In praise of Sir Bob Murray: Sunderland’s helping hand to Wearhead United recalled

From Sir Bob Murray’s own website, reproduced with his consent

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.

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The Ithics Files: (9) Chairman Bob 1 Media 0

The cover speaks for itself.

Issue 13 of It’s the Hope I Can’t Stand, way back in April 1999, and Bob – now Sir Bob – Murray was presiding over a club romping to promotion, scoring goals for amusement and drawing huge crowds to the Stadium of Light. The same SoL that some in the media had suggested could prove a white elephant.

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Soapbox: arise Sir Bob


Who said of Bob Murray: “I absolutely worship him. He’s quite wonderfully good, and has an amazing way of making you feel part of a very special family. He lives and breathes that club. I was watching him (at a Spurs v SAFC game) and you could see that every kick, every movement of the game was etched on his body. He has effectively poured his life into the club. The most ardent fan of Sunderland AFC hasn’t a quarter of the commitment Bob has got”? It was Lord (David) Puttnam, filmmaker extraordinaire, “second club” supporter of Sunderland and clearly a man to whom Murray is mint. Lord Puttnam will be thrilled at news that Bob is to be Sir Bob. Pete Sixsmith offers a more measured view …

Once again, I was disappointed to see my name missing from the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. I thought an OBE for services to the drinks industry or an MBE for services to supporting Sunderland AFC might have been in order, but apparently not.

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