Ha’way back when: Delight as Lawrie McMenemy takes Sunderland job

HIGH HOPES: Lawrie McMenemy
HIGH HOPES: Lawrie McMenemy
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Sunderland’s ultimately fruitless attempts to finalise a deal with Derek McInnes had echoes of a high-profile managerial capture from years gone by.

Someone will eventually take the job, and whoever it is, fans will be hoping his time in the hotseat is no repeat of that of Lawrie McMenemy!

Here’s a look back at the start of his ill-fated time at Roker Park ...

Len Ashurt was sacked from the Sunderland hotseat in May 1985 after relegation from the top flight - and chairman Tom Cowie set his sights on the Southampton boss.

McMenemy’s reputation was glowing - he had led the Saints to runners-up in the top flight in 1984 and they had finished fifth in 1985 before resigning from the job.

On July 3, the Echo’s Geoff Storey reported: “Sunderland chairman Tom Cowie plans to disrupt Lawrie McMenemy’s holiday in America within the next 48 hours in an attempt to finally install the former Southampton manager in the Roker hotseat.

“McMenemy jetted off to Florida for a family break with a fabulous package offer from the Roker supremo tucked away in his luggage.

“There has been no contact - which was the initial agreement between the pair - but Mr Cowie now plans to make a transatlantic call to appoint a successor for the sacked Len Ashurst.

“Contrary to reports that the 48-year-old former Guardsman had returned to his luxury Hampshire home, he is still relaxing in the American sunshine pondering his future.

“McMenemy is believed to have been offered a lucrative four-year deal which would make him one of the best paid managers in the Football League.”

The deal was finally done - it was over three years and believed to be worth £500,000 - and Cowie was delighted.

The Echo reported: “Sunderland chairman Tom Cowie, often criticised for hiring and firing at Roker Park, is looking forward to a family holiday knowing he has finally got it right.

“The rousing recepton new manager Lawrie McMenemy received on his arrival yesterday brought beams of delight from the motor magnate whose perseverence has finally paid dividends.

“This is a very happy day for me,” said Mr Cowie. “This is a guy I have always wanted since I met him seven years ago. He turned me down them but we have remained friends and I was aghast when I heard he was available again.

“Lawrie has such charisma and personality that he appeals to everyone - even grandmothers. It makes such a difference when you have one of your own to identify with supporters.”

McMenemy said: “Everything is possible if we get stuck into it. I am not on an ego trip, that is long gone and I’m not here to project my image.

“It is not tragic that Sunderland are in the second division, it is a matter of fact. We are not big because we are not in the big league. There is no divine right.”

Of course, McMenemy did get Sunderland out of the division - but the wrong way.

His first season was a shock battle against relegation, finishing 18th out of 22 teams, just four points off the drop.

The 1986-1987 season saw Sunderland drop down to the third tier of English football for the first time - though McMenemy had jumped ship in April, before relegation was confirmed by a play-off defeat against Gillingham under the caretaker management of Bob Stokoe.