Thursday, 29 September 2016

Integrity And Entrapment

I know almost NOTHING about football. I am rather glad that my spouse doesn't feel the need to watch Match of the Day every week, or spend £400 p.a. for a season ticket. As far as I can recall, I have watched only two games in their entirety in my entire life.
The first was the World Cup in 1966. We were invited as a family to the Archers Farm for tea [not not them, this was a real family who belonged to our church] so we could view the game on their big TV. I can only remember that England won, the cakes were good, and someone taught my little brother to whistle.
Ten years later I watched the FA Cup. Second Division Southampton were playing the mighty Man United. I was at Uni, and I seem to recall it was some sort of student get together. I can only remember that the underdogs won, and their manager was a Geordie called Lawrie McMenemy.
I think the commentator hadn't got much background on this man - he kept saying "Lawrie McMenemy, a man of great integrity" over and over. It was as if there was no other interesting fact he could share with us.
I later discovered he was an ex-Coldstream Guard, and had been a professional footballer till injury ended that career and he became a coach. 
A few months ago, he published his autobiography "A Lifetime's Obsession" 
Sitting for an hour in a traffic jam on the M3 on Tuesday night, I listened to interminable sports 'pundits' on the BBC discussing Sam Allardyce and his fall from grace. This man was earning THREE MILLION POUNDS A YEAR - that's £8000 a DAY - in one week, his salary was the equivalent to that of the average Brit working for two years. That's a lot of money. But clearly not enough - because Mr A was caught trying to earn another £400,000 by nefarious means.
I wouldn't recognise SA if I met him in the street. His comment following his departure from the job of managing the England Football Team was "Entrapment has won". No I don't think so. Decency, honesty and integrity have beaten cheating and greed. He is probably feeling 'totally gutted' and 'sick as a parrot' at being found out, and losing his high paid job. Well, tough!
According to the BBC, it has been his lifetime's ambition to be England Manager - and he will go down in history as the man who held the post for the shortest time, and who threw it away in a moment of naive avarice.
Lawrie McMenemy has called his book 'A Lifetime's Obsession' - he too has devoted his career to 'the beautiful game', and was at one point assistant manager of the England team. But how different their paths have been.
And as I sat in the traffic queue, I found myself wondering this - 40 years ago, when the BBC chap kept referring to his 'great integrity', may be it wasn't that LM was such a colourless guy that they couldn't find any trivia to report. Perhaps it was that when the researcher prepared the notes beforehand, everyone who was asked said things like "He's a good bloke""You can always trust him""Real integrity" "Honest as the day is long" etc. It seems that the key thing about his character was that he was a man of good character.
I found an article online, written in the Independent, 20 years after Lawrie's golden day at Wembley. 
In an age when football is fast losing touch with its traditional roots there is still a place for big characters who know about life beyond the corner flags and try to instil a sense of perspective in young players. McMenemy feels there is a moral dimension to the job as well. "All clubs are an integral part of society," he said. "I was struck by aerial shots of St James' Park ,surrounded by streets. Now it's not as if the stadium was just plonked down in the middle of them. It arrived with the houses... It was a place where people came to get away from the drudgery of daily life. That's always been the message I've tried to hammer home to players, that they're privileged to be able to do what they do."

When McMenemy was manager of Grimsby Town in the early 1970s he took the team to the docks one morning to give them a taste of the trawlermen's lives. At Southampton, the players were on a rota for visits to local organisations and charities. McMenemy is heavily involved in such causes. "I'm a great believer that if you've been in a town a long time and you're invited to do something for the community then you should do it. It's not a question of being a do-gooder. But if someone thinks it would help their cause to stick my name on it then who am I to say no?"
If English football is going to have a part on the world stage, we need more like McMenemy, people of great integrity - and fewer who are motivated by personal ambition and greed. 


  1. Interesting post. I too have no interest in football. I think the player are way over paid for kicking about a bag of wind.
    It seems to me that all managers could learn a lot from LM.

  2. Couldn't agree more. Pure hubris with these types.

  3. SO well said. I feel exactly the same. To be honest, I loathe football and I'm so grateful that Chris also has no interest in it. I think the lack of integrity of so many of these players is setting a shocking example, thus it makes me happy to hear of this player. I always liked David Seaman, he seemed like a good chap too.Xx

  4. I have loved football since I was a child and have found all this quite distressing. My beautiful game being swallowed up by the money men. I'm glad he got found out


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