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December 2013

  1. Goodbye to the Football Echo

    Sir Bob has lamented the passing of the Football Echo, a paper which has followed the highs and lows of Sunderland AFC since 1907. After 106 years, the Football Echo has been printed for the…

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    Sir Bob has lamented the passing of the Football Echo, a paper which has followed the highs and lows of Sunderland AFC since 1907.

    After 106 years, the Football Echo has been printed for the final time and will make the transition online in the New Year.

    Sir Bob commented on the loss of the weekly paper, saying: “I’ll be really sorry when it’s gone. It was an institution and something every Sunderland fan wanted to see on a Saturday night – especially if we’d won.

    “It was often the catalyst for discussion in pubs and clubs, with people agreeing or disagreeing about what had been written.

    “My Dad took me to my first Sunderland match in 1954. We were playing the team of the day, Wolverhampton Wanderers and the atmosphere was terrific, with the Roker Roar in full voice. That was it, I was hooked and I suppose I’d have seen my first Football Echo soon after that.

    “I know that four years later Sunderland were relegated for the first time, and the Footy, to that point printed in pink, went white with shock.

    “I’ve been getting the paper for 58 years. I used to wait at Ibbetsons, with my savaloy, after the game, waiting for the paper to come out in the low times in the early 1960’s.

    “One edition I do remember well is the one from May 5, 1973 – the day we won the FA Cup. The Footy Echo’s headline was ‘They’ve done it” and that summed up the feeling of the whole town.

    “What the current writers and the reporters of yesteryear – including the famous Argus – have always done is more than just report every kick. They’ve captured the spirit of each game, the chants of the crowd, what the away support was like and how the officials performed. You almost felt you were there, which was invaluable for those who couldn’t get to every home or away game.

    “And one thing was for certain, no matter where we are on Match of the Day the Football Echo has always put Sunderland first and last.

    “Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always had the Footy Echo posted to me. The coverage was always in-depth, comprehensive and interesting. The Footy Echo also provided a platform for readers to have their say: although when I was chairman of the club I didn’t always agree with what was being said, it was an important forum for fans, especially in the days before the internet.

    “It has chronicled the ups and downs and ins and outs of the club for so long, it’s hard to think of life as a Sunderland fan without it. I know it was one of only one or two remaining Saturday afternoon football papers, and I remember when most evening papers had similar publications. I think it has survived so long because it did its job so well – and because of the close relationship between club, fans and the Footy Echo.

    “During my time at the club, we treated the Footy Echo very seriously and tried to help the Echo writers by providing players and staff for interviews. We saw it as a way of keeping supporters informed and involved. It was a valuable platform for the club and was very much party of our long and valued relationship with the Sunderland Echo.

    “I also think it has played a vital role in shining a light on the dozens, if not hundreds, of non-league games being played on Wearside and beyond over a weekend. It provided a valuable service for these teams, often being the source of was in the team and who wasn’t and where the games were to be played, and when, for Sunday morning teams and others.

    “It helped maintain interest in these leagues and, over the years, probably helped kept them going.

    “I can understand the financial pressures on it in these days of saturation coverage of the Premier League and so few games scheduled for Saturday afternoons, but it’s still a blow.

    “I’ll be genuinely sorry to see it go, and I’m sure all Sunderland fans will be too.”


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May 2013

  1. charles_alcock_sm

    Campaign to honour Charles Alcock

    The forgotten hero who created the world’s most famous club competition is to be honoured forty years after SAFC won the FA Cup. Sir Bob has been championing the cause of Charles William Alcock, a…

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    The forgotten hero who created the world’s most famous club competition is to be honoured forty years after SAFC won the FA Cup.

    Sir Bob has been championing the cause of Charles William Alcock, a Sunderland-born pioneer of the ‘beautiful game.’ Not only was Alcock behind the FA Cup, he also organised the first international football match.

    “Not many people know the name Charles William Alcock, that he was one of the founding fathers of modern-day football or that he came from Sunderland. His name is not synonymous with modern day football or sport, but perhaps it should be,” said Sir Bob.

    Charles W. Alcock was born in Norfolk Street in Sunderland in 1842, one of five sons of a shipbuilder originally from Durham. The family moved from Sunderland to London during the 1850s.

    “Alcock made a huge contribution to football and was a pioneer of modern football playing styles. He was responsible for the first ever international football match, but probably more apt this year as Sunderland celebrates the 40th Anniversary of their win, he created The FA Cup,” explained Sir Bob.

    Alcock devoted his life to sport first as a player and later as an influential and leading administrator and also a journalist. He guided The FA and his progressive thinking led to the rapid development of the national game and modern playing styles and the establishment of league football.

    He joined the FA Committee in 1866 and was appointed Honorary Secretary of The FA in 1870 and served in that role until 1895. He conceived and established the FA Cup, and even captained the first ever winning side, Wanderer’s at The Oval in 1872. He later refereed the 1875 and 1879 Finals.

    He also captained England in the first ever international football match against Scotland in 1870, although this game is considered unofficial by football historians and doesn’t appear in any record books. Nonetheless the match paved the way for the first officially recognised international match between Scotland and England in 1872. Alcock was selected to captain the England side but missed out due to injury.

    In 1895 he was appointed Vice President of The FA and 26 years later toured with England when the side visited Berlin and Prague for the first time. As part of his enormous contribution to sport he was also the Secretary of Surrey CCC from 1872 and helped arrange the first ever Test Match to be played in England.

     “I’ve always enjoyed a great working relationship with The FA and was delighted to be asked to get involved with the development of the new Wembley Stadium and more recently St George’s Park,” said Sir Bob

    “But, I always believed Charles Alcock deserved more recognition and have mentioned his name to a few people over the years. I recently decided to write to the FA Chairman David Bernstein to ask him to install a plaque or something befitting this eminent man at Wembley Stadium.

    “David wrote back to me and wholeheartedly agrees that Alcock made an incredibly important contribution to the history of our game and confirmed – after discussing it with the Executive Team leading The FA’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations – that he will be honoured in a number of ways this year.

    “I’m thrilled that Charles Alcock will finally get the recognition he so truly deserves.

    “The FA has given its full support to the restaging of the first FA Cup Final that Alcock was responsible for at The Oval between Royal Engineers and Wanderers. There could be no more fitting a venue for the commemoration of this match than The Oval, where Alcock also served Surrey CCC with such distinction as well.”

    In partnership with the National Football Museum The FA is also undertaking a significant project to find out more about the founding fathers of football and The FA. The project will be launched later in the year and this could include a permanent tribute being made to honour Alcock – and other founding fathers – at Wembley.

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