The ownership of Sunderland AFC has been the subject of much debate and handwringing in recent times. Owners always attract controversy at some stage during their stewardship of football clubs and Sir Bob Murray was no exception. But as someone writing about him at Wikipedia put it, the second half of his 20-year reign was noticeably more successful than the first (‘never finished below third place in the league’s second tier’) and we’d settle for something like that now. He still chairs the award-winning club charity, the Foundation of Light.
Here, Andrew Curry, an occasional contributor to Salut! Sunderland, recalls a small but admirable gesture from Sir Bob’s era …
A while back I drove west out of Durham into Weardale, whose villages field their teams in the Durham League.
During the foot and mouth outbreak, in 2001, with much of the countryside closed off, even under military supervision, it looked as if Wearhead United would be unable to fulfil their fixture against their local rivals, Stanhope.
So the chairman of Wearhead did what any other chairman of a Durham League football club might have done in the circumstances. He wrote to the then chairman of Sunderland AFC, Bob Murray, to ask if Sunderland would host the game at the Stadium of Light.
And Murray said yes.
Sir (as he is now) Bob, Consett-born, was the last local businessman to run Sunderland, before the club became the property of a succession of outsiders [although Niall Quinn’s vice chairman in the Drumaville era was John Hays, a son of Seaham who recently capped a brilliant business career by taking over a chunk of Thomas Cook and saving many jobs – Ed]. .
He’s not fondly remembered by all Sunderland fans because, of course, he should have invested in the team after Peter Reid took it to successive seventh places in the Premier League.
But he did have the foresight to push through the move to the Stadium of Light, when at least some fans still nostalgically preferred Roker, with half the space.
In truth, Murray was a fan. There’s a story about him going to a supporters’ club meeting shortly after he took control of the club, and angry supporters asked him how many games he’d been to.
“Six or seven hundred,” came the reply.
I like to think that it was the local fan in him who saw the letter from Wearhead United and said yes, even though it would have cost Sunderland money to open the ground for the game.
Some 900 supporters came from Wearhead and Stanhope for the game, which ended. 2-2. The rational businessman would — even if they wanted to help — surely have offered the Reserves’ pitch instead.
And, looking back, I can’t help wonder if any of Murray’s fellow Premier League chairmen would have done the same thing. It seems unlikely.
We had this comment, published anonymously, and I’ve left it as it was posted:
Hi everyone sorry this is not about the article but it is very difficult to post any views at present because of the teneous situation but are you a fan of a supporter not to long ago many of you were calling for Jack Tosses blood and wanted a replacement and forced Stewart Donald’s hand to peer pressure in getting him the sack , bread appointed to stabilise the club and move it forward but a lot of you want instant results .
You should be pleased with yourselves as you have got us into the situation that we are in at the present time!!! Now you are baying for Parkinson to go
ARE YOU A Fan or SUPPORTER as supporters do what it says that is support the team support the board support the decisions they make they put the majority investment into the club DO YOU THINK they have money to burn and want to lose it IF SO THINK Again The only way we as a club are going to move forward is by unanimous SUPPORT and not FICKLE fans in my mind we are and always have been and always be the best team in the land IT WAS Your choice to put pressure on the board and lose the manager , you got your way but STABILITY is what we need look at Alec Ferguson’s early days at Man U and Lok at Venger at Arsenal they were not liked but two of the greatest managers in history on achievements
We are the best SUPPORTED football club in the UK if not the WORLD so let’s give them the SUPPORT they deserve get off their backs and move forward with PRIDE give the board a chance let them do their job and let them move us forward
The Way a lot of you are reacting and building pressure means that a lot of players are becoming frightened to come to a pressure cooker atmosphere and be ridiculed and harassed , thus bringing an end to their career
This Peer pressure had always existed over the years and must stop
WE ARE THE GREATEST TEAM THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN so come on and give them TRUE SUPPORT
Good night God Bless SAFC, FTM , STID