That first game of the season: Roker Park or SoL

claire1

Great minds … small minds … think alike … never differ. Colin Randall and Pete Sixsmith both thought of writing about the opening game and both found themselves wallowing in memories of long ago. Colin has a nicer pic to go with his than Pete’s old Soapbox image – but come back in a couple of hours for the essential Sixsmith preview …


Every so often
, a comment attributed to a female SAFC fan appears in the sadly neglected Salut! Smiles slot where you currently find Danny Dichio down the left-hand column. Those comments are usually from the lips, or keyboard, of Claire Reidlinger, from the only Washington the world needs to know about. A lovely e-mail offering this pic – “me and the bairn and Filbert the Fox at the Leicester friendly for yer nice Salut thingy” – inspired these thoughts about opening games …

Sunderland v Birmingham City. Salut! Sunderland will be there but, sadly, not the part of it writing now. I’ll be in France, rooting around dodgier corners of the internet for a stream, or struggling with SAFC TV (didn’t like Macs last season) for radio commentary.

But I’ll be there in spirit, next to Pete Sixsmith and Joan Dawson in my seat in the East Stand, with the usual mixture of hope and fear as kick-off approaches.

First games of the season are special in a very different way from last games, whether or not the last game has something rather important depending on its outcome.

What inspired this posting – and the obvious invitation to readers to share their own memories – was Claire’s photo of herself and son from the Leicester pre-season friendly.

Claire, as you can see, was there. She wasn’t even born when I attended my first opening game, 46 years ago, as a Sunderland seaon ticket holder (I had been at the first game, paying at the gate, two season earlier).

But SAFC v Leicester City on Aug 22 1964 was memorable for a very good reason. Derek Forster was in goal, roughly my own age at all of 15 years and 185 days. My dad had bought me a season ticket and I think Pete’s dad, or paper round, had funded his. In the Main Stand paddock.

Young Derek did all right even though he had to pick the ball out of the net three times.

Luckily, Mulhall (2) and Herd – just typing those name sends a shiver down the spine – scored as well, so our first season back in the top flight since the calamitous and historic relegation in 1958 started without one of the 19 defeats we were to suffer (finishing 15th)

It was my first, so it sticks in the mind. Among more recent opening games I recall have been a drab 0-0, again vs Leicester, in Peter Reid’s newly promoted side of 1997, the thrilling victory over Arsenal in 2000 when big Niall scored with our only chance (the Gunners having about 1,000) and Michael “I won’t score against the Mags” Chopra’s last-second winner vs Spurs in 2007.

Cue the return of Claire, who also has special memories of the Spurs game:

Well, the most remarkable first game of the season I can think of was the Tottenham game at the start of the 2007/08 season. I turned up to my usual seat in the North Stand where all my marras sit, and unveiled my baby bump!!!! I knew I was pregnant for the last few games of the previous season (and now cannot look at Carlos Edwards’ goal against Burnley as it just makes me feel sick, bleeargh) but wanted to keep it quiet, so I couldn’t wait to show everyone when it had grown to a reasonable size J

Great stuff, and I hope others can come up with memories too.

Claire will be at the Birmingham game, but has no new bump to show: “The situation will not be repeated this time! Unless something remarkable happens over the next couple of days like!”
Colin Randall

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2 thoughts on “That first game of the season: Roker Park or SoL”

  1. Being of similar vintage I suppose it’s not surprising that my first game at Roker was the same 3-3 draw with Leicester City. But the clearest memory that I have of that day is walking down a back street near the ground and buying a hot dog from someone who was selling them out of their back yard. But what impressed me was that it wasn’t a frankfurter type but a proper sausage with a nicely crisped skin and proper fried onions.

    My obsession with eating has never left me and even now (on a bad day) I get a craving for one of them horrible tinned beefburgers that they used to sell. You could get them near the ground from blokes with metal water baths on wheels in the late sixties, early seventies. No wonder I never missed an episode of “Life on Mars”!

    A more recent first day memory was the 0-4 drubbing we got at Stamford Bridge on the first day of the 99/00 season. A red hot day, the most attractive looking steward I have ever seen and after the match, a couple of sarf laandan blokes who reminded me how much I’m glad I don’t live there.

    We had been well beaten by a superior side. In a pub just over the river filled with fans of both teams two of the most miserable men I have ever come across were whinging about everything. Whilst I waited for my pint of Youngs and they moaned about how crap their Budweiser was, I said “Are your lot always that good?” What I took to be a look of contempt was accompanied by the comment “Well we were playing f*!%£*^ s*%t weren’t we.” Made the sight of them all walking out of the SSoL at half time a few months later all the sweeter.”

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