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 When asked to come up with First Game I discovered something quite odd. I had remembered the result entirely incorrectly. So much so that I doubted I was even at the game and had to double check the dates my family returned from Africa for a winter break on Wearside. I knew it was Leicester and I knew we hadn't won, but I have gone through the vast majority of my life thinking it was a 1-1 draw. The fact that we lost 4-0 at home was a shock. So, if you're looking for an accurate run through of the game then I am afraid you're in the wrong place. In my defence I was plunged from an African summer into a north east winter, so I probably had hypothermia before the match kicked off. The things I do remember are a great deal more sensory than the details; the glare of the floodlights in dark skies; the chatter of the crowd, the smell of cigarillos. I also remember being impressed by the little wooden planks with ropes on hanging over the railings so that children could see over the top of the wall in the Clock Stand Paddocks. One player stuck out for me in all of that though; and surprisingly it wasn't Gary Lineker or Alan Smith despite them apparently getting a brace each, it was Chris Turner. I have no idea why, but I was just a little struck by Turner; he seemed quiet, concentrated, determined. The fact he let in four goals obviously escaped me but my obsession with Turner would continue for some time afterwards. My family on Wearside posted a video to Bulawayo a short while later where another player scored a brace, this time it was Colin West and Chris Turner kept a clean sheet as Wearside dared to dream. 8th December 1984 Sunderland 0 Leicester City 4 FAVOURITE GAME The magic of the cup. Fantastic isn't it? A 3rd round victory against Port Vale was followed up with a comfortable trip to Oxford but only after the game had been rearranged to a midweek, then West Ham home and away and that Tony Norman save from Tim Breaker, then another double header against Chelsea and of course Gordon Armstrong. On to Norwich then. The excitement had been building for weeks and the thousands who flocked to Hillsborough encouraged a real sense of belonging in me. Faces being painted in working men's clubs prior to the match, flags waving, songs belting out from every corner. This was undoubtedly the most exciting atmosphere I had ever witnessed. Before the kick off we stood in the stadium opposite where 96 fans had lost their lives in the last semi-final that had been played there and there was a brief period of sobriety as we all thought about being there but for the grace of God. The Sunderland fans were magnificent that day and when John Byrne continued his record of scoring in every round after 31 minutes (a familiar time for any '73 fans out there) the place went insane. Roars, hugs, tears and cheers. Now we just had to sit through the longest 60 minutes of football that there has ever been in the history of the beautiful game. By the end my ears were ringing as the Sunderland fans whistled for the final whistle. When the whistle came the joy poured out, in some cases on to the pitch. As we made our way back to Sheffield station on a double decker bus a policeman stood at the front. The bus was virtually silent. The policeman turned round and said "Anyone would think you had lost that game!" We looked up, partly exhausted, partly shell shocked. We were going to Wembley. 5 April 1992 Sunderland 1 Norwich 0 FAVOURITE GROUND This is a very difficult one to choose as I quite simply love travelling with Sunderland and, as a long serving supporter, I have more than a few miles under my belt. I do love Hillsborough with it's overwhelming Spion Kop but I can't really talk about the semi-final again can I? Besides which, Hillsborough has recently been usurped. I think my favourite ground is the Crown Stadium in little old Accrington. Not that the stadium itself is anything particularly impressive; it's the way that they do things down there. The first time I went there we called in to what used to be the official club house (as I was led to believe by some local Accrington Stanley fans I got chatting to) where you could buy milk bottles, or if that wasn't your thing you could also buy a pair of Napoli flip flops. Given the outcome of that first visit to Accrington, flippers may have been more appropriate. The second visit was bathed in glorious sunshine. Posters on the entrance to the ground thanked us for travelling however many miles it is from Sunderland to Accrington. Live bands were playing in a marquee. There was a beer bus. We were just made to feel very welcome. On top of all that, it was my son's first ever away match and so it will always hold a special memory for both of us.
FAVOURITE PLAYER Taxis, Canoes, Tractors. Hard as nails. John Kay, no arguments. Stay Safe, Haway the Lads