An Interview with Alan Keegan ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’

Alan Keegan with Dennis Law

Alan Keegan has been the stadium announcer at Manchester United for over 10 years and has seen many changes at the club in that time.

I recently sat down with ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’ halfway through the 2011/12 season, which is his thirteenth with the Reds.

  • How did you become involved with Manchester United?

I’ve always been interested in sport on the whole, specifically Manchester United and football. If we’re looking at a pathway, when I was younger I did a lot of radio work and in the early days I worked for Manchester City and specifically their Junior Blues. It was a case of getting involved with a sport that I loved and the fact that I supported Manchester United was irrelevant at that time. I was just pleased to be involved with a football club; it didn’t matter if it was Backstreet Wonders as long as it was somebody I could just involve myself with. As a result of work with City’s Junior Blues I stepped in for James H.

Reeve, who was a prominent broadcaster in the Manchester area at the time. He used to host the Junior Blues once a month during the season for nine months and coming up to Christmas he dropped out as he had other things on his agenda. I got asked, to cut a long story short, two people recommended me and I ended up doing it for Ian Niven who was the chairman of the Junior Blues at the time and I was a bit concerned as I was a Man United fan. But I made it clear to him that I would be professional.

Then one thing let to another, where I remained at City for a number of years, and then they asked me to do the warm up on the pitch for the main announcer which I willingly did. It was a great step up for me and really boosted my confidence because I was talking in front of, at the time I think City’s capacity at Maine Road was 38,000 and it was packed every week. That was good training for me and their announcer left and I got his job, so it was over a period of years and I was always professional at Manchester City.

At the end of the day I had a great time at City, it was a fantastic stepping-stone for me and I was very grateful for the break. As a result of that I started working at Manchester United in corporate hospitality hosting their rooms. Then the Man United announcer at the time was leaving and United found out that the guy who did City was a United fan, maybe we should interview him and the rest is history. I got the job at the club that I love.

  • You’ve been at Manchester United now for over ten years, how has your job changed in that time?

It’s changed quite a lot actually as the part of the stadium announcer’s pre-match build up is now aimed at the commercial side and the sponsorship because nearly every match is sponsored by one of the companies at the club. For example one match it maybe Nike, the next it could be AON or Audi so there’s a lot of engagement with the sponsors at Old Trafford and partially with presentations. So over the years, what were just general announcements about the club and tickets, which we still do, it now has a bigger impact with the sponsorship side both pre-match and at half time. You’ll have a half time activity which might be a penalty shoot-out or it might just be a presentation so the role has changed considerably.

My role has also changed because I do a lot of events outside of the match days now as an announcer role. For example in the summer I went on tour with the team for the three weeks to America with my role being very much engaged with hosting the corporate events with the sponsors. DHL came on board and they had a lot of activity, especially during half time for the first three games, so there’s a lot of interaction and activity which I’m involved in.

  • Do you have any interesting stories from your time at Manchester United which you can tell?

Well there’s always interesting stories when you work in the public domain, and you’re doing an announcing job there’s always going to be situations which occur that are always funny on the back of a mishap, and there’s been many of them. I’ve had quite a few mishaps in the last ten years but you’re experience takes you through. There’s been a few funny stories, for example, Teddy Sheringham came back to the club when he was playing for Spurs, he was substituted and due to force of habit he went to go into the United dugout and as I stand next to the dugout on a match day, I just gave him the nod and said Teddy you’re over there. The lads were saying you should have let him come up, it would have been even funnier and maybe I should have as it would have bee very funny.

Then you’ve got the scenario, because of where I’m positioned on a match- day, when Arsene Wenger kicked the water bottle and the referee sent him to the stands. He ended up going on to the presentation platform and it we had this glorious picture of him with his arms out. So there’s all those funny situations, Sir Alex is brilliant when you do any events with him, he’s absolutely fantastic. He’s such a fan of the club, I know he’s the manager but he’s a fan as well which comes across and what he doesn’t know about United’s not worth talking about.

Arsene Wenger stands in front of the Old Trafford crowd
  • You’ve been described as ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’, how does it feel to be associated with a ground which boasts over a hundred years of history and with Manchester United?

It’s an honour, a privilege. It’s absolutely fantastic because I’m Manchester born and bred. I consider it a privilege to be called ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’, they did a day in the life of me a number of years ago on DVD and the section was called ‘the Voice of Old Trafford’ and it’s sort of stuck. It’s brilliant, I love it, I’m a Manchester United fan and I celebrate like a fan when we score a goal, really there should be a bit of me which is impartial because of where I am but I can’t help it.

I never ever bore of what I do, every match day’s different. It’s just a dream come true, it’s the ultimate dream job. I love the fact I’ve had some great times in the time I’ve been the announcer as a supporter of United as I remember when we got relegated and the Tommy Docherty era where Stevie Coppell and Gordon Hill . Two wingers playing great football and winning promotion but like I say it’s a dream job.

  • You spoke about Sir Alex Ferguson, what are your opinions of the United manager who recently turned 70-years-old and what he’s achieved, and still achieving in his career?

Unbelievable. His energy, his enthusiasm. I’ve been fortunate enough, like I say, to have worked at the club for thirteen seasons and had a lot of interaction with Sir Alex because you’re doing presentations with him, you’re doing the corporate events and it never ceases to amaze me, his energy. I think that’s the ultimate compliment I can give him; he’s always energised and very active in the club, and proactive with what he wants to achieve. I think the beauty of Sir Alex is he’s the leader, he’s the man that we follow and you know at the end of the day, he’s 70-years-old but he certainly doesn’t look it in my opinion and doesn’t act like it.

I think that the team and the club but particularly the team, the way he’s rebuilt it over the years, they keep him youthful. I think he’s had to change as the years have developed and he’s moved with the changes, that’s the key to his success. If you think back to when he first joined, the main basis of the team was British players, as such and over time you’ve got the foreign input of players and he’s gone with those changes and adapted. He’s just absolutely fantastic and long may it continue.

Sir Alex Ferguson
  • What are your opinions on the current title race which appears to be between your former employees Manchester City and United?

It’s fantastic for Manchester overall, at the end of the day it’s about us being the capital of football if you like. It’s interesting that it is City because we’ve always had challenges if it be Blackburn with the money that Jack Walker brought in, whether it’s Arsenal, Chelsea with the Roman Abramovich money and we now have another challenge, Man City and Sheikh Mansour’s money. So that challenge will always be there and I think that’s another element which keeps Sir Alex going and motivated because everything’s a challenge.

Obviously with we had the two Champions League finals which we lost to Barcelona but the beauty of Sir Alex is he always goes back and rises to the challenge and I think that’s what City has brought to the table. It’s an interesting time at the moment because of the next six games which the two clubs have, it appears City have the easier matches. We’ve [Manchester United] got a testing time ahead with our schedule, with Liverpool and with Chelsea coming up.

The football cliché is there’s no easy matches, so it’s interesting but we’ve been there before so that will hold is in good stead. As long as you’re only one match behind it’s a good place to be because we’ve got the experience in the club, a manager who knows what it’s like and I think it will go to the wire, I wouldn’t be surprised if it went down to the last day. I just hope it doesn’t go down to goal difference.

Find out more about Alan by visiting his official website.

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My first Sir Alex Ferguson manager press conference

Sir Alex Ferguson
On Tuesday 20 December 2011 I got in contact with Sir Alex Ferguson requesting I could attend one of his weekly manger press conferences at Carrington.

Often held at the end of the week during the season, the event is not open to all press. For students, entry behind the gates of ‘Fortress Carrington’ is extremely rare but much to my delight on Thursday 29th December I received a reply from Sir Alex who gratefully accepted.

The following day (30/12/11) I attended the Manchester United manager’s presser which started at about 9:25am. As Ferguson went to leave following the new conference, I was able to personally thank him for allowing me to attend.

The big news to come out of the news conference was that Chris Smalling is suffering from tonsillitis and not glandular fever which the United defender had suffered from when he was a child. Also Ferguson stated he felt Tottenham were playing the best football in the country at the moment and were serious title contenders. It was made known David De Gea would return in goal for the next two games but the Spaniard was later dropped against Newcastle.

The experience of attending Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s press conference was invaluable. As a trainee journalist and Manchester United employee, it was a huge pleasure to attend my first Ferguson presser. I’m very thankful to Sir Alex and the club’s media team.

Carrington news conference area 
The press conference audio in full:

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