September 26th 1975

“Did speech in assembly with John – quite a grin. Wore suit – another grin. Had to see Reg dinnertime. PM Lawrie McMenemy – good talk”

As I have written elsewhere “John Sweeney went on to present programmes for the BBC… I went on to watch them”

His broadcasting success can probably all be traced back to the onstage bantering he did weekly with yours truly in 1975/76. To be honest, we didn’t so much ‘banter’ as ‘spar’ with one another, a general misunderstanding of each other’s motives always evident. John played it – as he did in later years presenting his own terrific in-depth investigative journalism – very straight-laced and serious, whilst I approached it purely and utterly for laughs. I wrote ‘scripts’ which basically ripped apart several tutors, fellow students and the Barton Peveril ‘establishment’, scripts which even the weakest Monty Python team would have done little more than blown their noses with.

Looks like this morning, for extra giggle value, I wore my 3-piece blue suit (presumably with collar and tie). Can we say ‘pretentious’?

I can’t be sure why I had to see Reg at lunchtime. Reg was the esteemed headmaster of the college and a man known for his firm hand and bursts of unexpected anger at students. He did not suffer fools gladly but was having to deal with the building’s transition from grammar school to college, so presumably had to change his tact in dealing with older students and the whole seventies ‘hippy’ ethic thereof. To be honest I was initially scared stiff of the bloke as his demeanour could be very intimidating indeed. I don’t know what happened to me when I got into the sixth form but for whatever reason I became somewhat more fearless, hence my onstage ‘perfomances’.

If I was a betting man I would say I was possibly being questioned over my weekly speeches to the college community and perhaps reprimanded for being a little too ‘adult’ with my comments. I will say that if this was the case it – sadly perhaps – only spurred me on further to ‘get away’ with increasingly outrageous remarks. Call it my contribution to ‘student anarchy’.

One of the (many) successes of the College Coffee Club committee was getting Southampton Football Club’s then manager, Lawrie McMenemy, in for a speech and Q&A session with students.

Lawrie was born in 1936 and started his football career with Newcastle United, but never appeared in their first team. An injury ended his playing career but he was keen to then get into management, which is where he found his forte. His first management job was with non-league Bishop Auckland but by the early 70’s he was in charge of more prestigious clubs, Doncaster Rover and Grimsby both of which won the (then) Fourth Division Championship under his command.

He was chosen to replace Southampton’s long-term manager Ted Bates in December 1973 when the team were struggling in the First Division (which is now known as the Premiership). Sadly his first 5 months in charge could not prevent the club from being relegated into the Second Division at the end of the season. (If there can be solace in this, let it be known that one of Southampton’s fellow relegated teams was none other than the so-called ‘mighty’ Manchester United!).

Southampton would linger in the Second Division for a few more years under McMenemy’s tutelage, but he would enjoy massive success with the team in 1976… more of which I shall write about when my diaries roll around to May 1st of that year!

As I recall he was quite the engaging speaker this night in 1975 and it is something he has continued to pursue into his retirement years. We paid him nothing for his services that evening. I suspect he demands a little more these days?

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