My First Game

October 17, 2018

Growing up as 6-year-old child the whole family would visit my nana and granddad’s every Sunday for afternoon tea. It was homage and a part of life. While the adults stayed indoors chatting, the kids played in the garden, centred around the shed, creating inanimate objects from rough sawn pieces of timber. My granddad was great handyman in the day.

 

Once tea was ready we were summonsed inside to eat, much to our disgruntlement. Whilst the other kids scoffed themselves silly, I would listen to the grownups talking endlessly about Roker Park, wondering what it would be like to witness it, feel it and take in the atmosphere I’ve heard so much about. One week for a moment the conversation went quiet and I quietly piped up “granddad, can I go one day.” I was told it was too expensive but “we’d see.” The seed was planted and I lived in hope.

 

One weekend out of the blue my moment arrived. My granddad’s best mate couldn’t go; it was my turn to actually gan to the match. I was a 7-year-old boy, this was huge and I made sure everyone of my school mates knew about it.

 

On Saturday 9th November 1974 my life changed. I strutted towards Roker Park clinging tightly to my granddad’s hand, the ground in the distance, getting bigger with every proud step I took. The match itself after all these years is naturally a blur, however we won 3-1 V Blackpool and I had seen MY team. The fact I’d seen Monty in goal was all that mattered, two years after that Cup Final. We sat in the Clockstand seats that day, I could have been in the Royal Box at Wembley, it was a special moment that lives with me to this day.

 

It was almost two years till my return as I waited eagerly for my granddad to give me the shout. He sat me down one Sunday afternoon and explained the situation. My ticket was for the Paddock just below where he was sitting. I was going to the match, but I’d be on my own standing ten yards in front of his seat with a load of strangers. He put me at ease and explained he could see me at every moment. I nervously agreed, but sat there wondering how the hell I was going to see amongst that mass of fans I witnessed two years prior just below me.

 

I was led to that infamous shed by my granddad, I sat patiently watching as he made this sort of swing item out of timber and blue rope. “You’ll be able to see now, he said”. I was confused but went along with it. My big day arrived and as I entered the stands a good two hours to kick off, I was virtually the first one in. Then, the penny dropped as I saw a guy placing a swing on the railings, I had one of them I thought. I looked back at my granddad a smiled, he just winked at me. My swing was in place and I was indoctrinated into SAFC from that day forward. My granddad was my hero.

 

Sadly, he passed away when I was in my teens, my memories of him live with me to this day, his flea-bitten scarf is still with me, passed down by my nana, it only had one home. That same scarf that kept him warm at Wembley in’73 is my most treasured item. He made me love our club, and I’ll forever love him for it. Typing this through blurry eyes has brought it all back. We’re a special club with special people.

 

And now as I sit here in 2018, my son is just starting his journey. He hasn’t missed a home game in six years; we’re looking forward to Shrewsbury, Doncaster and Plymouth away. He’s a diehard already at 12 years old. We’ve done 42 away games together to date. He’s seen us win at St James Park, he’s seen us in a Cup Final at Wembley. His journey has only just begun, and I’ll be with him every step of the way.

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At the back end of the 1980s, football fanzines began to sweep the country and in 1989 we were presented with a new vehicle on which to enjoy some of this ride – A Love Supreme. ALS was a place we could all go to celebrate and commiserate being a Sunderland fan. Win, lose or draw, the pages of the fanzine became solace for many of us as we stumbled our way through our day to day lives, punctuated by the ups and downs of more match days than any of us care to remember.

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