The Glazer Gatekeeper

Author: Tehsin Nayani
Publisher: TH Media, non-fiction

A labour of love. This is how Tehsin Nayani sums up The Glazer Gatekeeper. Little wonder, as some 20,000 words, revealed by the author, were written on his BlackBerry while on planes, trains and automobiles during his six momentous years as the press advisor and spokesman for the Glazer family, owners of the Manchester United football club.

Nayani felt compelled to tell his tale, as his tenure kicked off during an unusually tumultus time for the club when the much maligned Glazer family purchased the club.

“I felt I was uniquely placed to put things on the record and provide unique insight for readers into how the club functioned at the peak of its global power,” Nayani shared in a recent e-mail interview. He also said that the book took him almost a year to complete.

The candidly written tome offers scores of behind-the-scenes anecdotes. From how the author met Malcolm Glazer and his sons for the first time to witnessing first hand the fiery dissent of the fans’ “green-and-gold” movement, symbolising rabid opposition to the late Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner and his family. What’s more, jubilant scenes are revisited when United won the 2008 UEFA Champions League in Moscow to satisfy the most ardent of fans.

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Readers will also be exposed to the less trodden path of the business and PR aspects of running the club. These facets are not so easily digestible, especially the financial details, but in time, I developed a sense of appreciation for the intricacies of how my beloved club operates on a day-to-day basis.

Nayani has also put one of the greatest misconceptions about one of the world’s biggest football club’s owners to rest: “People will be surprised to know that Joel Glazer is actually a likeable and down-to-earth person,” Nayani writes.

The Glazers are also notoriously publicity-shy, and if there’s one moment that succinctly describes their operational methods, it would be in the final conversation the author had with Joel Glazer over the telephone, when the American said: “It’s been one hell of a ride. I’m only sorry that you had one arm tied behind your back during your time, given our reluctance to engage.”

This conversation certainly explains the constant sense of frustration created by the recurring phrases of “No comment” and “This club is not for sale”, aimed at the baying British press throughout the book.

Nayani relates his personal encounters with the over-enthusiastic press, which always harboured hopes of meeting the owners but were left frustrated in the end by their constant absence.

This extended to Nayani’s dealings with the British media, which, despite United’s substantial success under the Glazers’ ownership, continued to be largely cynical and unduly pessimistic.

Not all is doom and gloom, however. Nayani’s adventures with one of the world’s most loved football clubs led him right to our shores, as he fondly recalls his week-long visit in Malaysia with the club in 2009 when United played two matches against a Malaysian Selection.

“We were struck by the level of support and hospitality among Malaysian fans,” he reminisces. “It was a particularly memorable trip.”

This might be acquired taste, but for football fans worth their salt (and especially those of a red persuasion), the machinations of a global brand provide truly intriguing reading indeed.