Steve Bruce has given a magnificent interview to Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail, with the main hook being his diagnosis of the current state of the English national team. Far more interesting, however, is his recalling of life at Manchester United under Alex Ferguson.
Bruce uses his memories of United as an example of what the English team should be and told some superb stories about Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona while doing so.
Bruce recalled the infamous Champions League tie with Galatasaray in 1993, where a 0-0 draw saw Ferguson's side eliminated. More noteworthy than the result was the atmosphere, however. The game saw the unfurling of the infamous 'Welcome To Hell' banner in a game which Ferguson described as being subject to "as much hostility and harassment as I have ever known on a football expedition".
Bruce has revealed that Ferguson was not afraid to get caught up in the whole affair with police afterwards:
Hundreds of coppers with big rottweilers barking at you, straining on the leash. One started giving Eric some gyp, so Eric decided to give it back.
Now we're all getting battered. Bryan Robson, captain of England, he's in there. Typical Bryan, he's swung this punch and there's a hook on the wall. Nowhere near the fella he's trying to hit, but he's caught his elbow on it, ripped his arm completely open.
Blood everywhere. He's screaming, and a big Turk comes in and boots him. So now we're tearing into them, trying to fight our way out of there, and over my shoulder I see Fergie come flying back down the stairs. He's taking his jacket off as he comes. He's over 50 years old, but he's straight in, wades in. We eventually get back to the dressing room.
Fergie comes barging through. His hair's all over the place, his tie is under his ear and he says, "None of you have been fighting have you? No team of mine has been fighting, eh?" And we're all, "No, boss". So he says, "Didn't think so", and goes out and tells the world that his players have been assaulted in the tunnel.
And I remember the door closed behind him that night, and we all looked at each other and said: "He'll do". He created that spirit.
Not that Ferguson always indulged his players: Bruce recalls that when the players complained of how the United crest looked on the official club blazer they were forced to wear to games, Ferguson made it larger.
With raw talent, however, Ferguson would often compromise his hard-line stance. His insistence of sartorial consistency was tested by Cantona at a civic reception at Manchester town hall, with all of the players wearing the official club suit, including the blazer with the massive crest, only for a long-haired, bearded Cantona to rock up wearing ripped jeans, flip-flops, and a long, multi-coloured coat. The rest of the players believed that Cantona deserved to be fined, so it was Bruce's job to inform Ferguson of their opinion:
So I sidled over. "Boss, the lads aren't happy with Eric's appearance". Fergie's on the red wine. He puts down his glass, looks over at Eric. "Tell them from me, Steve," he says, "that if they can play like him next year, they can all come as f***ing Joseph".
It's a great interview, read it in full here.