Am I the only one finding the revisionist coverage of Sir Bob Murray slightly fascinating?
When we were printing the fanzine in the late 1990s, we, slightly mockingly, referred to him as Uncle Bob. Of course, if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have got the stadium and the academy we now all take for granted.
At the time though, it was all a bit amusing the way the cost cutting went with an accountant’s zeal. If memory serves me correctly, the whole stadium project was steered through for the quite staggering price of £13 million. Uncle Bob utilised all manner of European grants to get the stadium built.
When we covered the opening of the stadium there were a number of gripes as to the cost cutting nature of the project; how things seemed to be done at a Prestos-end rather than a high-end spec.
We had two scoreboards which looked like upgrades of the spectacularly awful Roker Park effort. Other clubs were installing video screens. I think it took ten years for us to convert to video.
The name of the stadium was much derided - not least because of possible delusions of grandeur in naming the new edifice the same as the more famous Lisbon incarnation. Uncle Bob insisted the name was in reference to the area’s mining history. The miner’s lamp.
It all seemed a bit tenuous, though. It was also a gift to the gob-sh*tes up the road, because of the amount of words rhyming with light. We were moving from Joker Park to the Stadium of Plight (for the polite ones among ‘em).
Eyebrows were raised at the capacity. Here was a club that struggled to fill a 25,000 crumbling shack, and it was intent on filling it to 42,000. But fill it we did, with gusto - so much so that the first of three possible extensions was done after a couple of years, raising the capacity by 6,000.
We ran a cover of Uncle Bob kitted out as a big game hunter, slaying the white elephant with big queues snaking out of the stadium in the background. I’m guessing he liked that cover, because I got a call from the club asking for the original artwork so they could put it in the boardroom.
I said you can buy it off us, but they declined. They didn’t get the original, but a copy - it was a sign that Uncle Bob was in touch with us lowly fanzines types.
All in all, time has been kind to our favourite uncle. Subsequent owners have been disastrous in comparison and you could always say that Bob had the club’s best interests at heart.