A HANDFUL of bookmakers paid out on Manchester United winning the league title this week, although you fancy Sir Alex Ferguson will ensure his men show little complacency between now and mid-May.
The United manager was so aggrieved at losing the title last term, he spoke to each of his players individually and told them to recall how disappointed they felt when, despite winning at Sunderland on the final day of last season, they still surrendered their league title.
‘Make sure it doesn’t happen again’ was the Scot’s succinct message.
A similar conversation took place in the wake of New Zealand’s shock 20-18 defeat by France in the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter final in Cardiff, a tournament the All Blacks were strongly fancied to win.
New Zealand captain Ritchie McCaw, one of the finest rugby players of all time, has written an absorbing autobiography which focuses, at least in part, on the journey from that defeat to the triumph (over the same opponents) at Eden Park four years later.
The French reverse had a profound effect upon McCaw and his men.
A palpable sense of steely determination infused their journey from losing quarter finalists to World Cup winners.
And while they appeared to freeze in the last final, McCaw is adamant they were never going to lose.
The pain of defeat had made New Zealand stronger.
But The Real McCaw is not a re-run of the 2011 World Cup final.
McCaw has a life away from rugby, a fascinating hinterland which includes indulging in his hobby for gliding above New Zealand’s South Island countryside.
Rather than trot out details of big matches in which he’s featured, McCaw’s description of other areas of his life shows he no one-dimensional character.
Few international sportsmen invoke a contractual clause which allows them to take seven months off from their sport in order to re-assess their careers, but McCaw is currently slap-bang in the middle of his mini-sabbatical.
In his absence, however, there’s no likelihood of his All Blacks place being claimed by anyone else for McCaw’s status as the greatest player of his generation remains unchallenged.
Reading his autobiography, it becomes clear why.
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