THE Durham coalfields produced three unassuming men called Bob who left an indelible mark on English football.
Bob Paisley, the only manager in history to have won three European Cups, and former Newcastle United and England boss Sir Bobby Robson, have been rightly venerated on Merseyside and Tyneside respectively.
Former Sunderland AFC chairman Sir Bob Murray comes from four generations of pitmen, but even among Wearsiders his impact on this region and beyond has often been underplayed.
When Murray bought Sunderland from motor magnate Sir Tom Cowie in 1986 the club was on the brink of receivership with a rag-bag team managed by the – in Murray’s words - “useless” Lawrie McMenemy.
Under Murray the club suffered highs and lows but he is unquestionably one of the most important figures in its history. His decision to build the Stadium of Light and training academy has helped to cement the club’s place in the top division after years of boom and bust.
His wider legacy can be seen in his role as a driving force behind the building of the new Wembley Stadium and the St George’s Park centre of excellence – regarded as key to the aspiration of England’s national team becoming a football superpower. The Foundation of Light charity, which Murray launched in 2001, has helped tens of thousands of young people and their families to overcome social exclusion.
An internet hoaxer recently changed Murray’s Wikipedia entry to show that SAFC’s Life President had died. No one was more shocked to read of his demise than Murray himself. Talking to him last week it was clear that his numerous business and educational interests keep him as active as ever.
It would be a terrible shame if we waited until the day Bob finally does pop his clogs before celebrating the achievements of another North-East miner’s son who did remarkable things. Read his story in today's Northern Echo.
According to some readers who contacted us it’s our fault that Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) failed in its bid to secure money from the government’s enterprise fund. These correspondents seem to have ignored The Northern Echo’s "Keep The Region Flying" campaign which has been running since BMI pulled its flights to London in 2009.
In our view, it is vital to the future prosperity of the region that it has airports which meet the needs of businesses and are convenient for holiday passengers.
DTVA has played an important role in the region’s export success. Having access to world markets via the direct to services to Amsterdam is valued by many Tees Valley companies and their clients. Long may it continue.
Congratulations to the bidders that have been promised cash from the latest round of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
The scheme may be under-funded but there is no doubt that many North-East firms have become expert at jumping through the various hoops required by the government panel that selects the winners and losers.
Special mention goes to Nifco UK in Eaglescliffe, near Stockton for securing RGF funding for the second time. Perhaps unsuccessful bidders can ask Nifco boss Mike Matthews for a few tips.