Essays on Football in the North-East of England 1880-1930
My father took me to see my first Sunderland first team match at Roker Park in 1955 or 1956 when I was eight or nine years old. He introduced me to the experience slowly, taking me first to a few reserve matches and seating us safely in the old ‘Clock Stand’. As I grew though I was allowed the full first team experience, and to stand with him in his preferred Roker End, a habit which I continued long after he died.
Depending on the match involved, we either travelled to Sunderland by train, (in the days when the Durham to Sunderland branch line ran through our village), or on a blue-and-white ‘Philadelphia’ bus chartered by Lambton ‘D’ colliery, the ‘pit’ in which my dad worked along with many other men in Fencehouses. As far as I remember, we mainly took ‘the excursion bus’ when there were big matches – a derby game against Newcastle, a match against some big-name opposition club like Manchester United or Arsenal, or for evening fixtures.
My father, like many north-eastern men, considered himself a football connoisseur. On the way home from a match he would regale me, and all friends and acquaintances around, with his opinions on strategy, tactics and player performances – his assessments including opposition as well as Sunderland players. Although a life-time Sunderland fan, he was invariably irritated by forms of partisanship he considered ‘stupid’. When Sunderland lost (and then, as now, they lost rather a lot)...
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