Tell us about The Things You Do For Love of Sunderland AFC

Ask Jeremy 'Clock Stand Paddock' Robson where Sunderland play and he'll say 'Roker Park'
Ask Jeremy ‘Clock Stand Paddock’ Robson where Sunderland play and he’ll say ‘Roker Park’

This replaces the original posting to take account one important update to the rules (see introduction). Any responses already received will be added as entries here …

Monsieur Salut introduces a sparkling new competition. The deadline for entries is Tuesday December 13 to give plenty of time for the prize seen above to be posted for Christmas (our many overseas readers may be interested to hear that there us no restriction on where you’d want it sent though we obviously cannot be sure of delivery times) …

And right, I have ripped up the rules. John McCormick, our inimitable associate editor, had chipped in with a great anecdote so I shall no longer require the help of other Salut! Sunderland codgers to judge entries and choose a winner. Everyone except me is eligible to enter …

Like it, the image above? Whether you remember starting your Sunderland-supporting days in that wonderful if ultimately decrepit stadium, or have only the handed-down memories of older relatives and acquaintances, Roker Park is a name that evokes pride, passion and history.

The excellent people behind a firm selling a wide range of conceptual prints and artwork, all marketed as products called Dorothy though no one there bears that name, have kindly agreed to put up one print as a prize.

The title of the competition popped into my mind as I began a fortnight’s celebration of my 45th wedding anniversary. A fortnight? Well, as I explained in a post at the other Salut!, we had the register office formality in Bishop Auckland on October 30 1971 after which my bride promptly went home to France, where her mother did not recognise her as married until we’d had the blessing at a church in Le Mans, named after Joan of Arc, on November 16.

She still has her hair
She still has her hair

We spent the recent Arsenal weekend back up north and retraced various steps – the pub where we met, the house where Joelle was au pair to a ferocious 90-year-old and her cat, the Catholic presbytery where Joelle sought and was given refuge after the battleaxe kicked her out and, of course, the register office.

And it got me thinking about the various things I have done in my life out of love for Sunderland, things my wife has done out of love for me despite loathing football to facilitate that passion.

Travel features a lot in such memories, but so does manipulation. When employed, I often “organised” work around opportunities to see the Lads. These examples spring to mind …

* West Ham at home 1980 (2-0 to us to clinch promotion at Roker Park)

* Man City away 1980 (4-0 to us, John Hawley hat-trick)

* Bradford City away 1999 (1-0 to us – another promotion season with Quinn scoring the winner, then going in goal when Sorensen was injured)

* Man Utd at home, League Cup 2000 (the day after Shack died; we won 2-1)

As for Joelle, she puts up week after week with me catching the game as best I can if not actally there – internet, radio, live TV – even when we’ve been on anniversary or holiday breaks abroad.

She bought me a season ticket for the Stadium of Light thinking one season would get it out of my system (it was the first proper one I’d had since boyhood and the first of any kind apart from one, via the SAFCSA London branch, giving me a certain number of games for the last season at Roker Park). To Joelle’s dismay, I kept it for 10 years or more until the time I spent abroad finally made it seem idiotic.

Her indulgence of my passion goes further. She also organised a milestone birthday party at the ground which meant coming back from Abu Dhabi for a weekend; the party was on the eve of both a 3-0 home defeat to Man City, City’s Abu Dhabi takeover and one of the most torrential showers I have experienced.

There you have some snapshots of what I have done for love or had done for me out of love.

You will have stories
of your own: funny, sad, shaming, uplifting or any other sort.

Share them with us and the one arbitrarily chosen as best will win its author the print, which will be dispatched rolled up in a cardboard tube leaving the winner to buy a frame at his or her convenience (and cost!).

I’d be delighted if we had a bumper entry. Let the imagination run wild if necessary; just share your stories …

* The people at Dorothy – see their site here – describe the Roker Park colour litho print is described in this way:

‘The original 60 x 80cm version of our Roker Park print. Roker Park was home to Sunderland AFC (and its fabled black cat) for 99 years from 1898 to 1997.

The stadium, which once hosted crowds of 75,000-strong, was also home of the famed Roker Roar. Legend has it that in 1973 when Billy Hughes scored against Manchester City in an FA Cup tie the noise from the crowd could be heard six miles away. Sunderland played their final game at Roker Park on 13 May 1997 beating Liverpool 1-0 before moving to the Stadium of Light. Roker Park has since been demolished and replaced by housing.

Roker Park, Highbury, Maine Road and Wembley are four new ‘football’ additions to our Lost
Destination collection of prints. The series takes inspiration from the iconic travel posters of the first half of the 20th century, celebrating the unique but often forgotten beauty of buildings that in their heyday were destinations in their own right but have since been either immersed in the everyday or demolished.’

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13 thoughts on “Tell us about The Things You Do For Love of Sunderland AFC”

  1. It was love at first sight and we’ve been together over 50 years now. I’ve travelled miles and spent a fortune just to see her all over the country from Southampton to Bristol to Cardiff ( where she didn’t turn up ) to Lincoln and to Preston .I’ve slept on stations stood in the cold or pouring rain and sweltered in Nottingham.It’s not always been easy for me. Often she lets me down,she’s negligent and can be very hard to understand, but I’ve stuck by her. Yes, I’ve despaired at times but some of our better days have been the best of my life. Every other week I still travel 150 miles and never miss a chance to see her. I don’t expect much these days but truly there can be no-one else but her.
    The game of my life is nearing the final whistle ( though I’m hopeful for extra time and even penalties ) yet I know we’re a pair and always will be. As Leonard Cohen so beautifully sang, I’m sure, whatever else, that she’ll ‘ dance me to the end of love ‘

  2. On Sep 24 1977 (what would we do without StatCat)? I was staioned at RAF Catterick and had arranged for the supporters charabanc to pick me up outside the main gate for onward transmission to Stoke. The night before I had met a hot young woman of indeterminate age and, despite offers of breakfast etc etc, informed her that I was off to the footy and would be back in time for supper etc etc. One thing led to something else and I was late for my departure. Dilemma. I could go back and spend a pleasant day with said young lady or I could hitch a lift to Stoke. No contest. I was picked up by three lads, driven to Stoke and then returned to RAF Catterick all free gratis. When I entered the pub, said young lady was cosily ensconced with some hairy arsed RAF Regiment gunner. Women are mainly temporary but your football team is forever. We drew 0-0. Ha’way The Lads.

  3. Here’s my second attempt:
    Saturday 30 September, 1972.(thank you, Statcat). Forest were at Roker, I was in Gloucester. I hitched up in the morning. By the time I got there, on about 50 minutes, we were 3-0 up and cruising.
    Instead of being welcomed was told to go back out in case I brought a jinx in.

  4. Talking of arranging matches around work, I once arranged to visit a customer in Manchester on the day/evening we were due to play City in the Full Members Cup.

    Travelled up from the West Midlands, did the work bit, hung around until kick-off and then watched a goalless 120 minutes. Needless to say we then lost on penalties. I was in with the City fans so I then had to exit with all the City fans (attendance 6,000) singing and celebrating their famous victory. Good job Maine Road was always one of my favourite grounds.

  5. Remember, in the days before the Internet, when the club offered some crappy phone service you could ring to get team news ? Living in the West Midlands I used to ring this on a Friday night. It was one of the worst services ever provided and one Friday I obviously failed to replace the phone properly after listening to these words of wisdom. A few weeks later the phone bill arrived including a charge of £150 for this one call. I wrote to BT and said a child had rang the number (football fans… we’re all really big kids aren’t we) and not replaced the phone … and anyway, why didn’t they have an automatic cut-off … no-one would listen for that length of time …. and anyway, I wouldn’t be paying.

    They wrote back, said they had checked my general phone usage etc and would let me off on this occasion (cheeky sods). All the hassle just to listen to some meaningless, disinterested interview, dragged on for as long as possible, with Reuben Agboola or suchlike … with about 3 seconds of genuine team news at the end. Why do we do it ?

  6. Tuesday 9th March 1999. We were on our way to the title and playing away at Bradford City who were to finish second. At the time I was teaching in the primary school in the Leicestershire village where I lived and being a small rural community, I had a key to the place and knew the alarm code.

    I was also a member of the Heart of England branch of the Supporters Association and had been offered a lift from another locally based supporter, who was tee total. It was going to be cold night (snow was forecast) so being the good chap that I am I made up a thermos of coffee and instead of fortifying it directly, filled a hip flask with three star brandy – just to warm the cockles at half time you understand.

    The journey to Valley Parade was uneventful but once outside the turnstiles the officious stewards (OK they were only doing their job) found my hip flask and made me pour the brandy down the nearest drain. Thanks Tim!

    Anyway the match itself was memorable. Quinny scored then went in goal and we won 1-0. As we left the ground for the drive back the snow started to fall. It slowed us down a bit but I eventually got home about 1.30 in the morning.

    It seems hard to comprehend now – this is only 17 years ago – but I had no internet at home and had promised to e-mail the result to my sister who was working in India at the time. And so just before 2.00 a.m. I walked down to school, let myself in and cranked up one of the state of the art BBC computers that passed for hi tech at that time and fired off the e-mail before retiring to my bed for 4 hours kip and work next day.

    And living so close to work I didn’t have the excuse of being snowed in either. The things we do for SAFC eh!

    But that was the season we only lost three league games, finished with 105 points and were generally entertained all year. It is perhaps more telling that I am still going to games despite the fact the last few years have brought more disappointment than pleasure.

  7. I am the only the person ineligible to enter this competition.

    But plenty of other Sunderland supporters could tell a funny story (it didn’t feel funny when it happened) of being stranded in the Derbyshire countryside for five hours on the way back from the FA Cup semi-final at Old Trafford in 2004.

    The hopeless Portuguese driver of the coach hire by the London branch of the SAFCSA had stopped on a sodden verge of the A50 to discharge the toilet tank and the wheels promptly sank into the mud. It didn’t help that we’d lost to Millwall.

    I told the story for an edition of the SAFC matchday programme and it can be seen reproduced here:

  8. Stoke away around 1980. Living in Sheffield and think with snow. Train delayed , freezing, but as we get closer to Stoke , the snow disappears and it’s just a grey day. Off train, spot sign saying match off. Turns out the SAFC team bus was stuck in snow . In Sheffield. Pub, which shuts at 3, then back on train to Sheffield and more snow

  9. Back in the mists of time (16 Feb 80 if StatCat is to be believed) I was part of a group of London Branch members heading to Preston Away. Due to problems (derailment or broken down train) we rolled into some godforsaken station at 2pm still some 60 miles from our destination. Myself and 2 others decided a taxi would get us there in time. The female taxi driver was getting more nervous as each minute passed and decided to “break down” on the motorway. We disembarked and somehow managed to flag down a passing black cab, offering all sorts of financial inducements if he could get us there tout suite. After a hair raising journey we arrived at Deepale just as the half time whistle went (1-0) down. We eventually lost 2-1. On arrival back at Preston station we discovered the London Branch train had just arrived, only to be greeted by the news there would be no trains back until the early hours. More beer was supped naturally. We arrived at Euston at noon on Sunday, had a few pints and went to see the luscious Bo Derek in “10”. A 36 hour expedition.

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  10. My sister got married during the football season – never a sensible decision. When Ed and I left the church we were directed to one of the cars taking people to the reception. “we’re going with Derek” we said and crossed the road to the car waiting there, which promptly headed off to Roker.

    Were we missed at the reception? Of course not, we were only three hours late when we got there

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