With very little going on right now, we tasked our regular writers to look back on their time supporting the lads and name their favourite game, ground and player as well as remembering their first time watching the lads… Feel free to contribute yours to firstname.lastname@example.org FIRST GAME I don’t like cockneys. I mean, generally, I dislike them, but when it comes to football, can’t stand them. And that long standing relationship has been with me since my first ever live game of football. Against the most cockney of all cockneys. The winners of the World Cup. The ones who enjoy blowing ‘bab-wws’. My first game was the 4th September 1982. We won with the mighty Chris Turner keeping a clean sheet and the even mightier Gary Rowell scoring the winner. It set me up to believe we were invincible, that Alan Durban was the greatest manager in the world and that my Sunderland supporting life would be one of constant happiness. A week later we got spanked 8-0 away to Watford (pretend cockneys) and I learned the reality of Sunderland life. I realised it would be miserable. Let down, after let down. Disappointment built on disappointment. And I also realised that I would never leave. FAVOURITE GAME How do I pick a favourite game? Chelsea in the cup quarter final. Obviously. Beating Newcastle that night in the rain. Unquestionably. Beating Newcastle that afternoon in the sun. Given. Putting 6 past Millwall? There are loads of happy memories (kept apart by the dross) but I’m going to pick a game that gave me hope. Real hope that everything was going to be OK. The day I fell in love with Ross Wallace. We went to Derby to see the new manager with only one important question (for me). You see, I believe real managers wear suits and Quinn didn’t. And neither did Mick Mac. So, I was interested to see what Keane wore. I remember texting a friend who couldn’t be there with great relief ‘shirt and tie’. We knew that mattered. And then Derby scored and it really didn’t matter anymore. We needed something that would take us forwards. Would they dig deep and play for the new manager. Brown got a scrambled tap in and we realised Kavanagh could be a good signing for us. Then the ball fell to Ross Wallace, another of Keane’s signings, and magic happened. The ball hit the net, the shirt came off and somehow we all knew it was going to be ok. That season ended up better than ok but I always point to that moment, that relief as the moment it turned. Whenever we start again, we’ll need another moment like that to push us forwards.
FAVOURITE GROUND I’ve written previously about my first game and my Dad taking me to Roker Park. I had no idea how important a moment that would have been for him until 35 years later. On the 4th April 2017 when I took my son, aged 8, to his first Sunderland game. We went to Leicester and watched the previous season’s champions (I still can’t believe that) show why they weren’t looking like ever being relegated again while we looked like we’d never met. The game was irrelevant. The score was too. It was an extraordinary evening partly because it was the Chairman’s birthday and he had bought everyone beer and cake before the game – an amazing guy and sorely missed by the whole footballing world – and more important to me personally, I saw my son, for the first time, cheering, chanting, shouting, screaming to support his team. He immediately fell in love with the atmosphere, he saw his hero, Jordan Pickford, play for his club and I saw him realise that he was at home with the people around him. People he’d never met. People who were somehow now family. FAVOURITE PLAYER I’ve always loved goalkeepers. I’ve no idea who is my favourite but it’s definitely my favourite position. Barry Siddall was my first love, Chris Turner, Norman, Given (yes, I know), Tommy Sorensen, Mignolet, Vito… so many heroes but Pickford wins it for me. To have a Sunderland lad play in goal for Sunderland is special. To have a Sunderland lad play for England was incredible. That penalty shoot out with England… but for me, it’s the passion. Pickford’s love of winning games, his desire to put his body on the line to keep a clean sheet, his commitment to the cause when others around him were failing. His career had to take him away from Sunderland but he’ll always be a favourite. Stay Safe, Haway the Lads