The Stadium of Light

Ground No. 49
Visited - Tuesday 1st November 2004
Result - Sunderland 3-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca Cola Championship
Attendance - 23,925

The last time we had played at the Stadium of Light was back in 1999, when there had been an attendance of 41,268. I hadn't been there that day (or the one other time we've played at the ground), so was quite looking forward to seeing one of the better stadiums in the country, never mind the division, however knowing in advance that the attendance would be little over half of that took the gloss off it a bit, as it's always better to go to a ground that is full, as opposed to half-empty. Along with this the sacking of Dave Jones 24 hours earlier, and the most woeful, uncommitted performance in memory from a Wolves side on the Saturday beforehand had helped to stretch the patience of most fans, so it was a poor following that made the long journey north from the Black Country.

I left Wolverhampton at 11:30am, and after a couple of changes in Birmingham and Newcastle, arrived into Sunderland as it was going dark, at 4:30. Because there were no trains back that evening, I'd had to book a hotel for the night, so with map in hand, I walked from the station towards Roker, finding the hotel, The Belmont Guest House, (well recommended if you have to stay over) with little problem.

Once there, I took the time to settle down there for a few hours, to recover from the long journey, before making the brief walk down to the ground. I had considered taking pictures there, but knowing that they would come out poor in the dark, I decided to wait until the next morning for when I'd arranged to go inside the ground to get them, so after a quick look around the club shop, I found our turnstiles and went into the ground. Due to the poor following it was unreserved seating, so met up with a friend, and found seats together ready to watch the game.

Looking around the ground, it’s an impressive site, especially the North and West Stands with their upper tier, making it a really huge stadium. I'd heard it described before as a mini Old Trafford, as well as a bigger version of St Mary’s/Walkers/Madejski and it does have elements of both in, but the upper tiers of the two stands help give it the character that Southampton’s and Leicester’s grounds so sorely lack, yet being more modern, and pre-conceived than Old Trafford it provides better facilities and certainly more leg-room, which is of course always a good thing.

The match eventually got started, to as expected a crowd well below capacity, but the Sunderland fans didn’t let this deter them from making a good atmosphere, with most of the noise coming from the corner to our left. From the off we were looking good, and certainly a lot better than on Saturday vs Gillingham, benefiting from having Kenny Miller back in our attack after suspension. Millers return proved even more pivotal when in the 18th minute, after a good run and pass up field from Bischoff he turned the home defender to poke the ball home from the edge of the area to give us a deserved 1-0 lead. Sunderland came back into it, but we dominated the rest of the first-half, despite a few scares, and were looking greatly improved.

In good mood we started the second half and were looking good again, with thoughts creeping in that we might possibly get something from the game. Those thoughts were soon dashed though, when Liam Lawrence scored a good solo effort, which our defence really should have dealt with better. With that the game turned on its head, and buoyed by their fans, Sunderland went on the offensive, whilst we just collapsed. They went on to score two more goals, with another one from Lawrence, giving them an easy win in the end, leaving us further in the mire, with Dave Jones sacking seeming to have made little difference.

I left the ground and made my way back to the hotel, walking around what seemed to be half of Sunderland, trying to find a shop open to get some food from. Eventually I found a chippie in the end, before settling down for the night. I did go back to the ground the next day, and after having to argue with the security man on the reception desk to be let in, (despite having been told it would be no problem last week) eventually got into the ground to take pictures. Also I tried to see if there was anything left of Roker Park, but after walking around most of the area couldn’t see anything other than new houses built, with road names such as ‘Turnstile Mews’, ‘Midfield Drive’ and ‘Clockstand Close’! After having a look around the town, which seemed a nice place, I caught the train home, this time going via Carlisle.

Overall it was a good trip, result apart, but the hotel was nice, and its certainly a great ground, I'd love to go back there when its full as that’s the one thing that really lets it down (which I'm sure Sunderland fans are sick of reading!) Hopefully next time though they will have given the staff lessons in charm and co-operation, as both the stewards at the game, and the reception staff the next day were pretty unhelpful and seemed to treat myself and other fans as nuisances, as opposed to people actually putting money into the club to give them a job. I know its something that fans often moan about, but clubs and their staff really ought to treat fans with a lot more respect, even fans of other clubs, as if it wasn’t for us the football industry would collapse, even more so than it rapidly is, and Sunderland, millions in debt, should know this more than most.

Black Cat House

Gates near the Main Entrance

Rear of the West Stand

Rear of the North Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the South Stand

The Club Shop

Tribute to the Wearmouth Colliery

The North Stand

The East Stand

The South Stand

The West Stand

The West Stand

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

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