and Eamon Dunphy.
posted 29-12-2011 22:48
Great stuff, I'll watch it on the RTE player tomorrow.

I've always thought that Frank O'Farrell is an undeservedly forgotten figure over here. Dunphy's comments should be good - he had some astute observations to make about Frank in 'A Strange Kind Of Glory'.

I hope the doc nails the point once and for all that Matt Busby was never the saint that he's made out to be.
posted 29-12-2011 23:01
Just watching it now and Busby isn't coming out of it too well, it has to be said. Attempting to get O'Farrell for a salary of £12,000 per year when he knew full well that £15,000 was what the club was offering, for starters.

But on the whole, is the revelation that Matt Busby wasn't a saint or a perfect human being significant at all? Is it not something that most people would have suspected anyway?
posted 29-12-2011 23:07
If I can access this on the RTE Player, then I'll definitely watch it.

I only really know two things about O'Farrell's reign at Old Trafford. One is the Indian Summer of 1971 when the ageing stars offered one last hurrah. The other is the drubbing at Selhurst Park a year later that finished it all.

That little period between Busby moving upstairs in 68 and Docherty taking over in 73 always intrigues me, so hoping this sheds a bit more light about what went on.
posted 29-12-2011 23:14
Carnivorous Vulgaris wrote:
Just watching it now and Busby isn't coming out of it too well, it has to be said. Attempting to get O'Farrell for a salary of £12,000 per year when he knew full well that £15,000 was what the club was offering, for starters.

But on the whole, is the revelation that Matt Busby wasn't a saint or a perfect human being significant at all? Is it not something that most people would have suspected anyway?


Well yes, but I think he's more of a shady figure than his reputation suggests. O' Farrell derisively referred to him as 'The Knight' in a letter to Tommy Docherty back in 1977. I don't know if the program mentions this but I'll add more tomorrow.
Last Edit: 29-12-2011 23:34:32 by historyman.
posted 29-12-2011 23:35
It's mentioned it quite explicitly now, as it happens. O'Farrell has openly described Busby as a very "nasty, vindictive" man.
posted 29-12-2011 23:37
Jesus, Paddy Crerand won't have a bad word said about Busby, will he? That's twice now that he's responded negatively ("... and if anyone says otherwise, they're lying") to suggestions that Busby still had a hold over some of United's senior players during Farrell's reign.
posted 29-12-2011 23:46
the eamon dunphy book wouldn't have painted the rosiest picture of busby. He was a very complicated man indeed, or as farrell described the nine month wait for compensation after being sacked....

"The people I was dealing with at the club were vindictive, nasty and punitive, and matt busby was the worst of them."

Bobby charlton's combover was really something amazing wasn't it, and this documenatry seems to be one long opportunity for paddy crernad to hang himself with his own tongue.

My grandaunt flew to rome in the 1950's and sitting in the seat beside her was frank o'farrell, who she was vaguely aware of as a footballer (but my dad had never really heard of him) They chatted the whole way over and She said that he was one of the most pleasant people she had ever met. He really does come across as such in this documentary. I can't believe he still has his accent though.
posted 29-12-2011 23:53
Strange you should say that - the first time I ever went to Old Trafford (for a game against Chelsea in December 98) myself and my Dad were met by a mate of his from Tipp who'd been living and working in Manchester since 1968. To hear him you'd swear blind that he'd never set foot outside Carlow, never mind England. I suppose it has to do with who you associate with.
posted 29-12-2011 23:57
Outside Agent wrote:
Jesus, Paddy Crerand won't have a bad word said about Busby, will he? That's twice now that he's responded negatively ("... and if anyone says otherwise, they're lying") to suggestions that Busby still had a hold over some of United's senior players during Farrell's reign.


Crerand regards United with the kind of single-minded fanatacism that would make the Ayatollah do a double-take. He defends the club like an attack dog, no matter what's been levelled at it. About a year ago he was on Irish radio, on Ivan Yates' (a City fan) programme, when Yates had the gall to suggest that the debt the club were operating under made it difficult for them to attract players in the way they used to. Crerand took an almighty hump and hung up on him live on air.
posted 30-12-2011 00:04
I thought his accent was a bit of a mix, but you could still hear a bit of the south side Cork in it every now and then.

Speaking of which, there is a pub in the south side of Cork City that I must have drank Tanora in for every summer for about 15 years. It's on the same street as my Gran's house that we'd stay at for weeks on end. Earlier this week there was a massive brawl there, people were attacking each other with iron bars and a man was stabbed to death. The recession must be really biting.
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posted 30-12-2011 00:28
Wilf McGuiness appears to have been airbrushed from history here (although admittedly I'm not watching the documentary) as he was the first one to suffer from Busby's refusal to fully give over the reigns.

Last seen cracking gags and passing round the Thousand Island dressing for sponsor's guests on matchdays, the poor bastard.
posted 30-12-2011 01:35
he was in this for a bit. I missed the beginning. i suspect that he didn't really say all that much given his position, and that his son is head of the youth system at old trafford.

Crerand regards United with the kind of single-minded fanatacism that would make the Ayatollah do a double-take. He defends the club like an attack dog, no matter what's been levelled at it.

it's very difficult to pin down precisely what crerand is loyal to. For someone who spends all his time hanging around the club, and working on mutv and the like, he really doesn't seem to have much of a grasp about what is going on, and frequently his defence is more confusing and damaging to the club than anything else.
posted 30-12-2011 01:55
Crerand mentioned that Ferguson would often go to Busby for advice. He was in his hole going to him for advice. Ferg is a shrewd bastard and was keeping him onside.
posted 30-12-2011 02:09
I feel the need to jump in here and defend someone or something. Either Crerand or Busby. But I have nothing to defend them against really. So instead, to sooth that internal fire, I'm going to attack Tommy Docherty, which seems harsh as he's only been mentioned in passing. But what a cunt that man was/is. Nice name to type, mind. Erty. Erty. Nice flow to it.
Last Edit: 30-12-2011 02:10:18 by George Burnage Shaw.
posted 30-12-2011 07:25
Well there’s no sign of the programme yet on the RTE player so I’m not sure how much of what I’ve got to say was mentioned on the documentary, but here goes…

Shortly before Tommy Docherty was sacked by Man Utd in July 1977 after news of his infamous affair with the physio’s wife was splashed all over the papers, he received a short letter from Frank. Now Frank was obviously unaware of what had happened, and it seems that he was writing a general letter of encouragement to Docherty.

It might seem strange that O’Farrell should write to him, but they had been pals together at Preston and had also taken their coaching qualifications at Lilleshall on the same course. So despite Docherty being the man to replace O’Farrell it seems that he bore no ill feelings towards him.

Unlike his opinion of Matt Busby. This is what Frank’s letter said:

“You will have found out by now, as I did to my cost, that the ‘Knight’ is not covered in shining armour as he makes out to many who do not know him so well. He must be suffering torment at not being able to get rid of you as is rumoured he has been trying to do.

Long may you continue to torment him.”


Now remember this was BEFORE news of Docherty’s affair broke, so it would seem that O’Farrell was trying to warn Docherty of Busby’s shady and devious hidden nature. The fact that a scrupulously conscientious man like Frank would take pleasure in tormenting Matt Busby indicates the depth of his feelings on the matter.

And of course this deceitfulness was manifested to Frank during his time at Old Trafford, in the manner of his disgraceful sacking, and Utd’s initial refusal to pay up his contract.

The most damaging allegation of all though about Busby - and one which reveals the hidden complexity of the man if true - was also made by Tommy Docherty in his autobiography a few years ago. Now of course The Doc and the truth haven’t always enjoyed a close relationship, but Docherty alleges that when he was manager of Man Utd and they played matches in London, Busby never stayed in the team hotel and would disappear overnight and only return shortly before kick-off.

When Docherty asked where Busby was, he was told that Matt stayed ‘with a lady friend’, and that this was accepted within the club. But when The Doc was sacked in 1977 the reason given was that he ‘had broken the club’s moral code’. Docherty - correctly in my opinion - argues that this reveals the hypocrisy within the Board, Sir Matt included.

You could argue that what Busby got up to in his own time was his own business, but the story illustrates the veiled nature of his character.

Did the programme discuss Frank O’ Farrell’s Catholicism? It’s impossible to understand the man without knowing how his religious faith worked within him. The truth is that Frank wasn’t really cut out for management in the seedy machinations of top flight football.

Eamonn Dunphy does a brilliant job of summarising this in ’A Strange Kind Of Glory’:

“Frank O’Farrell was widely respected in professional football despite his honourableness. This belief in integrity, this fetish for doing things right was regarded as a kink in his make-up. Of course there were compensations; Frank wouldn’t fuck you. The problem was he wouldn’t fuck anyone for you either.”

Well, that’ll have to do for now. I hope this documentary shows up on the RTE player.
Last Edit: 30-12-2011 07:28:27 by historyman.
posted 30-12-2011 09:22
historyman wrote:
Did the programme discuss Frank O’ Farrell’s Catholicism? It’s impossible to understand the man without knowing how his religious faith worked within him.


It did, quite a bit. The relationship of his faith to his position as manager was illustrated via an anecdote from his days as Leicester City boss. It was custom back then (well, I say back then...) for players staying in a hotel on a Saturday night after a match to bring a young lady back to the room, knowing full well it was forbidden under club rules. One un-named player had done this and then, with the hope of avoiding her being discovered, got up early on the Sunday and walked with her back into town. What he hadn't reckoned with was O'Farrell's habit of going to mass early on Sunday mornings which meant that he was often up and about and taking a stroll either to or from the church. At the end of the next team meeting O'Farrell announced to the players, "Will the player who I saw with a young woman on his arm on Sunday morning come and see me in my office first thing on Monday, please?" Apparently four or five players turned up.

In the end, the impression I got is that Dunphy's assessment is pretty much spot on. O'Farrell is a thoroughly good man who just took the wrong job at the wrong time. Given more time, and being free of Busby's influence, he may well have turned the team's fortunes back to victory.

Crerand had a rather harsh assessment of O'Farrell's sacking - "He was sacked because ultimately he wasn't good enough. We can debate this and that all day but in the end results weren't good enough and he had to go." O'Farrell undoubtedly made mistakes but he was facing the same problem then that Andre Villas-Boas is now. He's inherited a previously massively successful and brilliant squad who are ageing and unwilling to adapt and still firmly under the spell of the man who led them to glory in the first place. A tough job for anyone.
posted 30-12-2011 10:35
Crerand mentioned that Ferguson would often go to Busby for advice. He was in his hole going to him for advice. Ferg is a shrewd bastard and was keeping him onside.

it's more likely that he was doingthis

Identify yourself with your company’s brand. Ferguson made himself unsackable at United partly by converting himself from mere employee into the embodiment of the club’s values. Doing that took study. After arriving at Old Trafford in 1986 he interviewed staff about United’s history, and listened to fans. He gradually absorbed three tenets of the club’s brand: United teams must attack; the world is against United; and United is more a cause than a football club. When he said, "I am like the keeper of the temple," he meant the cause had become almost unthinkable without him.

It is rather amusing reading that article. about how much alastair campbell loves alex ferguson. for instance Here are 25 reasons why alastair campbell thinks fergie is awesome. Here is a lengthy interview that campbell conducted with Ferguson a lot of it is skin crawling, but there are a lot of unusual insights into ferguson and how he looks at things. For instance Campbell gave him this book to read over the summer of 2008.
posted 30-12-2011 10:41
Did the programme discuss Frank O’ Farrell’s Catholicism? It’s impossible to understand the man without knowing how his religious faith worked within him.

The only bit of that that i saw was him involved in serving mass at the age of 80-something. When my grandaunt met him on the flight to to rome, he was going on a pilgrimage, she was going on holidays.
posted 30-12-2011 11:53
Is there any mention of his time at Leicester? He replaced our most successful manager, Matt Gillies, and presided over an FA Cup losing final/relegation double before regaining top-flight status at the second attempt. It's always struck me as quite intriguing that that was considered sufficient for him to be offered the Manchester United job; the equivalent now would be someone like Alex McLeish or Roberto Di Matteo.
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