Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Lawrie Sanchez's new job is all Greek to him

let's hope lawrie's return doesn't end in tears

Golden memories: Lawrie Sanchez led Northern Ireland to several victories during his reign as manager
Golden memories: Lawrie Sanchez led Northern Ireland to several victories during his reign as manager

Lawrie Sanchez. Remember him? Well, the former Northern Ireland boss is back in management after being out of work for a year and a half.

Sanchez has taken charge of struggling Greek Super League outfit Apollon Smyrni – his remit is to save them from relegation.

When announcing the appointment the Greek club pointed out how the 54-year-old had previous in this area, helping Fulham and Barnet avoid the dreaded drop in the past.

Even so, Sanchez didn't last too long at either club.

He took over at Craven Cottage in April 2007 and was sacked before that year was out while he was boss at lowly Barnet for just 11 months.

Sanchez, of course, had an altogether more successful time with Northern Ireland.

When he was appointed, and I know this may be difficult to believe, we were in an even worse place where results were concerned than we are now.

The team couldn't win or score (that infamous goalless run lasted 1298 minutes).

In came Sanchez and a transformation.... the team started scoring, well David Healy anyway, and winning, enjoying a remarkable run of results that the Green and White Army will never forget.

It wasn't all rosy with desperate home defeats to Iceland and Canada and dismal draws in Barbados and Malta thrown in, but overall the great outweighed the bad with Lawrie leading what was a well drilled side to a number of stunning victories.

The spectacular successes over England in 2005 and Spain in 2006 at Windsor Park, thanks to the goalscoring heroics of that man Healy, remain two of this nation's most celebrated sporting memories.

The fans loved him, but Sanchez's relationship with the media was frostier than Antarctica on Christmas Day.

I got on him with better than most, but that changed when I broke the story the morning after the win over Spain that he had told the Irish FA he wanted to leave.

A few days later he declared that he had decided to stay, suggesting he did so because of the support of the fans and despite the unfair criticism from the media who operated in a 'climate of negativity'.

Let's just say those words didn't do football writers, who reported on the national team, any favours and this one in particular took a Lawrie load of flak from the fans.

Regardless, I still wanted to see the Northern Ireland team do well and they continued to progress, actually going top of their Euro 2008 group.

Qualification for a major tournament for the first time since 1986 was on.

Then, Fulham came in for Sanchez in April 2007 to take over until the end of the season.

At the time he said he wouldn't leave Northern Ireland high and dry and would see out the Euro campaign. When the London outfit offered him a permanent deal, having steered them clear of trouble, the bright lights of the Premier League – and a more lucrative contract – lured him away.

Nigel Worthington became Northern Ireland boss and we didn't make it to the Euro finals. Bar a triumph here and there, we have been struggling ever since... much like Lawrie who was sacked by Fulham, unemployed for four years until Barnet came calling and only now is back in work after another lengthy period on the sidelines.

He didn't help himself by breaking the managerial code, touting himself for a return to be Northern Ireland boss with Nigel Worthington still in the job!

Later Sanchez, quite rightly, admitted he was wrong to do that.

Now he's back in the game, aiming to restore a reputation that has taken a battering in his last two managerial posts.

It won't be easy. Apollon, having amassed just eight points in their first 11 matches, are in 16th place in an 18 team league led by Roy Carroll's Olympiakos. The bottom three are relegated.

Sanchez's first game in charge is on Saturday at home to OFI Crete, who are just above Apollon in the table.

Lawrie is the third manager of the club this season. His predecessor lasted a month!

If successful, the fans will see him as a Greek god, which he would enjoy, but failure and there will be a touch of Greek tragedy about the whole scenario.

I would imagine given the glory nights during his reign, most Northern Ireland fans will wish him well. I do too. Life's too short..

I can't speak for the rest of the media though!

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