Sir Alex Ferguson rang Paul Sturrock in hospital corridor after heart failure

15 November 2023 0 By Total Football News
Paul Sturrock with the First Division Championship that he guided St Johnstone to in 1997Paul Sturrock with the First Division Championship he guided St Johnstone to in 1997

Dundee United legend Paul Sturrock has revealed the extraordinary length Sir Alex Ferguson went to in order to contact him after he collapsed in the dugout at Tannadice.

Sturrock and former Aberdeen manager Ferguson were on opposing sides of the 'New Firm' that dominated Scottish football and enjoyed success in Europe in the mid-1980s.

But when Sturrock suffered heart failure as the St Johnstone side he was managing played the club he had shone for as a striker, his old rival was quick to offer support.

"I collapsed in the dugout at St Johnstone - we were playing Dundee United of all teams," Sturrock told BBC Scotland's 'Sacked in the Morning' podcast.

"I was lying there with pain shooting down my arm, so got rushed away in an ambulance - but there were no beds in the hospital.

"So I was sitting in a wheelchair. Half dying with the pain. And this phone kept ringing and ringing. It was going right through my head.

"It was a nightmare, so I couldn't stand it anymore. I picked the phone up and said 'hello' and all I heard was 'you're trying to make bad players into good players'.

"I said, 'who is this?' He says, 'if they're drinkers, they're always drinkers'. He says, 'if they're bad pros, they're always bad, get rid of them'. I said 'who's speaking?' 'It's Fergie here, how are you feeling?'

"I said 'fine Fergie, fine'. 'Good, good. I'll give you a phone in a couple of days', he says, and put the phone down.

"That was thoughtful of the man, wasn't it? His game had probably just finished about five minutes after we we got to the hospital. But he took the time to phone. I was very appreciative of that," added Sturrock, who played for Scotland under Ferguson at the 1986 World Cup.

Paul SturrockPaul Sturrock led the line throughout the glory days of Jim McLean's era at Dundee United

Sturrock signed for the Tangerines in 1974 and made his debut three years later aged 17 in the European Cup Winners' Cup against CS Jiul Petrosani.

The teenager quickly became a key figure in Jim McLean's squad and was the top-scorer by 1976-77. He helped the club win its first trophy in 1979, the League Cup, and netted 16 times as United won the Scottish Premier League in 1982-83.

Sturrock featured prominently in the famous run to the 1986-87 Uefa Cup final as well as the side that reached the 1984-85 European Cup semi-final.

He sits second behind Peter McKay in the club's all-time list of scorers with 171 goals from 575 appearances.

Despite a professional career spanning 15 years, he played only for McLean at club level and believes his old manager was a genius.

"He was a legend, honestly," Sturrock told podcast hosts Craig Levein, now St Johnstone's manager, and Amy Irons.

"We played in the semi-final of the Champions League, as it's called now. It's an incredible thing for a club like Dundee United to be pitting their wits against opposition like that. European teams used to hate getting drawn against United.

"Jim just seemed to be able to, not scare players, but have the respect of players. Though we hated him, some of the things that you go up to!

"He built a team from scratch. Two players, we bought - Paul Hegarty and Eamonn Bannon. I'm saying one was for £27,000, the other for £160,000.

"The rest of us were all brought up through the youth development. I must say, he knew a player - and he was tactically excellent."

Sturrock, who has Parkinson's disease but says he is a "happy bunny when he wakes up in the morning", also revealed how different wage negotiations were in the McLean era.

"As I got older, Jim would say to me, 'we need to sort out contracts'. I'd say, 'just give me what you think'," he added.

"So that's how we did it - I just signed the papers. I didn't know what I was actually signing, money-wise. I had a look when I got home. I never had an agent and just left it to the club - and to be fair, I was very pleased about what they gave me.

"We had a set wage and then bonuses, which is made up for the disappointing wages... if you won. So we had to win to have a decent wage. Jim was very cute that way."

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