Mavericks like Kevin Pietersen just need managing, as proved by Sir Alex Ferguson with Eric Cantona

England's Kevin Pietersen walks off after being bowled by Australia's Glen McGrath for 158 runs during the final day of the fifth npower Test match at the Brit Oval, London, during the 2005 Ashes. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire England's Kevin Pietersen walks off after being bowled by Australia's Glen McGrath for 158 runs during the final day of the fifth npower Test match at the Brit Oval, London, during the 2005 Ashes. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Saturday, February 8, 2014
6:30 AM

Kevin Pietersen must be the most analysed man in recent sporting history.

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Really? He said that?

Former ref Dermot Gallagher tells an interesting story about former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and apparent underhand tactics.

“I remember going to Old Trafford at the end of the season,” he told the Youtube channel Sportlobster. “Manchester United had three games that week and I was given the game on the bank holiday Monday. It was chucking it down with rain and Fergie pulled me aside and said ‘do me a favour, call the game off’. I asked why and he said ‘there’s nowhere else to fit this game in and the Premier League will have to extend the season. We’ll have a better chance of winning the match and we’ll win the league at Old Trafford’. At half-time United were losing 3-1 and the pitch was like a swimming pool. As we came off he said ‘I know we’re 3-1 down but please call it off, we could do with a hand here’. They managed to pull it back to 3-3...”

Really, Dermot? Fergie said that? Why on earth didn’t you report it at the time?

He is, it seems, a maverick, ie, a person not to be trusted. That is the way Pietersen has been labelled during a week in which his career as one of England’s best ever cricketers was unceremoniously ended.

The word maverick lays the blame for the deficiencies that led to his departure from the scene firmly at his own doorstop. It is the player’s fault that he is different from the rest. The player’s fault that he does things that aren’t in the sport’s instruction manual. The player’s fault that, ultimately, he failed to deliver the goods because he was brash, or wasteful, or destructive, or careless; values that sometimes let him down. Or perhaps he is just exciting, interesting, crowd pleasing, brilliant.

Mavericks are an increasingly rare breed, easy to blame when things don’t go to plan. They stand out, so they are easier to knock down.

Perhaps the truth is that mavericks are a little more difficult to manage and we should actually be focusing on those entrusted with guiding them and using their talents to full effect without negating their value.

England football managers in the past have failed to properly handle the mavericks, so they were dispensed with, they became luxuries we could ill afford. Thus we were starved of the sight of Frank Worthington, Rodney Marsh, Tony Currie. Sir Alex Ferguson always said he expected to wake up one day and find that Eric Cantona had gone. So he did his best to exploit every brilliant ounce of talent Cantona possessed. He managed him properly. He made him captain of Manchester United. He gave him more leeway than he did other players. There were few complaints, because they all knew that without Cantona they wouldn’t be as good or as successful. Fergie managed them all properly.

Sadly, there are fewer and fewer risk takers. Sport is big business, too big to gamble with.

So we have media-trained steady Eddies, who work extremely hard, never let anyone down, but rarely rise above average. They all manage to produce 110pc effort and if they score a goal, or a century or a try, are delighted to have done it for the team.

There is nothing wrong with them, but we need to find room for the maverick, and the manager who trusts the maverick, and the owner who trusts the manager who trusts the maverick.

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