YWAM Values–Secret of Sir Alex’s Success

Had a wonderful meeting in Cambridge yesterday with the team rejoicing in the news of a-possible-nother Welsh Revival, praying for North Korea, and dreaming of a YWAM School of Creative Writing in Cambridge. But it wasn’t until I (Peter) got back to Harpenden, that I heard the big news of the day–after 26 years and 38 trophies, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has finally retired.

As I was watching some of the highlights, it struck me that Alex Ferguson embodies a number of the YWAM Foundational Values. For example…

#5 Be Visionary
YWAM is called to be visionary, continually receiving, nurturing and releasing fresh vision…

Within a day of the announcement of Ferguson’s retiring, UEFA President Michel Platini has gone on record to say that Sir Alex is “a true visionary… His CV is almost unique in a results-based profession that normally focuses on short-term solutions rather than long-term vision.” And indeed, Ferguson failed to produce any short-term solutions when he first arrived in Manchester, United’s first league title under his reign not coming until six years after he was appointed manager. But while he might not have inspired instant success, he had the vision necessary to reorganize the club’s coaching and youth scouting systems, which would later produce unprecedented fruit.

#6 Champion Youth
YWAM is called to champion youth. We believe God has gifted and called young people to spearhead vision and ministry. We are committed to value them, trust them, train them, support them, make space for them and release them…

Ferguson might have managed to win the league within six years, but it took ten years before the results of his vision truly became visible and the fruit of his reorganisation of the United machinery was put to the test. It was the 95-96 season when the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville — all products of Ferguson’s youth system and so nicknamed ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ — were given their chance. And having been given their chance, they fluffed it — losing 3-1 to Aston Villa and provoking Alan Hansen’s infamously ill-advised quip that “you can’t win anything with kids”. Hansen was of course wrong, and the young players won the next five matches straight and went on to win the League and Cup Double.

#8 Be International & Interdenominational
YWAM is international and interdenominational in its global scope as well as its local constituency. We believe that ethnic, linguistic and denominational diversity… are positive factors…

As well as championing this core of young English talent, Alex Ferguson also brought in players from around the world: Peter Schmeichel from Denmark, Dwight Yorke from Trinidad, Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal, Ji-Sung Park from Korea. We could spend some time listing world-class players that Ferguson brought in from ‘the nations’.

The Economist sums it up quite nicely from their political point of view: “Sir Alex’s success was based on his enthusiastic embrace of globalisation, something too many people in Labour are still uncomfortable with. He inherited a squad that contained two Danes, four Irishmen and 18 Britons. He leaves a squad with players from a dozen countries, including Serbia, Ecuador and Japan. In public-policy terms, United runs both a superb domestic education system and a liberal immigration policy.”

But as well as putting together a thoroughly international United team, Ferguson also (perhaps!) embodies YWAM’s interdenominational ethos, for he is a Protestant married to a Catholic, and considering he played for the traditionally very Protestant Glasgow Rangers that is a bigger thing than one might realise.

Have I missed anything? What other YWAM Values did Sir Alex embody?
And of course it’s perhaps worth reiterating at this point that as ‘a multigenerational community’, YWAM Cambridge is as glad to welcome retired folks into our team as those younger. So, Sir Alex, if you’re reading this and you’re not sure what to do now that you’re finished with United, then please consider applying for our DTS!

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