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.”