‘Why I Left Manchester United’

Former Manchester United man Ollie Gill on his choice to go from Red Devils to Durham Economics.

Alex Ferguson durham economic Football nani ollie gill youth team

Ask most boys their childhood dream and walking onto Old Trafford with Wayne Rooney on the flanks to the roar of 76,000 fans is a regular feature. Stewing in a packed lecture hall at Elvet Riverside, drawing Demand Curves as last night’s bottle of Tesco Value Gin winds it’s way through your innards, not so much.

But this is the choice that Economics fresher, Ollie Gill, made when he turned down a professional contract for Manchester United, to study Economics at Durham. Ollie, who is the son of the club’s Chief Executive David Gill, was voted the Red Devil’s reserve team player of the year (previous winners include Darren Fletcher and Giuseppe Rossi) and had made the subs bench for a number of United’s outings before opting for a shot at uni life.

Durham One caught up with the 21-year-old Cuths student for a quick chat at the Swan. For someone who spent their formative years in one of the world’s largest football clubs, brushing shoulders with the greats, he was remarkably down to earth. If you were hoping for Durham’s own Super Mario Balotelli, setting off fireworks in the bogs and amassing parking tickets on the Bailey, you might have to wait. He’s still trying to get his gown on.

What was it like working under the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, any hairdryer incidents?

It’s funny because Fergie has this reputation for being quite an angry guy but I never saw him lose it. You’d spot him around training and he’d come up occasionally and ask how everything was, especially with the younger players. He gave me a lot of advice on behaviour off the pitch and not indulging too much in the party lifestyle.

How was the United Dressing Room?

It was very professional, there’s a winning mentality and confidence embedded in all the players. You have people like Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney who command a lot of attention and then there’s your Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs who won’t say much but when they do, everyone listens. There is a huge amount of self belief in the team, I remember when we went in at half-time 2-0 down and Fergie came in and said calmly that if we scored the next goal, we would win. The game finished 3-2 to United.

Why did you choose to come to Durham over a potentially successful football career?

I loved my time at Manchester United but any football player hoping to make it big is taking a huge risk. You hear stories about an injury that ruins a career or people who just don’t make it and succeeding at a team like Manchester United is extremely tough. My future just wasn’t at United. Last year I deferred my UCAS offer to continue playing football but I would have been loaned out this season and I chose to accept Durham instead. Plus, studying Economics at somewhere like Durham gives me a lot more career options. That being said, I haven’t ruled out being a footballer.

Has being the son of Manchester United’s CEO affected your time there?

Not at all, obviously some players will occasionally joke about it but it’s all light-hearted. I read a story somewhere that, during the unrest over the Glazier ownership, some of the fans had turned their attention to me because of my dad’s relationship with the Glaziers. But everyone who I met was hugely supportive and fortunately I never bumped into any of those red-blooded fans.

What’s it like going from Old Trafford to Maiden Castle?

Well perhaps playing for the Durham first team, the standard is slightly lower but we have a great coach and the training sessions are actually quite similar. There’s a lot less pressure and more of a social element. You go out a lot more as a team whereas with United that was only once or twice a season (The Daily Star will fill you in on more details). Durham have started off well with two wins out of two and promotion is definitely on the cards.

Do you still keep in touch with the United team?

Fergie stays in touch to see how I am and I was friends with people like Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney, who could empathise with me as a young player coming up. I have a few of their numbers but some people in my college stole my phone on a night out and started ringing all of them, I think Nani picked up.