Sir Bob Murray reveals his biggest mistakes as chairman of Sunderland

Sgt Wilko, a German crock and the striker who needed a stepladder to do his shopping: Sir Bob Murray reveals his biggest mistakes at Sunderland.

His new autobiography may be called “I’d Do It All Again”, but Sir Bob Murray has revealed three of his decisions as Sunderland chairman which made him question that title. 

And while two of those mistakes were obvious to Murray literally from day one, he admits people warned against the other even before the event. 

Howard Wilkinson, Thomas Helmer and Milton Nunez are names remembered by Wearside fans, but mostly for the wrong reasons. 

And by Murray, most of all. 

He appointed Wilkinson as Sunderland manager in October 2002 following the sacking of Peter Reid. 

“I thought it was a brilliant move,” said Murray, who steered Sunderland for 20 years between 1986 and 2006. 

“I don’t think the board agreed with us, but they supported us. Howard was technical director at the FA, caretaker manager of England and he’d won the league with Leeds. 

“He was a disciplinarian, I thought it needed that kind of change.” 

Just 20 Premier League games, two wins and five months later, a 1-0 defeat against Fulham saw Wilkinson sacked. 

But Murray had realised his mistake long before that . . . 

“The first day!” Sunderland’s former chairman admitted. “He {Wilkinson} wanted Steve Cotterill to come with him, but it became obvious they didn’t like each other very early and it was a media disaster. 

“He wasn’t here very long but when I say I’d do it all again, I wouldn’t have given him a job.” 

As for Reid, some traced the beginning of the downturn in his previously impressive managerial reign to the arrival of Nunez, the Honduran striker signed in 2000 – against Murray’s wishes – in a deal which went down in Wearside folklore. 

“I begged him not to, but you either back a manager or you sack him, you can’t skirt around it,” said the former chairman. 

“Peter (Reid)’s early transfer activity . . . I had never seen better. But at the end it was just the worst. Nunez is one of many; he’s not on his own. 

“We had a German centre half, (Thomas) Helmer. I think he crossed the line once. They said he couldn’t run before he came.” 

Nunez, nicknamed Tyson, raised eyebrows simply because he was, at barely 5ft 4in, so small. 

And as for his football also not reaching the heights, a theory soon emerged that Reid had signed him on the basis of grainy video footage – and the mistaken belief he was his Honduras international strike partner Eduardo Bennett. 

Instead, or so the story went, the player Reid had actually watched was Nunez’s club teammate Adolfo Valencia. 

Nunez ended up playing just 15 minutes of Premier League football at Sunderland before finally moving on to Uruguayan club Nacional in 2002. 

“When he {Nunez} turned up, he was as tall as he was in the movie,” said Murray. “He had to take someone to Asda with him because he couldn’t reach the shelves!” 

“I’d Do It All Again”, published by Vision Sport Publishing, is available now.