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1985
  1. Lawrie McMenemy and Sir Tom Cowie

    SAFC appoint Lawrie McMenemy

      “There are two things that should never have left Southampton, one was the Titanic and the other was McMenemy! When he [McMenemy] said he’d take the club out of the second division he succeeded,…

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    Lawrie McMenemy and Sir Tom Cowie

    “There are two things that should never have left Southampton, one was the Titanic and the other was McMenemy! When he [McMenemy] said he’d take the club out of the second division he succeeded, but in the wrong direction!”

    Big Mac’s appointment at Sunderland was big news and considered a major coup for the Chairman Sir Tom Cowie. However, he had gifted McMenemy a lucrative deal, probably the biggest in football at the time, and one that the club simply could not afford. Sadly, the euphoria that greeted McMenemy’s appointment was to be short lived.

    Despite having dropped a division, signing a host of experienced players and appointing a famous manager on a huge deal, the club faced a relegation battle for the sixth consecutive season and needed to win their final home match of the season against Stoke. The team won 2-0 and relief sent the home crowd wild and they demanded a lap of honour from the team and Manager!

    With the club’s overdraft rocketing, disastrous form on the pitch and a Manager that the club couldn’t afford to sack, Bob received an unexpected call from Cowie in August 1986 just days before the start of the season.

    “It wasn’t a call you could easily forget. Cowie told me he wanted out that day and I could have all his shares for £460,000. It was a now or never deal – he said you can buy them today but this is a one-time offer.”

    “I was deeply worried about the club and had seen Middlesbrough put into receivership by The Midland, the same bank we had. I thought with my experience and after 2 years on the Board I could do a good job and turn things around, so said yes!”

    Twenty four hours later Bob found himself owning a 46% stake in the club he loved and with the backing of the Sunderland Echo, that sold him their 5% stake for a golden guinea in a later show of support, he took control with 51% and became the majority shareholder and Chairman of Sunderland AFC.

    His first day in charge was a baptism of fire for the new Chairman when Cowie’s bankers [The Midland] immediately threatened to put the club into Receivership as it was 3 times over its OD limit. Bob was forced to personally guarantee the club’s overdraft and immediately inject a 7 figure sum to repay the excess borrowings.

     

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1984
  1. Sir Tom Cowie with Len Ashurst

    Bob joins SAFC Board

    Bob regularly returned to his native north east to go to Sunderland matches and had read about bitter Board room in-fighting. In 1983 with the club seemingly going backwards he finally resolved to contact the…

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    Sir Tom Cowie with Len Ashurst

    Bob regularly returned to his native north east to go to Sunderland matches and had read about bitter Board room in-fighting. In 1983 with the club seemingly going backwards he finally resolved to contact the Chairman to introduce himself and offer to help the club he loved. At the time, he had no thoughts or aspirations of joining the Board.

    Sir Tom Cowie and Bob finally met up during the 1983/4 season at Roker Park and Cowie invited him to come to a few games that season. “I remember if the result was a good one I also got invited into the board room after the match!” said Bob.

    With the power battle raging in the board room Sir Tom Cowie approached Bob again in June 1984 and asked him to join the Sunderland Board. Cowie sold him 5% of his shares and asked him to sign a personal bank guarantee for £50,000 to show his commitment.

    By the end of the 1984/1985 season Bob had been witness to more fierce board room conflict, had seen the team go to the milk cup final at Wembley and lose to Norwich courtesy of a bizarre own goal, watched the team free fall into the Second Division and had been delegated the job of sacking the Manager Len Ashurst.

    “As a memory goes it’s a strange one for me. I can vividly recall Len scoring a wonder goal as a fan. I remember being in line with him when he struck the ball from the Clock Stand to the Fulwell End to score against Newcastle. The next thing I knew I was being given the job of sacking him! I’m glad to say we’re still good friends today.”

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