Our cherished former manager Lawrie McMenemy may have apologised before for all I know for his part in dumping Sunderland AFC into the Third Division. He’s at it again (or should that be for the first time?). Who can remember those relegation playoffs against Gillingham without wincing, whether they were present or following from afar? And who can forget the nasty taste left in the mouth by McMenenemy’s rotten reign? …
From the man who led Sunderland towards a one-and-only visit to the third tier come an apology and, inevitably, excuses.
As we ponder the remaining issues of the group stage of Euro 2016 – and maybe have a flutter at Online Sportsbook, this will turn our thoughts to dark period in the club’s history. A glacial welcome back into our world, Lawrie McMenemy.
Among the reasons for the mess he left us in, we learn from Lawrie McMenemy’s book A Lifetime’s Obsession, was the mess he found us in when he arrived.
The publisher, Trinity Mirror Sport Media, has promised a PDF of the relevant chapter, dealing with McMenemy’s catastrophic time at the club (June 1985 – April 1987), but this has not yet materialised. More may be added but for now, I will treat the Chronicle’s quotes as accurate.
First the apology for the club’s drop into the Third Division, McMenemy having left with just seven games to go: “I will be eternally sorry that I played a part in that surrender. I am judged as a manager by what happens on the pitch and that was unacceptable at Sunderland.”
Then the self-serving wriggling.
“The Sunderland public don’t know half of what went on behind the scenes and never will unless I write a book,” he writes.
“… There are a couple of misconceptions about my leaving. I was not sacked and I didn’t leave because I thought the club was going to be relegated but for the opposite reason; I thought my departure would give a new manager time to spark the revival I was certain would come.”
McMenemy never endeared himself to Sunderland supporters. There were stories about him being the highest earning manager in English football. There was the irritating matter of him not even living on Wearside while manager, even if that has become commonplace among players and managers alike.
But back to the excuses.
“I knew from my first training session a mountain of work was in front of me. What I saw sauntering past me in their training gear was definitely not normal. The lack of professionalism could not have been more obvious.
“I was looking at a group of 30 players who appeared lacklustre and disinterested as they jogged around, warming up. It was an unusual response to a new manager.”
And those cockroaches and a dilapidated Roker Park? Remembering this is our
dilapidated Roker Park and these were, by extension, our cockroaches.
“Roker Park itself was antiquated,” says McM. “It was in a dreadful mess for a so-called top stadium. It appalled me when I realised just how inadequate and unhygienic it was.
“At night if you turned on the lights in the home dressing room you would stand back and watch in disgust as cockroaches scattered under the benches. The team suffered because of the inadequate facilities and the state of the pitch which had been sand-slitted to help drainage. It was a disgrace. We did not have enough good players to perform well on the country’s best pitches, far less one of the worst.”
And then there was the board. He says his salary was leaked to the press by a director. When Bob Murray replaced Tom Cowie as club chairman support, he felt even less rapport with them upstairs.
Sorry Lawrie, It doesn’t wash.