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Fergie taught us the merits of teamwork and the importance of detail

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Aberdeen architect John McRae recalls his time being coached by the legendary Alex Ferguson

Growing up in the early 80s in the granite city of Aberdeen was a fantastic time to be a football supporter and budding player. It was the reign of Alex Ferguson, his magnificent Scottish Premier League and European success, and his prologue to becoming a Manchester United legend.

I was (and to a lesser degree still am) a football fanatic, and I lived and breathed football. My weekly magazines were Roy of the Rovers (especially ‘This Goalie’s Got Guts’) and Shoot. It was through Shoot magazine that I was invited on my eighth birthday to meet the entire Aberdeen team and my then hero: goalkeeper Bobby Clark.

A few years later at secondary school, when Bobby had retired from professional football, he became our PE teacher and my goalkeeping coach. He, along with the then Aberdeen reserve team coach, ran our school football team. I was one of the team that secured weekly evening coaching at Aberdeen Football Club under the watchful eye of Alex Ferguson from the age of 12 until I was 15.

Training with the Aberdeen coaching staff was both daunting and exhilarating as Ferguson taught us the merits of teamwork, the importance of detail, and that only the best is good enough.

My highlight was representing the Aberdeen youth team at 15,  and playing the game of my life – and then receiving a pat on the back, not a hairdryer moment, from the man himself.

After this it was all downhill, both for Aberdeen (Ferguson left in 1986) and for my chances of becoming a professional footballer.

So having resigned myself to playing amateur football, I concentrated my efforts on art and design, which eventually led me into the world of architecture.

I have been an architect for over 15 years and it is interesting to reflect on the words of a football legend and realise that they are relevant to my current role as an architect.

  • Orms is an AJ100 practice based in Old Street. It works in sectors including commercial, residential, education, retail, interiors, leisure and healthcare. It aims to create ‘an architecture that listens in order to elevate the human experience through insight, collaboration and design integrity’.


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