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Alex Ferguson creates Euros playlist for dementia charity

Born in 1941, the football manager, known to United players as ‘the Boss’, identified songs from his adolescence in Govan as part of the project.

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Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has created his own Desert Island Discs-style playlist inspired by the Euros to support a dementia charity.

Manchester United legend Sir Alex, 82, chose several songs from the post-war era which have associations with his Glaswegian adolescence as part of the playlist.

Born in 1941, the football manager, known to United players as “the Boss”, identified songs from growing up in Govan as being intrinsic to his sense of self, as part of a project, Playlist for Life, which supports families living with dementia.

Research found the benefits of creating a personal playlist included reduced anxiety, improved interpersonal connections and even reducing the need for medication by as much as 80%.

Sir Alex with then-chancellor Gordon Brown, All Hallows High School in Salford, Manchester, 2005
Sir Alex’s playlist includes Moon River (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sir Alex Ferguson is the UK’s most successful football manager, and his playlist included Moon River, from the film Breakfast At Tiffany’s, released in 1961 and associated with his oldest friends.

He also recalled performing 1951 hit It’s All In The Game, by Nat King Cole, at a Christmas party held by Queen’s Park FC, as a 17-year-old.

Sir Alex said: “This song has a particularly strong memory. When I was 17 and playing for Queen’s Park, they used to have an annual snooker competition, which I won. But when I went to receive the prize at the annual Christmas dance, they wouldn’t give me it unless I sang. And this was the song I sang.”

Sir Alex Ferguson with his former schoolteacher
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson gives his former schoolteacher Elizabeth Thomson, 73, a kiss on the cheek when at an Asda store in Govan, Glasgow (Ben Curtis/PA)

Also on his list was Dirty Old Town, by The Pogues, which was written by folk singer Ewan MacColl – a Manchester Communist who was the father of Kirsty MacColl, and the brother-in-law of American folk legend Pete Seeger.

Recalling the associations with Moon River, which was sung by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 classic Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Sir Alex said: “This is the song that when I’m with my longest and dearest friends from Govan, I always sing. Only they would have the patience to listen to me.”

Sir Alex got involved due to the Euros, and said it was “enjoyable and at times emotional” to take part, naming the theme song from 1939 film Gone With The Wind due to associations with a holiday with his late wife, Cathy.

He also chose The Way We Were, by Gladys Knight and the Pips, dating from 1974.

Sir Alex said: “Music has soundtracked many important moments in my life and I’m pleased to support the charitable work of Playlist for Life, who use music to support people affected by dementia. It was enjoyable and at times emotional to look back on the music of my life, and I’ve been told about the many benefits music from the past can have for those affected by dementia.”

Eric Cantona and Sir Alex Ferguson (right) with the FA Cup and the Carling Premiership trophy
Sir Alex was in charge during Manchester United’s most successful era (Peter Wilcock/PA)

He also chose Danny Boy, describing it as “one of the most sung songs in the world”.

Sir Alex said: “There is a host of famous singers who have sung it and of course there are many different perspectives on the meaning of the song. One quite sad version is of a father taking his son to catch a train as he was heading off for war and his father was so worried for him that he forgot to give him a hug. The son never returned.”

Michael Timmons, executive director of Playlist for Life, said: “Football can form many special moments and memories in your life, and the Euros is a great excuse to reminisce with friends and family about these moments, even if, like Sir Alex, you’re from Scotland.

“Now is a great time to think about songs that have soundtracked your life whether it be the songs sung in the terraces or other songs that remind you of special people and times in your life.

“Sir Alex Ferguson helped create many of these special memories and to have his support is a tremendous privilege. His support has helped us improve the lives of countless families affected by dementia.

“By sharing songs from his personal playlist, he has demonstrated the ease of getting started on creating your own – something that can bring joy now but provide a lifeline in the future.

“We hope this encourages everyone to get started today.”

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