Grimsby Town legend Lawrie McMenemy reunited with members of famed league-winning side of 1972
"I will never forget what this club did for me – I enjoyed the happiest time of my career here."
Those were the words of Grimsby Town legend Lawrie McMenemy, as he returned to Blundell Park for a very special reunion.
The manager of the 1972 league-winning side visited Cleethorpes as the guest of honour for the event, which was organised by the Mariners Trust to raise money for the club's Youth set-up.
In the bar that still bears his name, McMenemy was reunited with members of that team, as well as fans who sung his name from the terraces exactly 40 years ago.
Urgently seeking two / four bedroom properties for our lengthy list of possible suitable tenants with the lowest fees in town and excellent turn around rate for sourcing and managing.
Terms: Terms and Conditions Apply
Contact: 01472 355 553
Valid until: Thursday, June 20 2013
And speaking to the Telegraph, the 76-year-old former Southampton boss and England number two said it had been an emotional return.
"I was always looking forward to coming back but it really hit me when I came through the door of the bar and saw my name on the wall" he said.
"I remember getting a call a few years ago asking if the club could name the bar after me and I am still absolutely flattered and astounded by that gesture.
"I've been back a few times since then but it's been lovely to come back again. I walked into the boardroom and saw so many familiar faces from the 1972 team and it was marvellous to see them all again. Although it's been 40 years it really doesn't seem that long – it's brought back so many memories.
"The reception that we all got from the fans as we entered the room was fantastic and it was quite emotional," he added.
McMenemy first took over at Blundell Park in May 1971, just days after being sacked by Doncaster Rovers.
He inherited a small squad of just 12 players, but, under his stewardship, that tight-knit group grew into a side that was to win both the Fourth Division title and the hearts of the local community.
With goals from the likes of Matt Tees and Stuart Brace, allied with a stellar performances from goalkeeper Harry Wainmain, Dave Boylen, captain Dave Worthington and others, the Mariners won the league by three points from second-placed Southend.
Reflecting on that "fairytale" campaign, McMenemy said: "Within a week of losing my job at Doncaster, mainly because of (Town's former chairman) Paddy Hamilton, who knew me from my time there, I was asked to put in for the Grimsby job, which I got.
"I was told that I would have 12 players to work with and I could have two more, provided they were free transfers.
"We had our first chat together in the changing room, well, we could have had it in the phone box, such was the side of the squad.
"I remember saying to them, 'you know me, I've just got the sack, but I've watched you as well and you didn't do so well either, so you better toe the line because otherwise I've seen the tea lady and she looks a bit quick, so if we need to, her and me will make up the numbers!"
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of McMenemy's tenure is when he took his bleary-eyed squad on an early-morning trip to the docks to meet some of Grimsby Town's fans hard at work.
And, looking back, the boss said it was a trip that served his squad well over the course of the campaign.
"I'd started taking the players out into the community because I'd learnt that the club was an integral part of the area. So I took them down the fish docks to show them the people who were paying their wages.
"I'd become more media aware so I contacted the Grimsby Telegraph, with people like Roy Line and Joe Slater who was there at the time, and it was a decent story for the paper.
"But it also showed the players how hard those people had to work to make enough money to come and watch them play on a Saturday and I never let them forget that.
"That season there was a really strong spirit among the squad –win, lose or draw they ran their legs off for the cause and that's something that sticks out from that squad.
"I think we scored around 100 goals in the league and cup and only lost a handful all season – it was just a fairytale."
Having already clinched promotion with a 1-1 draw with Bury the month before, the Mariners celebrated their league success back at Blundell Park with a re-arranged game against Exeter City.
An incredible 22,489 fans packed into the ground to cheer on their league-winning heroes and it is a day that McMenemy still remembers with great fondness.
"The last game when we celebrated promotion was an amazing day," he said. "There were 22,500 fans in Blundell Park that afternoon – I remember going into the referee's room to put the teams in and their manager was late because their coach couldn't get through the crowds!
"I knew when I saw the crowd that we'd won it that day. I remember saying to their manager, 'you've got no chance – the crowd will win it today', and that's the way it was. It just shows the effect it can have when the community gets behind this club.
"It was just an amazing time – for people to still be talking about one season, 40 years on, is absolutely phenomenal and I'm delighted to have been part of that and to be remembered for it – it makes me very proud."
McMenemy's return to Blundell Park coincided with his former club going top of the Blue Square Bet Premier with their 3-0 win over Braintree on Saturday.
And the former boss said he's delighted to see his old side doing well, and called on the community to get behind Rob Scott and Paul Hurst side, just as they did for his, 40 years ago.
He said: "I'm delighted that Grimsby are flying high in their league at the minute.
"The community really needs to get behind them now. When I look back to that last game of the season in 1972, to walk out to all those fans meant the game was already won for us – it just shows what the team meant to the community and vice versa.
"I know what this club means to this community – people from this Town won't go anywhere else.
"People will come, like they did in 1972, and I'm sure that will happen again.
"If the word gets round the Town that the lads are doing well and giving 100 per cent then people will take to it and get behind it.
He added: "I look out for Grimsby's results every weekend, and I'd be here to watch them all the time if I could – I'd happily pay for a ticket every week.
"I've been very fortunate throughout my career, but the happiest time for me and my family, was at Grimsby – I'll never forget what this club did for me."