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Roker Roundup: Controversial ex-boss Lawrie McMenemy spills the beans on his time at Sunderland

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Former Sunderland manager Lawrie McMenemy has spilled the beans on his controversial spell in charge on Wearside.

Lawrie McMenemy

McMenemy discusses what went wrong

Sunderland have had many managerial disappointments over the years, perhaps none more so than Lawrie McMenemy.

McMenemy had worked wonders at Southampton, leading them to FA Cup victory in 1976 and making them serious top flight title challengers in the early Eighties before being poached by Tom Cowie in the summer of 1985.

Sunderland had just been relegated to the Second Division but instead of steering the team back to the top flight, he only just avoided relegation to the third tier in his first season and then left the following March, just months before the club dropped into Division Three for the first time in the club’s history.

Speaking to Football CFB, McMenemy recalled how his move to Sunderland transpired and the immediate boardroom strife that he walked into and subsequently made his life at the club difficult:

I was there [Southampton] 12 years, I could have carried on but I was getting a bit too much the same thing day after day and I was running it from top to bottom.

I got a knock on my door one day out of the blue from a man named Mr. Cowie who was the chairman of Sunderland and he came knocking on my door and he said they wanted me up there. In the most unusual way but I went up and, to be fair, I was paid a hell of a lot more than I would have been if I had stayed or even gone anywhere else.

Being in the North East, I went up and it was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life, going up there.

It was down to the boardroom, simple, the boardroom.

I didn’t realise, don’t forget I had been used to a wonderful, wonderful group of directors who were elderly gentlemen, they brought a couple of younger directors in as well to follow on from them. It was run smoothly, very, very nice, wonderful atmosphere in their board meetings, cup of tea afterwards, getting together.

They loved the club and they never interfered in the football side, they always backed the manager and I went up there [Sunderland] and I couldn’t believe after one or two board meetings, there was fighting in the boardroom.

There was one director in particular who was really rough and ready, he thought he represented the man on the terrace. The chairman owned garages and everything, Tom Cowie, he was a very big market man, he spoke a bit more posh than the others and the battle was between the two of them.

I couldn’t believe it because I was in the whole board meeting and things would be talked about and he would shout at the chairman, swear and he’d go on and on and on. The chairman would immediately finish and turn to the secretary - who was a bag of nerves - and he’d say “don’t put that in the minutes”.

That would make him even more annoyed and then they would go on to the next subject, the same sort of thing again “don’t put that in the minutes”, in otherwords not recording the other fella’s comments and then right at the end of the meeting he said “right, that’s it”, the loudmouth one got up and as he’s going out the door he turns round and gives a right mouthful of language and that to the chairman and the chairman turned around to the secretary and says “put that in the minutes”.

I sat there, I could not believe it.

I had taken on a club, the dressing room, the footballing side wasn’t right, there was a few wrong ‘uns in there, compared to what I’d had. I brought other youngsters in, trying to do similar to what I had done at Southampton. I knew it was going to take a long time to sort this out because players are on contracts and you can’t just give them a weeks notice, you had to live with them, and I knew it would take a long time.

But you see I had a big name going back up there, having done the things you said, and the supporters were fabulous, as supporters are but they thought things would change automatically and I would win, win, win but I wasn’t doing it and then with all the troubles in the boardroom, what was happening in the games, the supporters didn’t know that and then they turned on me and they turned on the chairman.

The chairman was so upset and another one took over and one day he and I both came out after a game and our cars had been scratched on the side, so things were really, really going badly.

The dressing room wasn’t right, I couldn’t sort that out in the time I had and it finished up. It was a total loss, from all sides. I agreed to leave, I agreed to leave because the new chairman, basically had a chat with him.

My thing was that I am going to battle this out, stick together, we’ll win, don’t worry I’ll turn it round and he basically said ‘I’m sorry but if you don’t leave, I’ll leave” and I remember that.

So I just resigned. It wasn’t a very happy time at all. I needed more time, put it that way but you can’t tell the man on the terrace that because they think you should win more.

You can listen to the full Football CFB interview with McMenemy by clicking HERE or by pressing play in the player below.


Ruiter on the move

Robbin Ruiter only joined PSV Eindhoven in June of last year but it looks like the former Sunderland goalkeeper will be on the move again.

According to Eindhovens Dagblad (ED), Heerenveen have made a formal offer for 33-year-old, and as he is down the pecking order at the Philips Stadion, Ruiter is said to fancy the move as he does not want to be sitting on the bench.

ED also claim Ruiter is high up on the wanted list of a number of other Eredivisie clubs but the player’s agent is already in discussions with Heerenveen in the hopes of concluding a deal.

Sunderland v Manchester City U21 - Checkatrade Trophy Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images