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Willie Miller: Fitting send-off for Lady Cathy – the cornerstone of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial success

I was joined by the likes of David Beckham at Monday's funeral in Glasgow.

Sir Alex Ferguson with his wife Lady Cathy Ferguson. Image: PA.
Sir Alex Ferguson with his wife Lady Cathy Ferguson. Image: PA.

Monday’s funeral service was a fitting tribute to Lady Cathy Ferguson, and her vital role in supporting Sir Alex Ferguson’s phenomenal managerial career at Aberdeen and Manchester United.

Lady Cathy recently passed away at the age of 84 following illness, with her funeral taking place at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow yesterday.

It was a well-attended gathering, with several of Sir Alex’s former players at both Aberdeen and Manchester United there to pay their respects to Lady Cathy and support our former gaffer, their three sons, and the extended Ferguson family and their friends.

From Aberdeen, there was myself, Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan, Bryan Gunn and Steve Archibald, while United icons David Beckham, Steve Bruce, Brian McClair and Bryan Robson were also in attendance.

Other football luminaries at the service included Scotland and Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish and Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers.

Lady Cathy was a cornerstone for Sir Alex throughout his career managing at the highest level and winning all of the trophies he did in the club game with Aberdeen and then Man United.

Her contribution was certainly reflected in the funeral service.

Football is an all-encompassing, 24 hours-a-day job and during the boss’ early career, including his time at the Dons and early in his time at Old Trafford, Cathy was putting in a hell of a lot of work behind the scenes raising their three boys – twins Darren and Jason, and Mark – as well as taking care of all of the household chores.

Cathy Ferguson, wife of Alex Ferguson, with twins Jason (left) and Darren in 1979. Image: Aberdeen Journals.

Jason spoke very well during the service.

Cathy was always about during my spell playing under Sir Alex in the late-1970s and early 80s in the Pittodrie players’ lounge with the other families after matches.

I remember the three boys, whatever age they were at the time, not being the easiest for her to control – they were a mischievous trio.

But she was an ever-present and you also knew she was there behind the scenes, with her efforts allowing Fergie to work early in the morning, or work late into the evening putting on extra sessions to support the development of the youngsters coming through the club’s youth academy like Neale Cooper, Neil Simpson, Eric Black and John Hewitt.

The manager was always taking night sessions with Bobby Clark and Lenny Taylor, so he was out of the house morning, noon and night.

It was this work ethic and determination which helped him bring huge success to the club, culminating in 1983’s European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph and the European Super Cup wins, as well as all of the domestic silverware.

Aberdeen assistant manager Archie Knox (right) and manager Alex Ferguson hold up the European Cup Winners’ Cup after beating Real Madrid in the final. Image: SNS.

However, he would not have been able to do it without Cathy behind the scenes taking care of the family situation.

They were a team.

I would describe Cathy as having a strong personality – something she would have needed during the good times, but also during more turbulent times.

Alex and Cathy Ferguson in 1983 – the year he led Aberdeen to two European trophies. Image: Aberdeen Journals.

It wasn’t always plain-sailing for Sir Alex. There was the manner of this exit from St Mirren before he came to Aberdeen, as well as the difficult first three years at United, where there were a lot of critical headlines about how the Red Devils were performing in the Manchester press.

Cathy would have had to deal with this, and help Fergie through it, too.

Of course, his abilities shone through and he went on to the same phenomenal, unprecedented silverware success at Old Trafford as he had achieved at the Dons – including the treble in 1999.

However, following Sir Alex’s retirement, Cathy and the family also had the trauma of his brain haemorrhage to go through in 2018, which must have been a really difficult time for them, and a moment where she once again showed her strength.

Monday’s service was the quite the morning and a very fitting send off to a great woman.

Clarke on course to be Scotland national team’s greatest manager

Steve Clarke is en route to securing his place as the Scotland national team’s best-ever manager.

Under Clarke, we have qualified for a second consecutive European Championship the easy way, with two matches to spare.

For me, the key result in this Euros qualifying campaign was the come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Norway in Oslo.

With Spain also in the group, Norway would have considered us the team to beat if they were to make it to next summer’s finals, and for us to take all three points with such resilience, courage and drama, was huge.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke celebrates in Oslo. Image: SNS.

Going into last week’s VAR-muddled 2-0 defeat to Spain with an incredible 15 points from 15 meant it was a matter of time in terms of sealing our place in Germany, and ultimately a Spanish victory over the Norwegians on Sunday confirmed it.

The Tartan Army can now get booked up for their adventure, while, with the pressure off, Clarke and his players will be trying to pip Spain to a magnificent first-place finish in the section.

Regardless, qualifying in the manner we have is a magnificent achievement, and I’m excited to see what Clarke can achieve next.

Can the united Scotland squad he has built make history by getting out of the group at a major championship? And can the Dark Blues, following a near-miss last time around, end our absence from the World Cup?

Clarke always looked like a great appointment to the Scotland job when he was handed the reins in 2019, and his achievements already mean he is among our best national bosses.

But should he achieve those two things – and he will be determined to – he would stand alone among those to have managed the Scots.