Explore Timeline

2013

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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1997

May 1997

  1. ROKER PARK - HOMES OF FOOTBALL

    Farewell to Roker Park

    After 99 years the final whistle blew on Roker Park in May 1997. The last ever league game was an emotionally charged affair against Everton on 3rd May, which Sunderland won 3-0. It was the…

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    After 99 years the final whistle blew on Roker Park in May 1997. The last ever league game was an emotionally charged affair against Everton on 3rd May, which Sunderland won 3-0. It was the end of era in typical Sunderland style though and the team still needed to win the final away game of the season against Wimbledon to guarantee safety but lost 1-0. 

    The Farewell to Roker Park match, the final ceremonial game against Liverpool, was played in front of a 22,000 full house on 13th May against the backdrop of relegation to The Championship.  “It was emotional leaving Roker Park as I started going to matches with my dad in 1956 but I knew in my heart that Roker was the past and the Stadium of Light was the future,” said Bob.

    ” It was difficult for everyone to lift themselves after the Wimbledon match and travel back to Sunderland for the final ever match at Roker. The season had started with such excitement and optimism for the future. We were moving to a new stadium but were in the wrong division, which was a huge blow but we knew we had to close the chapter on Roker Park after 99 years in style.” 

     

     

    Roker Park gallery

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1990
  1. Roker Park

    All seater stadiums introduced

    Terrible tragedies in football signalled a great change in football following Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough. The requirement of the Taylor Report for all seater-stadia in England meant that Sunderland would need to re-develop or move…

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    Roker Park

    Terrible tragedies in football signalled a great change in football following Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough. The requirement of the Taylor Report for all seater-stadia in England meant that Sunderland would need to re-develop or move to a new stadium.

    With only 7,000 seats, a total ground capacity of just 22,657 and limited commercial facilities Bob also recognised that Sunderland could not sustain a top flight team and compete at the highest level in the future. It was not feasible to re-develop Roker Park into a world class stadium and Bob realised he would have to find the funding and build a new stadium.

    Bob said “Back in those days, the turnover at Roker Park was only a couple of million pounds, not a great platform to build a world class stadium. We had to find a way to fund stadium (that eventually cost £22m) and ultimately floating the club on the stock market in 1996 made that possible. “

    A new stadium was vital for the long term future of the club because, “without a world class stage you can’t attract world class stars, whether that’s players or managers.”

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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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1954
  1. Roker Park

    First Love

      It was in 1954 that Bob’s love affair with Sunderland AFC began, when at the tender age of eight his father took him to the Clock Stand at Roker Park for the first time…

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    Roker Park

    It was in 1954 that Bob’s love affair with Sunderland AFC began, when at the tender age of eight his father took him to the Clock Stand at Roker Park for the first time to see Sunderland play the team of the day Wolverhampton Wanderers. Little did his father realise that his boy would knock the stadium down one day.

    The score was 0-0 on the day and there were 46,463 at Roker Park to see the match. He recalls, “In those days there was no segregation of home and away fans and the Roker Roar was immense. I thought we’d won my first match and my dad never put me right!” He has been an avid supporter ever since.

    It is interesting that he regards his lifelong passion as his greatest business challenge“because where I come from a job is a job, but football is life.”

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