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Sir Alex Ferguson birthday: 71 best quotes from the Manchester United manager

On Fergie's birthday, 71 examples of his wit, wisdom and temper from over a quarter-century at Old Trafford

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UPDATED:

13:44 GMT, 31 December 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrates his 71st birthday today and to mark the occasion, Sportsmail has picked out 71 of the Scot's best soundbites from his time as Manchester United manager.

There's pithy observations, musings on great United players, hurricane-force hairdryers, philosophical statements and withering put-downs.

So enjoy, and raise a glass to Sir Alex.

Happy Birthday! Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is 71 today

Happy Birthday! Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is 71 today

ON WINNING THE EUROPEAN CUP IN 1999

'It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt such an honour to be associated with such a player.'

Speaking after Roy Keane's inspired performance in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League against Juventus after receiving a booking which meant he would miss the final

'At the end of this game, the European Cup will be only six feet away from you, and you’ll not even able to touch it if we lose. And for many of you, that will be the closest you will ever get. Don’t you dare come back in here without giving your all.'

Ferguson's half-time team-talk during the 1999 European Cup final with Bayern Munich

Crowning glory: Ferguson holds the European Cup aloft after United unforgettable stoppage time win over Bayern Munich in 1999

Crowning glory: Ferguson holds the European Cup aloft after United unforgettable stoppage time win over Bayern Munich in 1999

Treble tops: Ferguson and United won the Premier League, FA Cup and the European Cup in 1999

Treble tops: Ferguson and United won the Premier League, FA Cup and the European Cup in 1999

'I was just starting to adjust to losing the game. I had reminded myself to keep my dignity and accept that it wasn't going to be our year. What then happened simply stunned me.'

As the game entered injury time with United losing 1-0

'Can you f***ing believe him!'

To his assistant Steve McClaren on seeing Peter Schmeichel going up for the first stoppage time corner

'I can't believe it. I can't believe it. Football. Bloody hell.'

After United won with two dramatic goals in stoppage time

ON LIVERPOOL

'My
greatest challenge is not what's happening at the moment, my greatest
challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their f***ing perch. And you
can print that.'

Reacting to remarks by former Liverpool player Alan Hansen that he was past it in 2002

'You must be joking. Do I look as if I'm a masochist ready to cut myself How does relegation sound instead'

When asked if Liverpool were genuine title contenders in 2007

Auld enemy: There have been many defining games with Liverpool during Ferguson's time at United. here, he celebrates a last minute John O'Shea winner at Anfield in 2007

Auld enemy: There have been many defining games with Liverpool during Ferguson's time at United. here, he celebrates a last minute John O'Shea winner at Anfield in 2007

'I
think he was an angry man. He must have been disturbed for some reason.
I think you have got to cut through the venom of it and hopefully he'll
reflect and understand what he said was absolutely ridiculous.'

On Rafael Bentez, reacting to the Spaniard's infamous 'facts' press conference during the 2009 title race

ON NOISY NEIGHBOURS CITY

'There
has been a lot of expectation on Manchester City and with the spending
they have done they have to win something. Sometimes you have a noisy
neighbor and have to live with it. You can't do anything about them…

After City are taken over by billionaire new owners

'It was our worst ever day!'

After the 6-1 defeat at Old Trafford last season

New rivalry: Roberto Mancini and Manchester City have emerged as United's main enemies in the past few years

New rivalry: Roberto Mancini and Manchester City have emerged as United's main enemies in the past few years

ON ARSENE WENGER AND ARSENAL

'They say he's an intelligent man, right Speaks five languages. I've got a 15-year-old boy from the Ivory Coast who speaks five languages!'

On Arsene Wenger, shortly after his appointment as Arsenal manager in 1996

'He's a novice—he should keep his opinions to
Japanese football.'

More harsh words for the Frenchman in 1997

'Oh dearie me, the FA are going to be delighted with that!'

Speaking about United's 4-0 loss to Arsenal in the League Cup in 2001

Mellow: The once frosty relationship between Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has thawed over the years

Mellow: The once frosty relationship between Ferguson and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has thawed over the years

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger shake hands before a Premier League match in January 2012

'It's getting tickly now – squeaky-bum time, I call it.'

During
the climax to the 2002-2003 title race between Arsenal and United,
which ended with Ferguson winning a seventh Premier League crown

'In the tunnel, Wenger was criticising my players, calling them cheats, so I told him to leave them alone and behave himself. He ran at me with his hands raised saying 'What do you want to do about it'

'To not apologise for the behaviour of the players to another manager is unthinkable. It's a disgrace, but I don't expect Wenger to ever apologise…he's that type of person.'

Relations with Wenger hadn't got much better by 2005…

ON CHELSEA

'He could start a row in an empty house.'

On Dennis Wise, the highly-strung former Chelsea player

'He’ll be getting a hug and a kiss from me – maybe even two!'

Speaking about his good friend Sam Allardyce after Bolton stalled Chelsea's title challenge in 2006-2007

'If Chelsea drop points, the cat’s out in the open. And you know what cats are like – sometimes they don’t come home.'

ON JOSE MOURINHO

'He was certainly full of it, calling me “Boss” and “Big Man” when we had our post-match drink after the first leg. But it would help if his greetings were accompanied by a decent glass of wine. What he gave me was paint-stripper.'

Ferguson's first impressions of Jose Mourinho, who got the better of him when Porto dumped United out of the Champions League in 2004

'I would never think a guy who hasn't played a game could be a top coach but then you've got to look at his personality. He's got a marvellous, strong personality and that bridges that gap.

'I remember his first press conference [at Chelsea, in 2004] and I thought: 'Christ, he's a cocky b******, him'. He was telling the players: 'Look, I'm the special one, we don't lose games.'

Remembering Mourinho's grand entrance into English football

Friends and rivals: Ferguson and Jose Mourinho enjoyed a great relationship despite United and Chelsea going toe-to-toe for the title

Friends and rivals: Ferguson and Jose Mourinho enjoyed a great relationship despite United and Chelsea going toe-to-toe for the title

'He can manage anywhere, absolutely. I'm not going to put any forecasts on what is going to happen at this club. I won't last forever, but Jose can manage anywhere, there is no question about that.'

On the possibility of Mourinho succeeding him at Old Trafford

ON DAVID BECKHAM

'David Beckham is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.'

Waxing lyrical about David Beckham's commitment and talent

'It was a freakish incident. If I tried it 100 or a million times it couldn't happen again. If I could I would have carried on playing!'

Playing down the famous incident in which he allegedly kicked a boot which hit David Beckham in the forehead

Booted out! Beckham was allegedly hit by a boot kicked by Ferguson in the United dressing room in 2003

Booted out! Beckham was allegedly hit by a boot kicked by Ferguson in the United dressing room in 2003. He left Old Trafford that summer

Special talent: But Ferguson had a great deal of respect for Beckham's workrate and natural ability

Special talent: But Ferguson had a great deal of respect for Beckham's workrate and natural ability

'It is totally out of the question. There is no way we would sell him, or any of our best players.'

In April 2003, two months before selling David Beckham to Real Madrid

ON THE ITALIANS

'When an Italian tells me it's pasta on the plate, I check under the sauce to make sure. They are the inventors of the smokescreen.'

Wise, if slightly ambiguous, advice before United played Inter Milan in the 1999 Champions League quarter-final

'Inzaghi was born in an offside position.'

A withering assessment of Italian striker Filippo

'They come out with the ‘English are so strong, we’re terrible in the air, we can’t do this, we can’t do that’. Then they beat you 3 – 0.'

On Italian teams in general

Finding their feet: Ferguson's United struggled against Italian teams like Marcello Lippi's Juventus when they returned to the Champions League - but finally cracked it in 1999 when beating Inter and Juve en route to winning the competition

Finding their feet: Ferguson's United struggled against Italian teams like Marcello Lippi's Juventus when they returned to the Champions League – but finally cracked it in 1999 when beating Inter and Juve en route to winning the competition

ON THE MEN IN THE MIDDLE

'You
can't applaud a referee.'

Very true…

'The pace of the
game demanded a referee who was fit. It is an indictment of our game.
You see referees abroad who are as fit as butcher's dogs. We have some
who are fit. He wasn't fit. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player.
He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous.'

Brutal comments on referee Alan Wiley and his lack of fitness

'There is no doubt about it. They were never getting through that tie; with 11 men we had no problem. The young boy showed a bit of inexperience but they got him sent off. Everyone sprinted towards the referee – typical Germans.'

Reflecting angrily on the dismissal of Rafael da Silva as United crashed out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich in 2010

Taking issue: Fergie bawls at Alan Wiley during the 2009 FA Cup semi-final with Everton

Taking issue: Fergie bawls at Alan Wiley during the 2009 FA Cup semi-final with Everton

'They gave us four minutes [injury time], that's an insult to the game. It denies you a proper chance to win a football match.

'There were six substitutions, the trainer came on, so that's four minutes right away and the goalkeeper must have wasted about two or three minutes and they took their time at every goal kick.

'That's obvious to everyone today and it's a flaw in the game that the referee is responsible for time keeping. It's ridiculous that it's 2012 and the referee still has control of that.'

Talking about Fergie time – or the lack of it – after United lost 3-2 at home to Tottenham earlier this season

ON PLAYERS PAST AND PRESENT

'I used
to have a saying that when a player is at his peak, he feels as though he can
climb Everest in his slippers. That's what he was like.'

On Paul Ince (When at United…)

'He's a bully, a f***ing big-time Charlie.'

On Paul Ince (…after he left United)

Happier times: Ferguson and Paul Ince in 1992

Happier times: Ferguson and Paul Ince in 1992

'If he was an inch taller he'd be the best centre-half in Britain. His father is 6ft 2in – I'd check the milkman.'

On the now retired United right-back Gary Neville

'[Andy] Cole should be scoring from those distances, but I’m not going to single him out.'

Erm…

'He was towering over me and the other players were almost covering their eyes. I’m looking up and thinking ‘if he does hit me, I’m dead’'

Recalling a dressing room disagreement with Peter Schmeichel

Towering figure: Ferguson with Peter Schmeichel after winning the FA Cup, the second leg of the 1999 Treble

Towering figure: Ferguson with Peter Schmeichel after winning the FA Cup, the second leg of the 1999 Treble

'I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.'

First impressions of Ryan Giggs, his longest serving player at Old Trafford

'Whether dribbling or sprinting, Ryan can leave the best defenders with twisted blood.'

On the enduring brilliance of the Welshman

'Wayne is truly blessed. He doesn’t just have ability, he has a fire inside him.'

After Rooney joined United in 2004

'Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it's a better cow than the one you've got in the field.'
Speaking about the amazing U-turn pulled by Wayne Rooney on signing a new contract in 2010

Larking around: Ferguson and Wayne Rooney before the 2011 Champions League semi-final with Schalke

Larking around: Ferguson and Wayne Rooney before the 2011 Champions League semi-final with Schalke

ON ERIC CANTONA

'If ever there was one player, anywhere in the world, that was made for Manchester United, it was Cantona. He swaggered in, stuck his chest out, raised his head and surveyed everything as though he were asking: 'I'm Cantona. How big are you Are you big enough for me''

On a very unique temperament

ON CRISTIANO RONALDO

'I bet him he wouldn’t get 15 league goals and I’m going to have to change my bet with him. If he gets to 15 I can change it and I am allowed to do that because I’m the manager. I’m going to make it 150 now!'

In reference to a rather foolhardy bet with Cristiano Ronaldo

'Do you think I would get into a contract with that mob. Jesus Christ, no chance. I wouldn’t sell them a virus.'

On the chances of selling Ronaldo to Real Madrid (Ronaldo was sold for 80m in 2009… to Real Madrid)

Mentor: Ferguson nurtured Cristiano Ronaldo's abundant talent during his five years at Old Trafford

Mentor: Ferguson nurtured Cristiano Ronaldo's abundant talent during his five years at Old Trafford

ON OTHER MANAGERS

'It can be difficult to pinpoint who would make it as a manager. For instance, nobody here thought Mark Hughes would become a manager, never in a million years, and we all thought Bryan Robson was a certainty to be a top manager.'

On his former players turning to management

'Pardew
has come out and criticised me. He is the worst at haranguing referees.
He shoves them and makes a joke of it. How he can criticise me is
unbelievable.

'He
forgets the help I gave him, by the way. The press have had a field
day. The only person they have not spoken to is Barack Obama because he
is busy.

'It
is unfortunate but I am the manager of the most famous club in the
world. Not Newcastle, a wee club in the North-East. I was demonstrative.
I am always demonstrative. Everyone knows that. I am an emotional guy
but I was not abusive.'

The latest entry to the Fergie litany – a savaging of Alan Pardew and 'wee club' Newcastle last week

'Wee club': Ferguson attracted the ire of Alan Pardew (right) and Newcastle United with his comments last week

'Wee club': Ferguson attracted the ire of Alan Pardew (right) and Newcastle United with his comments last week

SWIPES AT THE MEDIA

'On you go. I'm no f***ing talking to you. He's a f**ing great player. Yous are f***ing idiots.'

Aimed at journalists who criticised Juan Sebastian Veron

'I don't give any of you credibility. You talk about wanting to have an association with people here and you wonder why I don't get on with you But you're a f***ing embarrassment. One of these days the door is going to be shut on you permanently.'

Aimed at the media in general

'There are members of the London press who seek to antagonise me, deliberately.'

A bit of finger pointing

Flop: 28m signing Juan Veron failed at Man United, despite all Fergie's attempts to defend him

Flop: 28m signing Juan Veron failed at Man United, despite all Fergie's attempts to defend him

'They [the BBC] did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all [sic] made-up stuff and 'brown paper bags' and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son's honour and he should never have been accused of that.'

On the BBC documentary about his son, Jason

'Myths
grow all the time. If I was to listen to the number of times I've thrown
teacups then we've gone through some crockery in this place. It's completely
exaggerated, but I don't like people arguing back with me.'

On the notorious 'hairdryer' treatment

'Struggling. Are you serious We’re not struggling.'

Before walking out of a press conference following Manchester United’s clash with Benfica (Basle knocked them out of the group stages in the following game)

HAIRDRYERS

'You’re a f***ing bottler Incey! You cannae handle the stage, can you You are a f***ing bottler!'

To Paul Ince at half time during a Champions League match with Barcelona in 1994

'What the f*** are you lot playing at That is the biggest load of s**** I’ve ever seen. Not one of you can look me in the eye, because not one of you deserves to have a say. I can’t believe you’ve come here and decided to toss it off like that c*** you’re playing out there.'

Half-time at Sheffield Wednesday, 1998 and things aren't going to plan

ON UNITED'S HOME SUPPORT

'We have people coming here to admire the scenery and enjoy their crisps.'

Honour: The North Stand was renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in November 2011

Honour: The North Stand was renamed the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand in November 2011

ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF WINNING

'I don't like losing but I've mellowed. I maybe have a short fuse but it goes away quicker now.'

'I've never played for a draw in my life.'

'If we can play like that every week we'll get some level of consistency.'

'Sometimes in football you have to hold your hand up and say, yeah, they're better than us.'

'As long as there are games to play it is not over.'

Medallion man: Ferguson with the Premier League trophy and the Carling Manager of the Year Award in 1999

Medallion man: Ferguson with the Premier League trophy and the Carling Manager of the Year Award in 1999

'I do believe in fate.'

'I tell the players that the bus is moving. This club has to progress. And the bus wouldn't wait for them. I tell them to get on board.'

'Sometimes you're not sure about a player. Sometimes you doubt. Sometimes you have to guess. Sometimes… you just know.'

'The work of a team should always embrace a great player but the great player must always work.'

'Well, football is a hard game; there's no denying it. It's a game that can bring out the worst in you, at times.'

Old friend: Renewing acquaintances with the Premier League trophy in 2009

Old friend: Renewing acquaintances with the Premier League trophy in 2009

'Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat- and I expect us to do that.'

'I'm going to tell you the story about the geese which fly 5,000 miles from Canada to France. They fly in V-formation but the second ones don't fly. They're the subs for the first ones. And then the second ones take over – so it's teamwork.'

A Cantona-esque observation on teamwork

ON RETIREMENT AND LEGACY

'I’m privileged to have followed Sir Matt because all you have to do is to try and maintain the standards that he set so many years ago.'

A proud moment when surpassing Sir Matt Busby's managerial record

'I think it’s important to work and I’m entitled to work. Some people do not want to work but I want to continue working. Retirement is for young people.'

Once again addressing a question about retirement

Masters: Ferguson with Sir Matt Busby after winning the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup

Masters: Ferguson with Sir Matt Busby after winning the 1991 European Cup Winners' Cup

'If my parents were still alive, they would be very proud. They gave me a good start in life, the values that have driven me, and the confidence to believe in myself.'

On instilled values

'I am such a bloody talented guy. I might go into painting or something like that.'

Move over Da Vinci

'Football management is such a pressurised thing – horse racing is a release. I'm also learning to play the piano – I'm quite determined – it's another release from the pressure of my job.'

On passions outside of football

Chelsea fan accused of "monkey" taunt at Danny Welbeck will face no further action

Chelsea fan accused of aiming 'monkey' taunt at Welbeck will face no further action as CPS claim there is 'insufficient evidence'

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UPDATED:

16:04 GMT, 13 December 2012

No further action will be taken against a man who was arrested on suspicion of racist behaviour following Chelsea's League Cup win over Manchester United, Scotland Yard said.

Pictures taken during the October 31 fourth-round tie at Stamford Bridge appeared to show a fan making a 'monkey' gesture.

A 28-year-old man was arrested over alleged racist behaviour. United striker Danny Welbeck appeared to be the target of the alleged abuse.

A CPS London spokesperson said: 'We have thoroughly reviewed the evidence in this case in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

No action: The Chelsea supporter will face no further charges after appearing to make a racist gesture

No action: The Chelsea supporter will face no further charges after appearing to make a racist gesture

Taunt: Chelsea supporter Gavin Kirkham will face no further charges after appearing to make a racist gesture

'To bring a charge for a racially
aggravated public order offence we need to be able to prove in a court
either that an individual’s gestures demonstrate hostility towards the
victim based on the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a
racial group, or that the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by
hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of
that group.

'It is our decision that, having
looked closely at video footage, an image of the incident and witness
statements, the evidence does not demonstrate this to the standard
required for a prosecution. There is therefore insufficient evidence for
a realistic prospect of conviction and we are therefore not bringing a
charge against this individual.'

Other fans in the crowd were
interviewed and CCTV footage has been examined but 'a decision was taken
with the Crown Prosecution Service to proceed with no further action,'
the Scotland Yard spokesman said.

He
said: 'The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) takes any allegation of
racist chanting and/or behaviour very seriously and if any matters are
brought to our attention they will of course be thoroughly investigated.

'The MPS routinely
work very closely with football clubs and partner agencies to monitor
behaviour to ensure public confidence and safety.'

Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, told Sportsmail: 'We are surprised and very disappointed with this decision. We will be taking this matter up with the CPS and also the Metropolitan Police in due course. This decision is not in the public interest and they need to be held to account for it.'

Earlier
this year, Chelsea imposed a lifetime ban on a supporter who admitted
racially abusing former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

Mark Clattenburg back in training but race-row referee left off Premier League list again for a third week

Clattenburg back in training with elite officials but race-row ref left off Premier League list again for a third week

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UPDATED:

17:29 GMT, 12 November 2012

Referee Mark Clattenburg returned to training with the top-flight Select Group of referees today but has once again been left off this weekend's Barclays Premier League fixture list.

The Durham official, who has not taken charge of a match since Chelsea accused him of directing racist language towards John Mikel Obi at Stamford Bridge on October 28, had not trained while the investigations have been taking place but he did so today at the FA's St George's Park HQ.

Controversy: Mark Clattenburg has not refereed since Chelsea v Man United

Controversy: Mark Clattenburg has not refereed since Chelsea v Man United

Clattenburg and referees chief Mike
Riley have decided jointly that he should not be in charge of matches
while the case has been ongoing.

Chelsea last week submitted a
dossier of evidence to the FA, including signed witness statements from
players, alleging Clattenburg used a term understood to have been
interpreted as racist during the 3-2 defeat by Manchester United.

Clattenburg denies the accusation.

Clattenburg is understood to have been among those interviewed by the Football Association on Thursday as part of continuing investigations into Chelsea's claim.

The governing body are now assessing those allegations and are believed to have spoken to Clattenburg, assistant referees Michael McDonough and Simon Long and fourth official Michael Jones.

The interview process is believed to have been completed on Friday.

The full file of evidence from Chelsea was received by the FA at the start of the week and since then the players have also been interviewed.

The case could not be more sensitive following Chelsea skipper John Terry's four-match ban for racist abuse, and the FA is determined to deal with it as quickly as possible – especially following criticism about the length of time, almost a year, it took to deal with Terry.

Row: Clattenburg is accused of using racist language towards John Mikel Obi

Row: Clattenburg is accused of using racist language towards John Mikel Obi

Clattenburg had decided not to referee a match for a second consecutive weekend while the investigation is ongoing and now he has been left off the appointments again.

The Metropolitan Police have also launched an investigation following a complaint lodged by the Society for Black Lawyers, based on reports of the incident rather than any evidence.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has had his say, saying it was 'unthinkable' that Clattenburg would make such a comment and that he was 'convinced' he would not have done so.

Clattenburg, 37, who is on FIFA's shortlist to be a match official at the 2014 World Cup, strenuously denies the accusations against him.

John Obi Mikel verdict after Mark Clattenburg claims imminent

FA's Mikel verdict due after claims ref Clattenburg racially abused Chelsea star

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 6 November 2012

The Football Association expect to complete their investigation into Chelsea's claims that Mark Clattenburg racially insulted John Mikel Obi before the weekend.

Chelsea players, including Mikel and Ramires, gave witness statements to Jenni Kennedy, head of governance at the FA, on Monday. Now her attention has turned to referee Clattenburg.

FA chiefs, who are under pressure to make a swift decision, could even make an announcement on potential charges before the weekend.

Verdict due: The FA expect to complete their investigation before the weekend

Verdict due: The FA expect to complete their investigation before the weekend

Hillsborough papers revealed: Police attempted to blame Liverpool fans for disaster

Justice: 23 years on from football's darkest day, Hillsborough disaster victims' families finally discover truth Report finds that 164 police statements were alteredPM: I am profoundly sorry for this injustice

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UPDATED:

12:52 GMT, 12 September 2012

Hillsborough disaster report

Click here to read the full document

Police and emergency services made 'strenuous attempts' to deflect the blame for the Hillsborough disaster onto innocent Liverpool fans, newly published documents about the tragedy have revealed.

The disclosures were made by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which has been overseeing the release of thousands of official documents relating to Britain's deadliest sporting disaster.

Prime Minister David Cameron offered a 'profound' apology to the families of the 96 people who died, telling the House of Commons that the report made clear that 'the Liverpool fans were not the cause of the disaster'.

Injustice: Prmie Minister David Cameron left the Commons in no doubt the fans were not to blame

Injustice: Prmie Minister David Cameron left the Commons in no doubt the fans were not to blame

Injustice: Prmie Minister David Cameron left the Commons in no doubt the fans were not to blame

Mr Cameron said that Attorney General
Dominic Grieve will review the report as quickly as possible in order to
decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original, flawed
inquest and order a new one. It will be for the court to make the final
decision.

The report showed that the
Hillsborough families had suffered a 'double injustice', both in the
'failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible
wait to get to the truth', and in the efforts to denigrate the deceased
and suggest that they were 'somehow at fault for their own deaths', said
Mr Cameron.

Solidarity: Staff at Everton's club shop decorated a Toffees kit with a message fort heir friends across Stanley park

Solidarity: Staff at Everton's club shop decorated a kit with a message for their friends across Stanley Park

Statement: The Hillsborough Independent Panel make public their findings

Statement: The Hillsborough Independent Panel make public their findings

He told MPs: 'With the weight of the
new evidence in this Report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister
to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have
suffered over the past 23 years.

'On behalf of the Government – and
indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice
that has been left uncorrected for so long.'

Ninety six Liverpool supporters died
in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15,
1989 where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup
semi-final.

Memorial: The scene at Anfield on the morning the Hillsborough documents were revealed

Memorial: The scene at Anfield on the morning the Hillsborough documents were revealed

Momentous day: The Prime Minister's statement is watched in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral

Momentous day: The Prime Minister's statement is watched in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral

Introducing the report to the
Hillsborough families at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, Bishop
James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool and chairman of the panel, said:
'For nearly a quarter of a century the families of the 96 and the
survivors of Hillsborough have nursed an open wound waiting for answers
to unresolved questions. It has been a frustrating and painful
experience adding to their grief.

'In spite of all the investigations
they have sensed that their search for truth and justice has been
thwarted and that no-one has been held accountable.

'The documents disclosed to and
analysed by the panel show that the tragedy should never have happened.
There were clear operational failures in response to the disaster and in
its aftermath their were strenuous attempts to deflect the blame onto
the fans.

Long road to justice: The families of those who died and the fans have had to wait 23 years for this moment

Long road to justice: The families of those who died and the fans have had to wait 23 years for this moment

Long road to justice: The families of those who died and the fans have had to wait 23 years for this moment

'The panel's detailed report shows how vulnerable victims,
survivors and their families are when transparency and accountability
are compromised.

'My colleagues and I were from the start of our work impressed by the dignified determination of the families.'

He added: 'The panel produces this
report without any presumption of where it will lead. But it does so in
the profound hope that greater transparency will bring to the families
and to the wider public a greater understanding of the tragedy and its
aftermath.

'For it is only with this transparency
that the families and survivors, who have behaved with such dignity,
can with some sense of truth and justice cherish the memory of their 96
loved ones.'

Tragedy: The events in South Yorkshire changed the face of football in England forever

Tragedy: The events in South Yorkshire changed the face of football in England forever

Prime Minister's Hillsborough statement in full

Today the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Reverend James Jones, is publishing the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

The disaster at the Hillsborough football stadium on 15th April 1989 was one of the greatest peacetime tragedies of the last century.

96 people died as a result of a crush in the Leppings Lane Terrace at the FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

There was a public Inquiry at the time by Lord Justice Taylor which found – and I quote – that the main cause of the disaster was 'a failure of police control'.

But the Inquiry didn't have access to all the documents that have since become available, it didn't properly examine the response of the emergency services, it was followed by a deeply controversial inquest, and by a media version of events that sought to blame the fans.

As a result, the families have not heard the truth and have not found justice.

That is why the previous government – and in particular – the Rt Hon Member for Leigh was right to set up this Panel.

And it is why this government insisted that no stone should be left unturned and that all papers should be made available to the Bishop of Liverpool and his team.

Mr Speaker, in total over 450,000 pages of evidence have been reviewed.

It was right that the families should see the Report first.

As a result the government has only had a very limited amount of time to study the evidence so far.
But it is already very clear that many of the report's findings are deeply distressing.

There are three areas in particular.

The failure of the authorities to help protect people.

The attempt to blame the fans.

And the doubt cast on the original Coroner's Inquest.

Let me take each in turn.

FINDINGS: FAILURE OF THE AUTHORITIES

First, there is new evidence about how the authorities failed.

There is a trail of new documents which show the extent to which the safety of the crowd at Hillsborough was 'compromised at every level'.

The ground failed to meet minimum standards and the “deficiencies were well known”.

The turnstiles were inadequate.

The ground capacity had been significantly over-calculated.

The crush barriers failed to meet safety standards.

There had been a crush at exactly the same match the year before.

And today's report shows clearly that lessons had not been learnt.

The report backs up again the key finding of the Taylor Report on police failure.

But it goes further by revealing for the first time the shortcomings of the ambulance and emergency services response.

The major incident plan was not fully implemented.

Rescue attempts were held back by failures of leadership and co-ordination.

And, significantly, new documents today show there was a delay from the emergency services when people were being crushed and killed.

FINDINGS: ATTEMPT TO BLAME THE FANS

Second, the families have long believed that some of the authorities attempted to create a completely unjust account of events that sought to blame the fans for what happened.

Mr Speaker, the families were right.

The evidence in today's report includes briefings to the media, and attempts by the Police to change the record of events.

On the media. Several newspapers reported false allegations that fans were drunk and violent and stole from the dead.

The Sun's report sensationalised these allegations under a banner headline 'The Truth.'
This was clearly wrong and caused huge offence, distress and hurt.

News International has co-operated with the Panel and, for the first time, today's report reveals that the source for these despicable untruths was a Sheffield news agency reporting conversations with South Yorkshire Police and Irvine Patnick, the then MP for Sheffield Hallam.

The Report finds that this was part of police efforts – and I quote – 'to develop and publicise a version of events that focused on – allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence.'

In terms of changing the record of events, we already know that police reports were significantly altered but the full extent was not drawn to Lord Justice Taylor's attention.

Today's Report finds that 164 statements were significantly amended – and 116 explicitly removed negative comments about the policing operation – including its lack of leadership.

The report also makes important findings about particular actions taken by the police and coroner while investigating the deaths.

There is new evidence which shows that police officers carried out police national computer checks on those who had died in an attempt – and I quote from the report – 'to impugn the reputations of the deceased'.

The Coroner took blood alcohol levels from all of the deceased including children.

The Panel finds no rationale whatsoever for what it regards as an 'exceptional' decision.

The report states clearly that the attempt of the inquest to draw a link between blood alcohol and late arrival was 'fundamentally flawed'.

And that alcohol consumption was 'unremarkable and not exceptional for a social or leisure occasion'.

Mr Speaker, over all these years questions have been raised about the role of the government – including whether it did enough to uncover the truth.

It is certainly true that some of the language in the government papers published today was insensitive.

But having been through every document – and every government document including Cabinet Minutes will be published – the Panel found no evidence of any government trying to conceal the truth.

At the time of the Taylor Report the then Prime Minister was briefed by her private secretary that the defensive and – I quote – 'close to deceitful' behaviour of senior South Yorkshire officers was 'depressingly familiar.'

And it is clear that the then government thought it right that the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire should resign.

But as the Rt Hon Member for Leigh has rightly highlighted, governments then and since have simply not done enough to challenge publicly the unjust and untrue narrative that sought to blame the fans.

FINDINGS: ORIGINAL CORONER'S INQUEST

Third, and perhaps most significantly of all, the Bishop of Liverpool's report presents new evidence which casts significant doubt over the adequacy of the original Inquest.

The Coroner – on the advice of pathologists – believed that victims suffered traumatic asphyxia leading to unconsciousness within seconds and death within a few minutes.

As a result he asserted that beyond 3.15pm there were no actions that could have changed the fate of the victims and he limited the scope of the Inquest accordingly.

But by analysing post mortem reports the Panel have found that 28 did not have obstruction of blood circulation and 31 had evidence of heart and lungs continuing to function after the crush.

This means that individuals in those groups could have had potentially reversible asphyxia beyond 3.15pm in contrast to the findings of the Coroner and a subsequent Judicial Review.

And the Panel states clearly that 'it is highly likely that what happened to those individuals after 3.15pm was significant' in determining whether they died.

RESPONSE

Mr Speaker, the conclusions of this report will be harrowing for many of the families affected.
Anyone who has lost a child knows the pain never leaves you.

But to read a report years afterwards that says – and I quote, 'a swifter, more appropriate, better focused and properly equipped response had the potential to save more lives', can only add to the pain

It is for the Attorney General to decide whether to apply to the High Court to quash the original inquest and seek a new one.

In this capacity he acts independently of government. And he will need to examine the evidence himself.

But it is clear to me that the new evidence in today's report raises vital questions which must be examined.

And the Attorney General has assured me that he will examine this new evidence immediately and reach a decision as fast as possible.

But ultimately it is for the High Court to decide.

It is also right that the House should have an opportunity to debate the issues raised in this report fully.

My Rt Hon Friend the Home Secretary will be taking forward a debate in Government time. And this will happen when the House returns in October.

APOLOGY

Mr Speaker, I want to be very clear about the view the government takes about these findings and why after 23 years this matters so much, not just for the families but for Liverpool and for our country as a whole.

Mr Speaker what happened that day – and since – was wrong.

It was wrong that the responsible authorities knew Hillsborough did not meet minimum safety standards and yet still allowed the match to go ahead.

It was wrong that the families have had to wait for so long – and fight so hard – just to get to the truth.

And it was wrong that the police changed the records of what happened and tried to blame the fans.

We ask the police to do difficult and often very dangerous things on our behalf.

And South Yorkshire Police is a very different organisation today from what it was then.

But we do the many, many honourable police men and women a great disservice if we try to defend the indefensible.

It was also wrong that neither Lord Justice Taylor nor the Coroner looked properly at the response of the other emergency services.

Again, these are dedicated people who do extraordinary things to serve the public.
But the evidence from today's report makes very difficult reading.

Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this Report, it is right for me today as Prime Minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years.

Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice.

The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth.

And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths.

On behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.

WHY THIS MATTERS FOR MERSEYSIDE AND THE COUNTRY

Mr Speaker, because of what I have described as the second injustice – the false version of events – not enough people in this country understand what the people of Merseyside have been through.

This appalling death toll of so many loved ones lost was compounded by an attempt to blame the victims.

A narrative about hooliganism on that day was created which led many in the country to accept that it was somehow a grey area.

Today's report is black and white.

The Liverpool fans 'were not the cause of the disaster'.

The Panel has quite simply found 'no evidence' in support of allegations of 'exceptional levels of drunkenness, ticketlessness or violence among Liverpool fans', 'no evidence that fans had conspired to arrive late at the stadium' and 'no evidence that they stole from the dead and dying.'

Mr Speaker, I'm sure the whole House will want to thank the Bishop of Liverpool and his Panel for all the work they have done.

And I am sure that all sides will join with me in paying tribute to the incredible strength and dignity of the Hillsborough families and the community which has backed them in their long search for justice.

While nothing can ever bring back those who have been lost with all the documents revealed and nothing held back the families, at last, have access to the truth.
And I commend this Statement to the House.

Craig Whyte threatens court action against Scottish FA

Rangers owner Whyte threatens defamation case against 'inept' Scottish FA

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UPDATED:

17:11 GMT, 7 June 2012

Rangers' controversial owner Craig Whyte has turned the tables on the Scottish Football Association by threatening to take them to court for defamation.

Whyte had already been deemed unfit to hold an official position in the game by the SFA when he was handed fines totalling 200,000 by the ruling body in April for bringing the game into disrepute.

At the same time the administration-hit Ibrox club were handed a 12-month transfer embargo – which was successfully appealed – and fined 160,000 after being found guilty of five charges relating to their financial affairs and the appointment of Whyte as chairman.

See you in court: Whyte has threatened action against the SFA

See you in court: Whyte has threatened action against the SFA

The Motherwell-born businessman has refused to pay the fine, which he initially described as 'a joke' and it was reported this week that the SFA's legal team were ready to pursue him through the courts for the money.

However, when Whyte was asked for his reaction to the prospect of legal action being against him, he replied: 'I will be going after them. I will be looking at legal options against the SFA.

'They have a lot to answer for with their defamatory statements about me which formed the basis of their so-called investigation.

'Scottish football's regulators are inept and have showed themselves up. But they have no jurisdiction over me.'

The SFA declined to comment.

Whyte has agreed to sell his 85 per cent shareholding in Rangers for 2 to Charles Green, who is leading the consortium in place to take control of the club.

Defiant: Rangers fans have vowed to back the club all the way

Defiant: Rangers fans have vowed to back the club all the way

The former Sheffield United chief executive's group has pledged 8.5million for creditors who will be able to vote on a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) next week.

Should creditors reject the CVA, then Green would form a newco.

Whyte is giving the CVA his full backing and is ready to walk into the sunset following his traumatic period as owner of Rangers, which began when he bought the club from Sir David Murray last year for 1.

'I am 100 per cent behind the CVA, I am very much in favour of it,' he said.

'I hope it goes through because it is the best way forward for the club and it will leave Rangers in an excellent situation.

'My shares will form part of the consortium's shareholding and after that I will focus on other activities.

'It has certainly been eventful year but I did what needed to be done, unpopular as it was. There was no alternative. It had to be done.

'If it wasn't me it would have been someone else. People will look back in a year or two with a different view.

'People have conveniently forgotten the state Rangers were in at that time.

'I should have taken the club into administration on completion of the deal. But there was no way the situation would have been avoided unless someone came in and put in 100million and we have seen in recent weeks how difficult it is to get anyone to put money into a football club.'

Lee Westwood putting his game in great shape ahead of Abu Dhabi Championship

Westwood set for stellar season after putting his game in great shape, says Chubby

Lee Westwood is about to embark on the finest year of his illustrious career. Yes, even better than 2000, when he won six times in Europe and once in South Africa. That's the opinion of the man who might know him best, his long-time manager, Chubby Chandler.

'I'd be absolutely amazed if this doesn't turn out to be his best season yet,' he said.

Managers and players usually shy away from making such bold statements but confidence is oozing from the Westwood camp because of one added ingredient.

Driving force: Lee Westwood has been tipped for his best year ever

Driving force: Lee Westwood has been tipped for his best year ever

Whisper it softly, because we all know what putting is like. But it does seem like the best golfer by miles from tee to green over the past three years has finally worked out how to hole his share of 15ft putts.

Putting works like writer's block. You try everything and nothing works and then suddenly a fresh approach produces a eureka moment.

Abu Dhabi Championship preiview

Check out Sportsmail's Golf Blog for the full lowdown ahead of the mouth-watering battle in the desert…

Westwood's came when he started working with the noted putting coach Phil Kenyon at the back end of last year. He knew straight away that he was on to something. And then the putts started to drop.

Suddenly, he went from being in contention every week because of the quality of his long game to lapping the field thanks to his renewed confidence on the greens.

At the Sun City Challenge last month he thought he played the best golf of his life, only to revise his opinion a fortnight later in Thailand, an event he led by the astonishing margin of 14 shots at the halfway stage.

Of course, it's one thing to win a couple of end-of-year events when hardly anyone is looking; quite another to carry it into this season and tournaments sprinkled with stardust like the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, which begins on Thursday.

Smiles better: Westwood says his putting has been transformed

Smiles better: Westwood says his putting has been transformed

But Chandler has no doubts and Westwood, to judge from his supremely confident demeanour, doesn't either.

Not that he wanted to delve too deeply into his putting. Westwood politely answered a couple of questions and then promptly said he wouldn't talk about it anymore.

A wise man. Unless you're Luke Donald, who rarely struggles on the greens, it's best not to talk too much about this decidedly black art.

'I would say the difference with Phil is that my practice is a lot more structured and based around drills to make sure I do the same thing over and over again. And, other than that, I am not saying any more,' he commented, smiling.

Westwood might be 39 in April but looks in the best shape of his career, both literally and metaphorically. Twice-daily sessions in the gym have taken away the extra pounds that hung around his frame before Christmas, while the nagging angst at the back of his mind that crippled his putting stroke is fast becoming a bad memory.

That's some threesome: Tiger Woods will play alongside Rory McIlroy and world No 1 Luke Donald for the first two rounds of the Abu Dhabi Championship

That's some threesome: Tiger Woods will play alongside Rory McIlroy and world No 1 Luke Donald for the first two rounds of the Abu Dhabi Championship

Like everyone else here, Westwood was excited to get going in this star-laden first tournament. Who could have imagined a European Tour event featuring such a marquee group as Westwood, Sergio Garcia and the defending champion Martin Kaymer, and it still not being the one attracting the biggest crowd

It was trumped by the threesome featuring Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and the world No 1 Luke Donald.

Six years have now passed since McIlroy missed the cut as an amateur in the Dubai Desert Classic and spent the weekend watching Woods, his idol growing up. Here he practised on Wednesday with the icon and spent the early hours of this morning UK time playing his first round with Tiger in a regular tour event.

'Of course I was a little awestruck back in 2006, who wouldn't be' he said. 'He was doing things no-one thought possible, he was changing our game forever. But I played with him in a skins game in 2010 and in the first round of Tiger's tournament that year and so gradually I've felt less in awe.

Luke-ing good: Donald drives during practice for his first tournament of the year

Luke-ing good: Donald drives during practice for his first tournament of the year

'Now I've got to know him a little and feel comfortable around him. And you could see in practice he's ready to play well again. He's clearly fit again and hit some really good shots. Let's hope we can play together on a few Sundays this year and not just on Thursday and Friday.'

As for Donald, he remembers the day when he was completely in awe of Woods. It was the final round of the 2006 US PGA at Medinah, when he turned up in a red shirt and left with a red face after being contemptuously demolished by Tiger.

'I remember it well and I certainly feel a hugely different player to what I was back then. One with a lot more experience. I think every year you learn more about yourself as a golfer. You learn a little bit more about your swing.

'Obviously last year was a hugely important one for me in terms of dealing with pressure and being able to come out on top when it mattered.'

Keep tuning in. This year is going to be one of the great ones.

Jose Mourinho jumps to John Terry"s defence: CHARLES SALE

Old boss Mourinho jumps to Terry's defence in race case

Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho leads a trio of big football names who are giving John Terry character witness support ahead of his trial for allegedly using racist language towards QPR defender Anton Ferdinand.

Terry’s one-time Chelsea bosses Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, now at Paris Saint-Germain, and the England captain’s ex-Stamford Bridge team-mate Marcel Desailly are giving witness statements claiming they have no knowledge of him ever behaving in a racist way.

Ancelotti and Desailly have already sent in their signed documents, with Mourinho’s agreed statement just awaiting his signature.

I've got your back: Jose Mourinho will be a character witness for John Terry

I've got your back: Jose Mourinho will be a character witness for John Terry

The three key witnesses have indicated they are prepared to appear in court if called by Terry’s defence team.

Terry is charged with a racially aggravated public order offence following allegations that he directed a racist comment at Ferdinand in Chelsea’s Premier League defeat at QPR last October. The preliminary hearing is at West London Magistrates’ Court a week today. The case will be adjourned, with Terry not making an appearance in court next week.

The leading QC representing Terry, in a case where the maximum fine is 2,500, is John Cooper, a specialist in human rights and the chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports.

More from Charles Sale…

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Charles Sale: Speed's No 2 to go in Wales shake-up
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Charles Sale: Olympic football rejections not due to national concerns
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VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Taking a break

ITV Sport’s contract with the International Rugby Board for 2011 World Cup coverage is understood to have included an agreement for 15-minute intervals allowing the commercial network the time they wanted for studio analysis and two ad breaks.

However, IRB board opposition led to 12-minute half-times in New Zealand and the fall-out from those missing three minutes contributed to departing IRB chief executive Mike Miller falling victim to board politics following the re-election of chairman Bernard Lapasset.

Lads on tour

The regular team on cult Sky Sports show Soccer Saturday — presenter Jeff Stelling and pundits Matt Le Tissier, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas and Chris Kamara — are attempting to cash in on the programme’s popularity with a five-venue question-and-answer theatre tour. A similar venture by former Sky football duo Richard Keys and Andy Gray flopped last year because of a lack of planning.

Spurring him on

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp will have the club’s executive director Donna Cullen and director of football administration Darren Eales supporting him in Southwark Crown Court during his two-week tax evasion trial.

Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, is also intending to be alongside Redknapp throughout the case to show solidarity with one of his members.

In court: Harry Redknapp is answering charges of tax evasion

In court: Harry Redknapp is answering charges of tax evasion

Catalan Cook for City

Manchester City’s long search for a chief executive looks to be over with ex-Barcelona general manager Ferran Soriano the favourite to be appointed in the next few weeks.

City are expected to announce the arrival of Soriano, the president of Spainair, when a proposed half-share sale of the struggling airline to Qatar Airways is completed.

Replacement: The new Gary Cook should be in a place soon at Manchester City

Replacement: The new Gary Cook should be in a place soon at Manchester City

Soriano, who was at Barcelona from 2003-2008, would then be in a position to take charge at the Etihad Stadium after a near five-month hunt for Garry Cook’s successor.

Soriano – who has written a book about football business called Goal: The ball doesn’t go in by chance – is a well known figure in European football and was on the executive committee of the now disbanded G14 group of top clubs.

Bite of the Apple

Computer giant Apple, who have an increasing interest in Premier League content, met IMG’s TV production arm and PL commercial staff last week to discuss a new app about 20 years of the world’s richest league being sold through iTunes.

Cash for games

Ken Bates, the beleaguered 80-year-old owner of Leeds United, has written to season-ticket holders encouraging them to renew before next week’s price-freeze deadline, even though he is the subject of loud fan protests about the lack of spending at Elland Road.

Bates says in his letter he will try to reduce the ‘very large’ first-team squad, which is hardly a great sales pitch when chasing supporters’ cash.