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Twenty years on from the last game at Roker Park, Sir Bob Murray – the man behind its demolition and the rebirth and rebuilding of the club at the Stadium of Light – looks back at the old ground.
Interview with Ross Gregory
What is your first memory of Roker Park?
“My dad took me to my first game at Roker Park when I was nine years old in 1955 against Wolves.
“Nobody would have thought that that little nine-year-old would end up knocking that stadium down!”
What other good memories do you have?
“As a young lad I was always impressed by the size of the ground at Roker Park. I remember a really big game against Man United where the crowd kind of broke in and we had circa 70,000 in a 60,000 capacity ground.
“We had some really big crowds at Roker Park before the Roker End went.
“The crowd and the noise fans made were what stood out. It could be spine-tingling
“Looking back at it as chairman, we used to love it if we could get somebody big on a January night, midweek.
In those elements with that wind, they didn’t like it.”
You brought to an end 99 years of history at the ground. Why was that?
“It became apparent that year we went up with the Premier Passions, and then when we just couldn’t stay up on the last day at Wimbledon, that we needed action.
“To play at home, we had a 22,000 capacity and there were only two games we sold out that year, against Manchester United and Newcastle.
“We’ve all got great memories of Roker Park, but we needed to move, we needed to make that big step.
“It was a fantastic old ground. The first 60 years playing there were very successful but the last 30 or 40 years weren’t so clever.”
It wasn’t just the Stadium of Light you built though, there was the Academy also.
“There was no infrastructure at the club when I got there, we just had a field (for training) at Cleadon with no irrigation, protection from the elements or anything.
“The lads used to come to Roker Park, get changed, then drive to training and come back to sit in the bath at Roker Park, just like it was a matchday – so I could understand why the club had struggled.”
Did you get any memento from Roker Park?
“I bought a third of the pitch, which is now at my house in North Yorkshire. It was at the Fulwell End but it is now on my lawn and it still looks beautiful.
“Mind, it cost me a fortune at the auction!”
“Not at all. It was a great privilege.
“I would do it all again. I’ve not got one regret.”
More Roker Reflections from Sir Bob…..