For the tenth installment of our My First Game feature we take a little different of a twist on things. Usually this is your first Sunderland game, but this is the experience of someone who's introduction to the crazy world of football supporting and Sunderland supporting collided into one as during the 1966 World Cup, several games were played on our doorstep at Roker Park.
Recounting the tale this week is Martin Robinson (@MartinSRobinson on Twitter) who counts amolng his favourite memories seeing Kieron Brady and Marco Gabbiadini shred Sheffield United to bits at Brammall Lane in a 3-1 win, although he tells us his absolute favourite would be the 4-4 draw with Charlton in the 1998 Play Offs.
However, neither of these games were his first, and that's what the feature is about, so here comes Martin's contribution to My First Game...
I got into football quite late as a young lad growing up in Sunderland. My Dad wanted me to be a cricketer so was always practising with me. I even got into the junior school team.
1966 changed all that. By today's standard all the hype and razzmatazz preceding the World Cup was very modest. England weren't considered to have much of chance except for Sir Alf Ramsay who brazenly claimed they would win it.
Live football on TV was a novelty - and it was in black and white! I remember watching a few FA Cup Finals but that was it. Suddenly with the World Cup there was wall to wall live football on TV. Players with exotic one-word names like Pele, Garrincha and Eusebio flickered and shimmered on the screen. I was captivated. I learnt a new language - bicycle kick, banana shot, Latin temperament. My mates and I would re-enact the goals with a bald tennis ball in the back lane including the slow motion action replays. I discovered the existence of countries like North Korea and wondered how their counterparts from South, East and West Korea hadn't qualified.
There were 16 teams in four groups and one of the quartet was based in the North East - Italy, North Korea, Chile and the Soviet Union. The games were shared between Roker Park and bizarrely Boro's ground, Ayresome Park. Presumably the organisers saw sense and realised that playing at Sid James' was a case of pearls to swine although players and fans had to be provided with breathing apparatus for the visits to Ayresome.
As North Korea had no travelling fans, everyone in the North East adopted them as ‘their' team and amazingly they qualified for the quarter finals along with the Soviet Union. The Soviets stayed in the North East and were drawn to play Hungary, the runners up from the group containing one of the favourites Brazil, but won by Portugal. By this stage my football knowledge had grown astronomically in the two weeks of the tournament. My dad realised that cricket had no chance and I don't know how he did it - I think he just went along to the ground and bought them - but he announced that we had two tickets for Hungary v the Soviet Union at Roker - my first match!
In the Sixties the Iron Curtain was at its height and people from the Eastern Bloc just weren't allowed to travel. The days of corporate hospitality were yet to come so getting tickets for this game must have been straightforward.
By now the enormity of what I was going to see had dawned on me and I knew I was going to witness some of the all time greats of world football Lev Yashin the legendary Soviet goalkeeper, and for Hungary, the wily Florian Albert, and the deep lying centre forward Ferenc Bene. I was transfixed and captivated from as we waited for kick-off. We were in the Clock Stand at the front, just behind the Paddock and were close enough to the action to be able to witness the technique, speed and fitness of all the players.
Before the game the both sides warmed up with a series of bizarre exercises. I remember the Soviets with CCCP emblazoned across the front of their red shirts and the Hungarians in their change strip of white with two hoops one green and one red. Hungary were playing second fiddle from the kick off. Perhaps they felt intimidated by a country that had savagely repressed an uprising in Budapest only 10 years earlier.
The Soviets took an early lead after a fumble by the Hungarian goalkeeper and then doubled it shortly after half time. Bene got a goal back from a tight angle and despite further pressure the Magyars could do no more and were on their way home.
I remember three incidents clearly. The first was when a Hungarian defender chasing down a ball to the goal-line crashed over the low wall and fell head first down the drop and onto the concrete terraces of the Fulwell End. He reappeared helped up by police and St John's ambulance men but no need for a trainer - hard as nails!
The second was when the ball burst after being booted onto the clock stand roof - I never seen that before or since - a ball bursting that is (I've lost count of the number of balls I've seen kicked onto the Clock Stand).
The third was the cheer that went up when it was announced that, our team, The People's Republic of North Korea, were leading Portugal 3-0 in one of the other quarter finals. Sadly a remarkable comeback by Portugal with 4 goals by Eusebio ended their dreams but this was just the start of mine.
Hooked on the football bug I started going to Roker to see Sunderland AFC - my real team. Charley Hurley, Jim Baxter, Neil Martin, the Georges Herd and Mulhall and a bit later Bobby Kerr and Colin Todd. In 1996, nearly thirty years after my debut, I witnessed my football crazy son's first game at Roker - a 1-0 win versus Oldham, and saw the hopeless wonderful addiction take hold in the next generation of the family.
Different, but a cracking tale nonetheless I'm sure you'll agree. If you want ot send in your to us, then do so! We can be reached via email RokerReport@Gmail.com