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Lawrie McMenemy MBE: oration

Read Professor Ian Butler's oration on Lawrie McMenemy MBE for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in December 2015.


Vice-Chancellor, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and the congregation Lawrie McMenemy who was one of the most successful managers in post-war English football. He was born into a large family in Gateshead, County Durham, and started to play his football on the cobbled streets of The Avenues before graduating to the park at the end of his road to play with the older boys. He passed his 11+ and attended St Cuthbert’s Grammar School in Newcastle. While doing his National Service in the Coldstream Guards he suffered an injury that ended his ambitions to be a professional footballer with Newcastle United.

Instead, once out of the army, he worked in the Education Department of the local authority whilst playing his football with Gateshead. He started coaching at Gladstone Terrace Youth Club and from there, in 1961, became Trainer Coach at Gateshead.

In 1964 he was appointed manager of Bishop Auckland and transformed them from a struggling side into Northern League champions. He then moved to Sheffield Wednesday as a coach before landing his ‘big break’ as manager of Doncaster Rovers where he remained until May 1971 when he became manager of Grimsby Town, winning divisional championships at both clubs. In 1973, he became manager of Southampton.

Whilst at Grimsby, Lawrie took his players to the docks to see the working lives of those who paid his players’ wages at the turnstiles to remind them of how privileged they were to be professional footballers. He took his deep sense of civic and moral obligations to Southampton and insisted his players played their part in the local community. I was a direct beneficiary of this as the University Football Club, for which I played, was coached by Southampton first team players.

I used to watch ‘the Saints’, without paying, from the balcony of Overdell Court - a University Hall of Residence - during some of the best years of Lawrie’s time at Southampton, including in 1976 when the club achieved its highest ever league position and beat Manchester United in the FA Cup. I am sure that Lawrie remembers, as I do, Jack Charlton’s prediction of a 6-0 win for Man Utd!

Lawrie left Southampton in 1986 to join Sunderland and in 1990 he became England’s assistant manager. In 1993, Lawrie returned to Southampton in a new position as Director of Football and remained with the club until 1998 when he was appointed manager of Northern Ireland.

Lawrie retired from managing in 2000 and since then has concentrated on his role as FA special ambassador. In 2004, he became Chairman of the Special Olympics, the country’s largest provider of year-round sports training and competition programmes for children and adults with learning disabilities. He is now the organisation’s President and in that role we as a University are very pleased to work with him. The University of Bath provided the main venue for the Bath 2013 Special Olympics GB National Summer Games, hosting nine of the 12 participating sports.

Lawrie is involved with several charities in Hampshire where he lives and at a national level. He is a Patron of the Alzheimer's Disease Association and works with Scope, the NSPCC and the National Autistic Society. He is also on the committee of Outward Bound and a trustee of the Peter Osgood Trust, which works with underprivileged children through sport.

This is the biography of a man who is held in great affection by those who know him; who recognises his civic and moral obligations; a leader who can make the best out of the circumstances in which he finds himself and who can bring out the best in others; someone who leads by example and someone who has achieved exceptional success.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Lawrie McMenemy who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Professor Ian Butler

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