Albert Morgan’s been there for many of the United greats. Not only did he make sure all the players had the right kit for each match, training session and event, he’s also been there for them through thick and thin.
Be it celebrating with them during the monumental 1999 Treble-winning season, to getting the players he calls “sons” out of scrapes, or putting salt in Eric Cantona’s boots (yes, really!) Albert’s been there, done it, got the T-shirt, the sweatshirt and the training top too!
He’s a Manchester United ambassador now, and quite rightly so. He’s also a Manchester United legend, even if he wouldn’t want you calling him that…
RR: First of all, tell us about the job of kit man. What does it involve?
It’s changed a lot nowadays with a lot of the foreign players coming in, but when I first started in this job you knew a lot about the players’ families, their love lives, their girlfriends, wives… You knew everything about them. It was like they were sons to you and you built up this relationship with them. It was great and it still is. It’s a good position to be in. You’re in charge of all the kit, making sure they’ve got the right kit at the right time. That might be from the suit they wear to arrive to a match, to the actual kit they wear for the game. We don’t have to take the kit home and wash it, though! We have laundry ladies here and someone who’s in charge of the kit for the academy, which is a job in itself. That is dealing with lads from eight years old, and you’re dealing with the parents too. He gets mums coming up to him asking, “Have you got a bigger shirt for my little Joe.” That’s another side of it that has grown and grown and it’s a massive part of the operation.
RR: So there are four people involved now?
Oh there’s more than that. We have another lad who looks after the dressing room side of it. He spends a hell of a lot of time here. One thing about a kit manager’s job is that it takes over your whole life. You’ve got to have a very understanding wife and family. You live here. I’ve slept here. I’ve gone out of the door on Monday and I’ve not gone home until the following Saturday some weeks. That’s the kit man’s life!
RR: But it’s not a bad career, eh?
It’s been great. It’s been a fantastic life. All the travelling around is enjoyable, although tiring. It’s been a tremendous ride.
RR: How did you get into it?
I worked for Ford before. The guy who had the job before me, Norman Davies, a lovely man, retired when he had to retire at 65. I used to work with Norman at Ford when I was 15 and he and me became best friends. I had many a hiding off Norman, but it never did me any harm. I used to knock around with Norman socially, and came to the club to see him when he worked here. I would let him know I was having a bad day. One day, right out of the blue, he rang me up and said, “This job of mine here… you’re not having another bad day are you? I want you to have it?” I thought he was messing around. His next words were, “Get your arse around my house tonight. I’m retiring and I need to sort someone that I want to have the job. I know I can trust you, I know you can do it, I know you’re hard-working, see you later.” So, I went round that evening in shock. And that’s it.
RR: I take it you were a United fan then, too?
Oh yeah. But I never thought of it like that. I’d worked at Ford for 30 years by then and it was going to be a big change. I was very comfortable at Ford and this chance was a big wow! But I’ve never regretted it. Everyone at the club has been great to me. It’s been great. I’ve put a lot back into this job myself, but Manchester United is a great institution to be involved in.
RR: And what’s your role with the club now?
I’m an ambassador for the club now, and very proud of that I am too.
RR: What’s involved in that?
You meet a lot of people. I’ve done a bit of travelling, not too much, which suits me as I think I’ve done enough over the years. If the club say to me will you do this or that, then I’ll say yes and take enjoyment out of it because everyone wants to know about Manchester United.
RR: And I bet you’ve got a lot of stories, too?
Yes! You can make people laugh about those stories and it’s something that I’m really enjoying and I’m very proud to say I’m an ambassador. Sometimes I get a bit embarrassed when people start winding me up about it. They start talking about legends at the club. I’m no legend. Someone like Bryan Robson is a legend.
RR: You might not see it like that, but a lot of people see you as a legend here.
That’s the bit I get embarrassed about. The players are the legends here. Not me.
RR: Do you get recognised at all?
Yes, I do. That’s very nice. That’s a compliment when people ask for your autograph.
RR: Over the years you must have seen plenty of stuff that the press would love to know about. Is one of the main parts of the job keeping your mouth shut about the things you’ve seen?
Well that was one of the reasons that Norman wanted me on board. One of his rules, and I stick to it even now, was the three wise monkeys. You say nothing, see nothing and hear nothing. Yes, there are certain situations where you have to be like that. My best friend calls me James Bond, because there are certain things you just don’t talk about. That was one of the things that Sir Alex Ferguson was very keen on, and the club as a whole. Nowadays, with social media everything is so instant. Many a time he phoned me up and said bring a box, Albert, and collect the lads’ phones. Take the phones off them, he’d say. They’d all complain, but have a laugh with me. But that was the boss’s way of keeping it all within the club.
I laugh at it now when I do see players who have taken a photo on the coach, not only at this club, but other clubs too. Years ago, when little things would get out, Fergie would say, “How the hell did that happen?”
But even he would admit he’d have no chance keeping things within the club now.
RR: Isn’t it part of the club’s wider exposure now to grow the fan base, to allow some of this stuff to go out on social media now?
Well yeah, because that’s the way of the world right now. But I think in many a case, the way it was done before is the way it should be. The fans know too much. I like it the way it used to be. The last tour I went on, when David Moyes was here, one of the girls in marketing came in while I was preparing the kit. “Excuse me, what are you doing? There are no players here” I said. She had a mobile phone in her hand with the video going, and said: “Oh, I’m servicing the Twitter account.” I told her to Twitter off! But that was just the beginning. Sir Alex and I are from a different era.
RR: Did you play much football growing up, and to what standard?
Yes, amateur level, very amateur level. But I got into this job through Norman, not through playing.
RR: You’ve been with the club since 1996, the most successful period in the club’s history. Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes?
Actually, I’ve been at the club since 1993. I’ve been the kit manager since 1996, but I worked with Norman as his apprentice. And, yes, I do pinch myself. Remember, when Norman first started, he worked under Tommy Docherty and all of that lot. They won the off FA Cup, but Norman created the job of kit manager. He put it on the map. He started putting numbers on the kits for training. Then the kit manufacturers used to come in and it evolved where the players had a T-shirt for warming up, a sweatshirt for this and that. Now it’s the £770million deal we’ve just got with Adidas. It’s gone from nothing to that level, in 40 years, which is a big thing.
RR: How close are you to the team? Do you get to know the players quite well?
We get to know the players well. They are a different breed of player nowadays from when I first started. They’re all still very, very nice lads. I can name on one hand the people who I personally found awkward. But you get that in all walks of life. But we’ve been lucky here. We’ve had great lads here. That was one of the things Sir Alex used to go into. No matter how good a player they were, and what his attributes were, he’d go into their background and if he thought there was some baggage he didn’t like he wouldn’t proceed. He’d have a good look at their character. He was no fool there.
RR: Have there been any players over the years with strange kit rituals or superstitions?
One or two. Cantona was one who sticks out. Eric was a different class of player and person. He had little rituals. He always wanted the same pair of socks. Washed, mind you! He had a black pair and a white pair, depending on which kit we were wearing but he always wanted the same pair. He also always used to put salt inside his socks. I never found out why! I used to call him salt and vinegar feet…to myself!
RR: It must be difficult when players leave?
It’s terrible. That’s the worst part of the job. I’ve had more players cry on my shoulder than anything. You do shed a tear. That’s the sad part. It’s when they leave this great club. No matter what the circumstances. When you spend the amount of time as the staff do with the players, some of them are almost like your family. They knew they could trust me, like Sir Alex knew he could trust me. I’m proud of the trust I’ve had from the players all through the years. Since I’ve retired, I’ve had many offers to do a book. I’ll never do that. What’s happened has happened. Not a lot has happened, but it goes no further. I’d never betray trust. People say that I must have loads of funny stories. Yes, I have, and I tell those that I can in my role as an ambassador, or when I work in the Platinum Suite. But I very rarely mention names. But I won’t do a book. No way would I want to get anyone into any trouble. I want to be able to walk into Manchester United until the day I die, with my chest out and my head held high. I’m proud to still be involved in the club, and that’s the way I want it to stay.
RR: I found a video of you on YouTube, greeting Ronaldo when he came back here with Real Madrid. It looked like an emotional reunion. Is he your favourite and, if not, who is?
A kit man can never have favourites, but you just get involved with certain people. The old gang, the class of ’92, they would say that me and Peter Schmeichel were joined at the hip. Peter and I are great friends, as I am with all the boys. But the attention I had to give Peter was one step above anything, because he was so demanding. All of the lads latched onto it and gave banter. But there have been loads of lovely guys here. Beckham is a big friend of mine, Scholesy, Nicky Butt.. I love him to bits. Patrice Evra, Ronaldo… Me and Ronaldo text each other most weeks. They’re almost like sons. I’m involved with the legends games that we run, and when some of the lads come back they’ll always have a bit of banter. “Aye, aye, Albert,” they’ll say. “Are you still alive!” Brilliant! When I had a heart bypass, they all came in to see me. One of the lads came in with three pieces of wood in his hand. “Which one of these do you want for your coffin?” He joked. It’s been a good laugh. Banter gets you through.
RR: Just going back to Ronaldo. There’s the famous Nike advert with you wearing Ronaldo’s kit. Did you do all your own stunts?
[Laughs] What are you trying to say, that I can’t kick a football? I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions. It was great fun, though. The number of kids when it first came out who came up to me was incredible. They asked me to show them how to do keepy-uppys!
RR: If you could relive any moments or specific periods of time from your career, what would they be?
If I could relive the month before we won the league, FA Cup and Champions league in 1999. That month was unbelievable and we’ve had many a good moment after. The place was just buzzing. The adrenaline, you could taste it and smell it. I had that much going through my head, I don’t know how I did it. I had a good team with me and we all worked hard, but it was amazing. I remember the match at home when we won the league against Tottenham. Spurs went 1-0 up and Becks levelled before half-time. I remember the boss at half-time telling Teddy Sheringham he was coming off. Teddy’s face was a picture. He wasn’t happy. But Sir Alex said that Andy Cole will go and get us the win… and he duly obliged. Then it was the FA Cup final in the build-up to the Champions League final in Barcelona. You just knew we were going to win the FA Cup against Newcastle that day. We could have played Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle all together at Wembley, and we would have won. We were that confident and playing well. We never really got out of second gear and won 2-0. That night we went to have a relax together and the manager gave the most unbelievable speech. Even now, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it. He got a standing ovation. We went to Barcelona on the Monday. We went out on Concorde. We didn’t play all that well in the final, but even going into those last three minutes you knew something was going to happen. When it did, and we won it, it was just magical. We won it in 2008, which was great because we were playing Chelsea and there was the dramatic end with the penalties. But 1999 took some whacking.
RR: Any bad memories?
We’ve had a few disappointments, like against Leverkusen in the semi-final of the Champions League in 2002. We had the chance to play Real Madrid in the final in Glasgow, and Sir Alex wanted that. I mean really wanted that. He wanted to go to Glasgow with his team, but it just didn’t happen and we were gutted. It was a bad night. That was one of the big hurts. I’d put that on a par with when Man City won the Premier League. We were playing in Sunderland, and just as our game had finished Aguero got that lucky goal and they won it. But the highs far outdo the lows in my job.
RR: Have you kept much memorabilia — shirts or whatever and, if so, what are your favourites?
No, not really. I’ve got a few pictures. Sir Alex gave me a nice painting of the Champions League final in Moscow, but I’ve not got much else.
RR: Finally, there have been a couple of spelling mistakes on shirts over the years, most notably “Andesron” and “Beckam”. Do you get the blame for those?
The Beckham one, we used to have the shirts shipped out to get the printing done. That day, Becks was on the bench and I used to take two long-sleeve and two short-sleeve to the game. Out of the four shirts I took, I was unlucky to pick the one that was spelt wrong. When Sir Alex told him he was going on, and he took his sweatshirt off, I could have died. I was sat right behind him and I saw it then. It was too late then. You check the shirts, but you become word blind!
Then, with Anderson, that was another when an outside source did it. I remember Tomasz Kuszczak, too. He nearly killed me once. There was a “Z” missing on one of his shirts once. He was getting texts and emails from all over, so he went mad about it.
We do the printing now.