Belfast Telegraph

Seriously, I do feel for Lawrie

By Steven Beacom

At around 10am on Friday, I received a call from England to tell me that Fulham had given Lawrie Sanchez the sack. About 30 minutes later, Fulham made the official announcement.

It had been coming with Fulham sliding into the bottom three and Mohamed al Fayed is not a man to wait around.

Ask Chris Coleman, who Sanchez replaced last season.

I thought Coleman was unfortunate to be booted out because at the time - in April - Fulham were four points ABOVE the relegation zone.

Lawrie, then Northern Ireland manager, was appointed on a short-term basis. His record last season wasn't brilliant but he did manage to do what Coleman had done previously and keep Fulham safe. Lawrie was then offered a full-time deal.

Not surprisingly, he accepted, taking the big salary that went with it and left the Northern Ireland post several months before his deal with the IFA was due to expire - something he said that he would never do.

Sanchez, hugely popular with the Green and White Army and rightly so for what he did for our wee country, lost some respect for walking away like that.

But more than half a year on, there are many, many supporters who would welcome him back as Northern Ireland boss.

And unless Nigel Worthington signs his new deal with the IFA soon, momentum for that particular scenario will grow amongst the fans. Can't see it happening though, especially with Howard Wells at the IFA.

Howard and Lawrie weren't exactly bosom buddies.

And, of course, Lawrie wasn't best pals with the media here in his latter days as Northern Ireland manager, although if he did return as national team boss I'd give him a warm welcome.

He was magnificent for us. Those Windsor wins over England, Spain and Sweden and the celebrations that followed will never be forgotten. Nor will the sense of pride he instilled in the players and indeed the nation.

I'm constantly asked about Sanchez because I'm seen as the media man who had the biggest beef with him. I wasn't and actually got on with him better than most. Our relationship suffered when I broke the explosive story last year that Lawrie told the IFA he was quitting after the victory over Spain.

He changed his mind and returned although that didn't stop me being considered public enemy number one by some of the fans. And Lawrie did nothing to alter that opinion.

When you hear hundreds chanting: "If you hate Steven Beacom, clap your hands," being sung at a football ground (Copenhagen), it hits home.

Despite that I was sad to see him go because I knew that our chance of going to Euro 2008 went with him, even though I must say Worthington has done a decent job, since his appalling team selection and tactics in Latvia and Iceland, and deserves a crack at the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Now Lawrie has been sacked by Fulham. The pay-off will ease the pain, but knowing Lawrie, a man with a massive ego, his pride will be hurt.

I feel for anyone who loses their job and that includes Lawrie, because I had hoped he would be a success as that would benefit the four Northern Ireland players - David Healy, Steve Davis, Aaron Hughes and Chris Baird - that he brought to the club and in turn that would help our wee country.

I just hope they impress the new Fulham boss quickly otherwise their futures may lie away from the Premiership.

And I hope Sanchez dusts himself down and gets back into management. The turkey won't taste as nice because Lawrie will be gutted that his Premiership dream turned into a nightmare, but I genuinely hope he and the rest of you enjoy a magical Christmas.

Belfast Telegraph


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