Who are Sir Alex's magnificent seven?
When stadium announcer Alan Keegan introduced them as Sir Alex Ferguson's 'magnificent seven' on Wednesday, the Old Trafford crowd rose to acclaim the long-serving scouts, the team behind the team, who worked so hard to help deliver success to Manchester United.
It was a wonderful moment, showing the backing of the fans for these unsung heroes, and providing the level of acknowledgement that will have pleased Sir Alex, who proudly welcomed his former staff to Old Trafford as his guests for the Carabao Cup third-round tie against West Ham United.
Our picture shows the scouts with our ex-boss and Academy stalwarts Tony Whelan and Dave Bushell, and we spoke to Dave for the lowdown on these loyal servants to the red cause.
"Graham Buckingham started in April 1990 and was a Brian Kidd appointment," said Bushell. "He's served the club magnificently and, as kit man at Littleton Road, he is wonderful with the youngsters and makes life at the training ground good fun. Dermot Clarke is another of Kiddo's recruits and scouted Manchester area at that time. He supported the development centre in Moss Side and does a lot around central Manchester.
“Johnny Cooke is an ex-youth team player and part-time coach at the Centre of Excellence. He assisted Paul McGuinness when we last won the FA Youth Cup in 2011 and helps with the recruitment in signing players. Kiddo also brought in John Cutt in 1990 and he has scouted the Bury area for many years and supported the development centre in that area.
“Sir Alex appointed Jack Fallows back in 1986 and he's worked in the Stretford and Old Trafford area for decades and also supported the Timperley development centre. I can tell you a little story about Brian Poole, who is one of the Academy drivers escorting players to and from training. When I was Under-16s coach in 1992, I had no centre-back so I got in touch with Brian and asked if he could find me one. He found me a young Michael Clegg, who had a good career in football and has since come back to the club.
“Tom Statham was brought in by Paul McGuinness in 1994 as part-time coach at the Centre of Excellence and worked with many age levels. He has the distinction of taking the first group of young players to a camp in Shrewsbury in the summer holidays and this year would have been the 20th of us doing that, had it not been for COVID."
One of the many teams behind the team, their recognition is so thoroughly deserved and they enjoyed a moment in the limelight in midweek.
"They're the magnificent seven, as Alan Keegan said," enthused Bushell. "I was trying to rush their meals to get them upstairs and Alan ensured the crowd was all cheering and clapping. It was fantastic and brought a lump to my throat. It was Alan's presentation of them being there with the boss that was really magnificent and they loved it. We had a wonderful evening, apart from the result.
“They all loved working for Sir Alex. Every so often, he would say to me: 'Dave - we're going to an Italian restaurant tomorrow night so tell the coaches to turn up at such and such place in Salford or Manchester'. He'd ask them to put five pounds in each for the waiters and waitresses and say I'll pay for the meal. The boss looked after them really well and they paid him back by always working day and night, come rain and shine, and are really brilliant, all of them. They were amazing times we had in those days, never to be forgotten."