Ahead of fixture release day, ALS’s Michael Lough reveals which away days they are looking forward to the most during the 2018-19 season.
Plymouth may not be an obvious choice for a preferred away-day destinations, but hear me out on this one. The ground itself is one of the larger venues we will visit over the course of the upcoming season and away allocations can be as high as 2,200 if there is such demand.
So why Plymouth? Well, for a start it is has great potential for a weekend away and with Plymouth being situated right on the south coast there’s sure to be plenty of Sunderland fans making a bit of a holiday of it. But what about Blackpool I hear you cry? That’s not as far to travel, it’s a coastal time and it’s a good night out. Well, since I can only select three away games I’m looking forward to, I couldn’t include Blackpool, because that would mean I would have to also include Fleetwood for similar reasons.
Even if the fixture computer throws up a cruel twist of fate and we have to make the long journey on a mid-week evening, this game will become a real badge of honour for the die-hards travelling from the north east. In years to come, such a fixture would become a talking point amongst fans when moaning about the distance to a forthcoming fixture, ‘aye, but remember that time we played Plymouth on a Tuesday night’. In more on field matters, Sunderland’s most recent trip to Home Park was a successful one with the Lads securing a 2-0 victory courtesy of goals from Anthony Stokes and David Conolly.
Although the name, ‘the Wham Stadium’, would suggest otherwise, Accrington Stanley’s ground is about as traditional as it gets. With on open terraced away end, a decent away allocation (1,800) given the size of the ground and a reasonably priced pub within walking distance, Accrington Stanley is sure to prove a popular destination.
Another big advantage is its location, with Accrington only being around three hours away from Sunderland – and once you get inside the ground you’ll find that it is a true throwback. Only around 1,500 of the ground’s capacity is seated and the terracing is about as close to the pitch as it is possible to be. For a lot of younger supporters such as myself, this will be a rare opportunity to sample the atmosphere of a truly old school ground and it will be one of the first fixtures I will look out for.
Just picture the scene, it’s pouring down with rain and the lads are making their way over to a drenched away end clapping and roaring with delight after Sunderland had just wrapped up a convincing win. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
Although our most recent memory of Barnsley away is not a happy one, over the years the trip to South Yorkshire has produced some great memories, including Super Kev’s goal to clinch the league title in 1999 and taking almost 9,000 fans to Oakwell in 2007 on our way to another title.
In short, everything about the experience is what following the lads in lower-league football should be about. Winning games, packing out the away end and creating memories that get passed down through the generations. In a league full of new teams and new destinations, there’s a comforting familiarity about Barnsley. It’s just down the road in proportion to most of the long trips we have to endure, and we usually get the full compliment of 4,700 tickets so there’s always a really good atmosphere from the away end.
Bring it on!