I definitely knew what getting a stick looked and sounded like when I was a player. I was part of a very successful team, but the way I played – and the perception that I was sometimes naughty on the pitch – gave me flak.
If people are part of a gang or crowd, they are more likely to say something than if they were standing right in front of you and looking you in the eye. That has never changed.
However, I was not aware of the level of abuse Harry Maguire is getting, and it amazes me, even though it seems to be part of the world we live in now. Eric Dier talked about the stick his own family got on the site last week. This is a level of hate that I was not aware of as a player.
Some of it is being distributed through social media, which is a world to be avoided at all costs for players. Maguire goes there to apologize for a Manchester United performance and is then hammered for it. Why on earth are players doing this? Because they can get a few million followers and make money from that? They all make enough money not to need this.
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire must ignore the vicious criticism being thrown his way
I bet if you asked 200 Premier League players if they’d like to be on Instagram, Twitter or whatever, 90 percent of them would say, ‘I don’t want to be there, but my agent says it’s okay’. And why is the agent so excited? Money of course. You don’t have to bring yourself out to be ridiculed just to fill a cop’s pocket
Maguire is at particular risk from the kind of attack we see, as a failing Manchester United made him the most expensive central defender in the world and then made him their captain. So he becomes a lightning rod for all United’s problems. All the club’s shortcomings are piled up on his doorstep. Ridiculous. I can’t remember a game United lost because of Harry Maguire alone.
He has been guilty of making mistakes. But if you make a mistake in that position, it generally leads to an effort towards your goal. You rely on having good central midfielders in front of you, putting pressure on the ball, trying to protect you at all times and making sure that if a ball goes through in your area it is not of a high quality. United’s players in those central midfield positions weren’t good enough.
I don’t think Maguire has ever been part of a reliable and consistent United back four. Raphael Varane has shown more consistency this year, but you would never say that Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof would have another big club that would want to sign them.
Maguire must shake off the negativity and listen to senior United figures such as Erik ten Hag
However, it is the level of abuse that is mind boggling. I’ve witnessed it during competitions and it’s water off a duck’s back now. I am of a certain age and character where nothing really bothers me.
But if you’re a public figure these days, apparently you’re there to be ridiculed and that seems to be accepted. That’s the 21st century. That’s 2022.
I especially despise the keyboard warriors we have now. Faceless pygmies who write insultingly about someone, knowing they will never be confronted. Knowing that no one will ever find out who they are and who is spewing all this vile hate.
I met Maguire once and he seemed like a thoroughly decent young man with a very good attitude. It was only a five minute exchange at the premiere of a Bryan Robson movie in Manchester last November, but I wanted him to get it right because he seems like a really good type.
It has been suggested this week that he might talk to a psychologist. Fine, if that helps, although I’ve never gone down that road. The psychology of the guys I worked with at Liverpool was pretty straightforward.
I only met Maguire briefly, but he seems like a decent young man, and I want him to succeed
When I became a manager I was not very sympathetic to the needs of players and on reflection that was wrong. As a manager I think I was too strict with players. It was the way I saw Bob Paisley, Ronnie Moran and Joe Fagan operate and it has greatly influenced my management style. I would have been successful if I had been treated that way and seen how contemporaries were treated that way. We had all responded to it.
I was too strict with certain people. That’s why I finally decided 16 years ago that management was not for me.
It’s a different world for Maguire, although it won’t be easy from here on. He will have to be very strong mentally. He is out of the United team and will not be part of things at City tomorrow.
But he does have the qualities to be a top player and a top defender and they will come back. My advice to him would be: keep your head low. Believe in the qualities you have. Listen to those who really matter at United. And shut out the haters.
Maguire should be mentally strong now, but he has the potential to become a quality defender
I thought Yosser Hughes was going to hit me!
It’s been 40 years this month since I appeared in a cameo role in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys from the Blackstuff. When Alan said he wrote Sammy Lee and me on an episode and if I’d be interested, I thought it would be a joke. They filmed it in a Toxteth church that had been converted into a pub and we showed up at 9am for a half-hour chat with the director and Bernard Hill, the legendary Yosser Hughes on the series, with whom we appeared.
Then the director said, ‘Let’s try it,’ so we took our positions. And then Bernard Hill became a different person. Suddenly he wasn’t Bernard Hill anymore. He was straight into character and straight to my face, staring at me like a maniac in a way that seriously made me think he was going to turn my lights out.
I remember Sammy sitting on the other side of him and looking at me saying, “He’s lost it.”
We were soon done and the brilliant Bernard Hill became himself again. We didn’t know at the time that it would become a cult series and a tragicomic classic. But it was definitely one of my scariest moments at Liverpool.
Bernard Hill, as Yosser Hughes, scared me when I made a cameo appearance on his show
My share in the first fly-on-the-wall
Talking about a new Netflix fly-on-the-wall Premier League series brought me back to my early years at Tottenham and the club was the subject of the first project of its kind, when writer Hunter Davies spent a season around the players for his book, The Glory Game.
Hunter arrived with a reputation as a serious writer, having written the Beatles’ authorized biography four years earlier, and everyone was very helpful to begin with.
I was a young player looking from the outside in. But the older players began to realize that they could be vulnerable and were less enthusiastic about the idea as the season progressed.
My time at Liverpool was scrutinized for what became a fly-on-the-wall book about players
Eddie Baily, manager Bill Nicholson’s assistant, tended to use colorful language and they thought that could be portrayed negatively.
I believe it was a fantastic book and ahead of its time, if not 100 percent accurate.
Hunter described to me driving a Ford Anglia when my first car was a sky blue Fiat 125. I never had an Anglia and was not an Anglia man. But the reluctance some players have felt shows how difficult it is to produce something that reflects a club as it really is.