I would like to say that I have happy memories of my first game watching Sunderland, but it turned out to be simply awful. The match in question was against Everton at Goodison Park on 4th December 1965.
I have no connection to Sunderland personally, but my dad had relatives from the area, which thinking logically must be distant relatives of mine, so I guess I do have some form of connection to the area. My dad must have drummed it into me that Sunderland was the team to support as my local team was and remains Tranmere Rovers. Even though I was only 7 years old he took me to my first game and it was easier to travel to Everton at that time than to travel to Sunderland. You must also consider that my dad was the sole provider for our family, so he wouldn't have had the money to travel up to Sunderland anyway.
I didn't know it at the time, but somehow, we ended up in the Gwladys Street End! As for the match, the lads lost 2-0 and I have thought about this game many times. I realised that because we obviously didn't cheer when Everton scored their 'supporters' where wondering who the hell where we. My dad had bought me a sort of silk scarf with Sunderland on it which I proudly displayed around my neck, so I guess those 'supporters' soon realised that we were not Everton fans. I still have that scarf today, 54 years now. Even at that young age I recall asking my dad if he thought we could get back into the game.
I can't explain it, but somehow, I knew that at that moment Sunderland was my team and they would always be my team. Thanks to dad, he knew the best team to support, he knew the passion, honesty, knowledge and respect our supporters had and indeed have to this day. He could relate to the club from his working-class background which, again has carried on to me.
Getting back to the game, I can't remember much about it. I seem to recall that the lads played in white shirts, black shorts and white socks but I may be horribly wrong. My favourite players where George Mulhall and Colin Suggett. At the end of the game I knew we had lost 2-0 and I was heartbroken.
So, afterwards we walked to the bus stop hoping not to wait too long for a bus back to Birkenhead or a bus to Liverpool City centre, so we could get a bus home from there. A bus duly turned up and I remember my dad pushing me up on to it as there where many others jostling and pushing their way forward. I was too small to do this myself. We got on the bus and the conductor (older fans will remember them) came up to take our fare. My dad went to get his wallet out of his coat only to find that it had been stolen. He searched everywhere for it but couldn't find it. Other people (mostly Everton 'supporters') were laughing. Someone on the top deck of that bus had robbed my dad of his bloody hard work earnings. The conductor took pity and allowed us to travel home free of charge. I will always remember crying my heart out. The lads had lost but worse, my dad had been robbed trying to protect his son. Three weeks before Christmas!
Horrible. Just bloody horrible. I have hated Everton ever since and always will.
I never got to thank my dad for passing on his love of what is quite simply the greatest football club in the world to me.
It's weird, it's strange as I can't put into words what the club means to me. It burns in your heart. I honestly don't think that even the late Professor Stephen Hawking could identify what each Sunderland fan feels inside. I stroked his hair and his face when he died in our local hospital and whispered that I was so sorry that he would never make it to the Stadium of Light.
So, my first game is not one to remember with any fondness, but it was the start of something very, very special which will stay with me forever. To end on a brighter note, we saw many great games together both at home (Roker) and away.
Ha'way the lads. Attached is a photo of the scarf.