My First Game

Lincoln City v Sunderland. Second Division. Saturday January 14th, 1961

I wasn’t fortunate enough to have been brought up in the North East, being born and bred in Retford, Nottinghamshire (the first train stop past Doncaster). However, my mother’s side of the family were Mackems through and through and had moved there from Sunderland in the 1930s for work reasons.

All of them were Sunderland fans. Indeed, my Granny, born in 1892, claimed that she used to go out with Charlie Buchan, Captain of Sunderland and England before she met my Granddad. It was my uncle, who had trials as a goalie for Sunderland just after the Second World War, who took me to see my first game, away to Lincoln City, just 25 miles away.

As it turns out this was Lincoln’s last season in the old Division Two, getting relegated at the end of the season. To say I was excited was putting it mildly. I had never been to a league game, only ever watched Retford Town from the side of the pitch. I had certainly never sat in a stand before and it was a new experience to look down on the pitch to see a game.

The Lads were on a bit of a roll. Two weeks before they had thumped Luton 7-1 at Roker Park, and then followed it up by knocking Arsenal out of the FA Cup 2-1 in front of over 58,000 at Roker Park.

This followed a dismal run when they didn’t win a game at all in September and October and had slumped to 19th. However, they had climbed up to 6th by the time the match came around on a cold clear January day.

The Sunderland team was Wakeham, Nelson, Ashurst, Anderson, Hurley, McNab, Hooper, Fogarty, Lowther, McPheat, Dillon. My memories of the game are a bit sparse except my excitement soon turned to despair when Lincoln went one up almost from the kick off.

However, Ian Lawther equalised just before half time. But I do remember the winner very clearly. The lads won a corner that was cleared but fell to Stan Anderson at least 30 yards out and he just hit it on the half volley, very hard, and it flew into the back of the net after about 72 minutes. The Lads hung on to win 2-1. I was one very happy 10-year-old and the player who impressed me most on the day was John Dillon who tore down the wing and made the Lincoln’s full back’s life a misery.

I don’t get to many games now, but I have managed to bring up my daughters to follow the Lads and their first game was away to Doncaster in our only other season in the third tier when we won 2-0 in August 1987. I am also pleased to say I took my six-year Grandson to the Stadium of Light for his first game and see them beat Carlisle 3-1 in the F A Cup in January 2014 and he is now a proud member of the Black Cat Academy.

I’ve lost count of the promotions and relegations over the years, but I am more optimistic for the future of the club than for many years and count myself a proud, if absent, Mackem.