The first game I went to was at Roker Park in August 1964 against Leicester City, with hindsight I was very privileged as it was an amazing game for a number of reasons. It was the first game of the season and Sunderland’s first game back in the topflight after the first ever relegation in 1958, as we now know sadly the first of many. It was also the first game for Derek Forster a local lad who played in goal aged 15 years 185 days, surely a record that will never be beaten. Ironically the first football match I had ever been to was an England Schoolboys match in March 1964 and Derek Forster was in goal for that too.
I have a lot of memories of the day and the game, I was taken by my uncle who had season tickets at both Sunderland and Newcastle (seems bizarre now) and we got the football bus from Annfield Plain. I can remember being lifted over the turnstile and the operator not being happy and once inside the size and noise were amazing, there were 63.000 at the game. We had a seat, so I had a good view and it was a thrilling game with Sunderland coming back from 0-2 to lead 3-2 but the match ended 3-3. I can recall a great goal from Leicester, Nicky Sharkey playing well for Sunderland and Forster making a couple of great saves.
A couple of other memories are Gordon Banks, who was in goal for Leicester making a fuss of Forster at the final whistle and crowd trouble. The police led a number of Leicester fans around the touchline and several had blood streaming down their faces. I asked my uncle what it was happening and I recall him saying “It’s the away fans fighting behind the goal, this started last season." So, The English Disease was alive and kicking in the early 60s not the 70s.
As an exile there haven’t been many games to emulate or even match my first appearance. I saw Jim Baxter play a number of times and remember him playing brilliantly in a home win against The Mags, but he was on the slide when he played at Sunderland. Great games that spring to mind are the Cup Final in 73, when my dad somehow came up with a ticket on the Friday night. The League Cup games in 85 away at Spurs and Chelsea and in more recent times the Charlton play off, then a number of games in the following year when we went up under Reidy and a couple of great wins at Chelsea.
Best player I saw in Red and White was by some way in my opinion the young Colin Todd who was peerless. I was a big fan of Shaun Elliot and Jordan Henderson who I never felt was appreciated enough at Sunderland.