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On This Day (30 July 1981): Hard Man Munro joins the Sunderland cause

Roker Report looks at the Sunderland career of a full-back Iain Munro – did you see him play for the Lads?

Image from the 1981-82 Middlesbrough edition of the Roker Review

The recently appointed Alan Durban’s desire to mould a young energetic side at Sunderland was well known, but the new man was shrewd enough to realise there was a balance to be had.

There would need to be a bit of experience and know-how thrown into the mix too – and his first purchase would have both qualities in spades.

Although news of talks had emerged a week or so beforehand, it was not until this day in 1981 that a deal was reached to bring Iain Munro in from Durban’s former club Stoke City.

Bought for around £150,000, the full back was a welcome addition and brought with him the international recognition his boss ideally wanted all his senior professionals to possess.

Soccer - Home International Championship - Scotland v England Photo by Peter Robinson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Having played for his native Scotland against England just a year before, Munro knew how to handle the big occasion. He also knew what life would be like on Wearside – he had family living in Sunderland at the time and had been a regular visitor to the town.

Before settling into nearby Whitburn though, there was a quick trip back home where despite suffering from a slight thigh strain he played in all four games of a tour of Scotland and Berwick, the first match of which was against Hearts just two days after he’d joined.

Munro was in fact an ever-present during pre-season that also took in a trip to Greece and local derbies against Darlington and Newcastle United. He continued to be a regular throughout the 1981-82 season too, although he was suspended following an infamous challenge against Coventry City that led to him being sent off early in the campaign.

Always able to look after himself, he was showing himself to be a tough tackler and a mean defender in general – yet, following a spell on the sidelines due to injury, his return away at Birmingham City saw him being used in a more forward role.

Going up against future teammate Leighton James. Image from the 1981-82 Notts County edition of the Roker Review

It was a task he was very familiar with, having started his career in midfield for St Mirren and Hibernian, but he quickly returned to his left-back slot.

Dependable there throughout the following season in which Sunderland were strong away from home but were held to too many draws on their own patch, it was during 1983-84 and once well into his 30s that he lost his slot to Nick Pickering following a reshuffle.

Pickering’s form was good enough to earn himself his own international call-up, meaning Munro’s final appearances saw him being shifted to right back and then operating in midfield once more prior to a switch to Dundee United.

Now living in the United States where he is involved in the MLS, Munro had brought muscle and guile to a Sunderland team trying to establish itself in the topflight. Always a hardy performer, he made a useful contribution to a club he joined 41 years ago today.


Iain Munro

Born: Lanarkshire, 24 August 1951

SAFC debut:

Ipswich Town 3 (Wark 56, Gates 64, 80)

Sunderland 3 (Ritchie 41, Buckley 54, 63)

Football League Division One, Portman Road 29 August 1981

Final SAFC appearance:

Watford 2 (Johnston 54, 68)

Sunderland 1 (Rowell 58)

Canon League Division One, Vicarage Road 20 March 1984

Total appearances/goals for SAFC:

88/0

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