Lou Macari turns 75 on Friday and without a doubt his continues to be a life well lived.

For those of us who have watched a lot of football down the years, it’s still possible to recall him playing. A short, stocky, clever and rather rumbustious attacker, Celtic, Manchester United and Scotland all benefited from the fire that burned within.

He was a decent manager, too. Especially at Stoke City in a town that continues to benefit from a stubborn, determined streak that has always run right through the middle of him.

For it is not his football that Macari will be remembered for in North Staffordshire. Not anymore. No, it’s for his unstinting efforts to alleviate the plight of Stoke-on-Trent’s homeless population that has set Macari apart in recent years.

I was talking to an old friend this week who does some work at the Macari Centre, the facility that provides shelter for up to 28 young people who otherwise would have nowhere to go. He’s known Macari a long time and was happy to report that nothing has changed.

Legendary former Man United star and West Ham manager Lou Macari turns 75 on Friday

Legendary former Man United star and West Ham manager Lou Macari turns 75 on Friday

Legendary former Man United star and West Ham manager Lou Macari turns 75 on Friday 

The Scot's teams always benefited from a determined streak that has always run right through the middle of him

The Scot's teams always benefited from a determined streak that has always run right through the middle of him

The Scot’s teams always benefited from a determined streak that has always run right through the middle of him

Macari set up the the Macari Centre, which provides shelter for up to 28 young people who otherwise would have nowhere to go

Macari set up the the Macari Centre, which provides shelter for up to 28 young people who otherwise would have nowhere to go

Macari set up the the Macari Centre, which provides shelter for up to 28 young people who otherwise would have nowhere to go

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‘Lou’s still the same,’ he said.

‘Still as committed as ever. Still determined to solve the problem.

‘Still getting his hands dirty, still getting things done.’

And this is the thing about Macari. This has never been a vanity project. It started ten years ago when he simply got fed up seeing the homeless on the streets of Stoke from his car window. He has always been ‘all in’, often sleeping at the centre in its early days. Mopping up, working in the kitchen, providing counsel, breaking up the odd fight and even delivering the occasional lecture. He was always big on tough love as a manager and nothing has changed in that regard.

What is beyond comprehension, however, is that Macari has never been recognised for his work. In an age when honours are dished out like confetti, Macari still has no letters after his name, nothing to indicate that his unstinting contribution has been acknowledged outside the four walls that carry his name above the door.

There are some theories about why Macari continues to be overlooked in the New Year’s list. The most common goes that he has upset the local authority with some of the things he has said about the lack of government provision for the very people he has made it his later life’s work to serve. Another is that he’s been overlooked for too long and to honour him now would merely draw attention to the fact.

Whatever the case, it’s disgraceful. This week has been all about the England national team as they prepare for the European Championships in Germany. With that in mind, the England manager Gareth Southgate has an OBE. His captain Harry Kane as an MBE. Last weekend the whole squad was visited by England cricket captain Ben Stokes and he has an OBE. Indeed the more you look around, the more you realise how sport tends to be recognised by the honours system just for, well, doing sport.

On the government website detailing each year’s recipients are listed two criteria and they are very simple. You must have ‘made achievements in public life’ or ‘committed to serving and helping the UK’.

The Macari Centre started 10 years ago when the Scot simply got fed up of seeing the homeless on the streets of Stoke

The Macari Centre started 10 years ago when the Scot simply got fed up of seeing the homeless on the streets of Stoke

The Macari Centre started 10 years ago when the Scot simply got fed up of seeing the homeless on the streets of Stoke

Despite his unstinting contribution though Macari is still yet to receive any letters after his name in recognition

Despite his unstinting contribution though Macari is still yet to receive any letters after his name in recognition

Despite his unstinting contribution though Macari is still yet to receive any letters after his name in recognition

Gareth Southgate (left) has an OBE and his captain Harry Kane (right) has an MBE

Gareth Southgate (left) has an OBE and his captain Harry Kane (right) has an MBE

Gareth Southgate (left) has an OBE and his captain Harry Kane (right) has an MBE 

In January, there were 29 men and women on the list who were connected to sport. They included Stuart Broad, the hockey goalkeeper Maddie Hinch, a race walker called Tom Bosworth, England goalkeeper Mary Earps and a host of chief executives and administrators who have doubtless put in a shift at their laptops over the years.

No place for Macari, though. No place for the bloke with the dirty hands. No recognition of his achievements in football or indeed in the outside world.

In Stoke, where he has long lived, they love him. Football loves him too. I was fortunate enough to be at a League Managers’ Association dinner last year at which he received the inaugural outstanding achievement award .

Macari shared a stage with Pep Guardiola that night. LMA chief executive Richard Bevan described his work as ‘incredible’ even if the man himself looked a little humbled and overawed by it all.

As a player, Macari admits he often let some big decisions be made for him. When he was asked to take a car from Glasgow to England one night in 1973, he didn’t know where he was heading and didn’t ask. It was to Anfield to sign for Liverpool. That night he sat in the stands to watch Liverpool play and the man next to him – United assistant manager Paddy Crerand – told him he should sign for his club instead. So he did.

Over time, though, Macari shook off that young cloak of naivety to shape his own life and now those of so many who arrive at the door of his shelter needing help, direction and love.

He doesn’t need letters after his name for validation. He doesn’t work that way. That doesn’t change the fact that the longer this goes on the more inexplicable and wrong it feels.

Despite continuing to get his hands dirty, he is yet to receive any recognition of his achievements in football or indeed in the outside world

Despite continuing to get his hands dirty, he is yet to receive any recognition of his achievements in football or indeed in the outside world

Despite continuing to get his hands dirty, he is yet to receive any recognition of his achievements in football or indeed in the outside world

Macari (third left) admitted that as a player he often let some decisions be made for him

Macari (third left) admitted that as a player he often let some decisions be made for him

Macari (third left) admitted that as a player he often let some decisions be made for him

It’s almost two weeks now since Erik ten Hag walked out of Wembley with a wave and an FA Cup winner’s medal.

Off the Manchester United manager went on his summer holiday, off he stumbled into a seemingly endless vacuum of uncertainty about whether he would still have a job waiting for him when he returned.

United and their kingmaker Sir Jim Ratcliffe have Ten Hag on a piece of string and I am not sure I have ever know anything like it.

I remember Sven Goran Eriksson being asked to lead a post-season tour of the Far East knowing that he would be sacked by Manchester City when it was over. That wasn’t very pleasant but he knew. Deep down, he knew.

Does Ten Hag know his number is up? He has suspected it for some time. He’s not stupid. But no, he doesn’t know for sure. Not yet.

It is clear United are casting around for someone better. It’s clear they don’t want him, not really. Because if they did, they would say so.

Ratcliffe seems pretty adept at dealing with the small stuff. Cutting back on office staff. Ending work from home opportunities. Meddling with the canteen arrangements.

But the big stuff? That seems beyond him at the moment and it’s embarrassing and demeaning.

It's been almost two weeks since Erik ten Hag's Manchester United lifted the FA Cup trophy

It's been almost two weeks since Erik ten Hag's Manchester United lifted the FA Cup trophy

It’s been almost two weeks since Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United lifted the FA Cup trophy 

United and their kingmaker Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured) have Ten Hag on a piece of string

United and their kingmaker Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured) have Ten Hag on a piece of string

United and their kingmaker Sir Jim Ratcliffe (pictured) have Ten Hag on a piece of string

Amid all the understandable fuss about the omission from Gareth Southgate’s England squad of Jack Grealish and James Maddison, it is the failure of Harry Maguire to recover from injury that should concern us most. 

Maguire has struggled for Manchester United for two years but his contributions for his country have remained essential

The fact England will play in Germany with a new central defensive partnership is challenging. Furthermore, they are now an injury to John Stones away from catastrophe. 

England didn’t play particularly well in the first half against Bosnia in Newcastle but the crowd stayed with them in a way they would not have had the game been at Wembley.

At the national stadium, as soon as the tempo stops the paper aeroplanes start to rain down. They are a little bored of England in London and sometimes the reverse seems true also.

England played at St James' Park for the first time in 19 years against Bosnia and Herzegovina

England played at St James' Park for the first time in 19 years against Bosnia and Herzegovina

England played at St James’ Park for the first time in 19 years against Bosnia and Herzegovina

At the national stadium, Wembley, as soon as the tempo stops the paper aeroplanes start to rain down

At the national stadium, Wembley, as soon as the tempo stops the paper aeroplanes start to rain down

At the national stadium, Wembley, as soon as the tempo stops the paper aeroplanes start to rain down

So now that the FA’s Wembley debt has been paid it’s time to take the national team on the road from time to time.

It was nineteen years since England had last played at St James’ Park and that was reflected in the atmosphere on Monday. There is a lot of love for Gareth Southgate and his team out there and now the FA must do what is right and go and find it.

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