Welcome along everyone to a brand new feature on Roker Report - My First Game. Fairly self-explanatory I would have thought, so no need for a huge intro.
Basically, it's going to be an occasional nostalgia trip, where you can tell us and the world about your first experiences of Sunderland AFC. It could be recent, it could be back int he 50's or 60's... everyone is welcome to share there experience! If you want to share yours, and you can piece together at least 500 words on the occasion, then just email us - rokerreport [at] gmail [dot] com (work it out, we already get enough spam).
Kicking us off, we have a fairly recent one, but its a good little yarn from the now avid SAFC fan, Ben Stores. Ben's a 21 year old Sports Journalism Graduate from South Hylton, and when he's at the Stadium Of Light, he's out playing himself for The Victory Club in the local leagues. Give him a follow on Twitter why don't you, he's a top lad - @benstores
And now Ladies & Gents, Ben's story on how he became a Sunderland fan...
As a child, growing up in the nineties/naughties I seen the great success of Arsenal. Marc Overmars, Manu Petit, Dennis Bergkamp, David Seaman and of course Thierry Henry it was safe to say these were my idols. My Dad was never a huge football fan, he supports Sunderland but never really pumped it into my system, and witnessing the success of Wenger’s lot, I followed them, not without any hassle from my peers, all obvious Sunderland fans, as they were decked out in the famous red and white, I had the sheet red all over my back my chest emblazoned with ‘JVC.’
This went on throughout primary school and into secondary school, still having the banter over bragging rights when Arsenal played Sunderland, usually with me coming out on top. This was of course until a strange evening in May 2004. One of the lads from school had a spare ticket to Sunderland Vs Norwich, with Norwich chasing the Championship title and Sunderland hoping to secure a playoff spot. I had been to a few games at the Stadium of Light before but nothing of remembrance, just the usual cheap tickets from school. But this game, kind of changed my life.
It was a fairly warm night towards the end of the season, the whole area was buzzing, quite different to the match-day feeling we get today, I think the game was a near sell-out with Norwich bringing up thousands of fans from East Anglia. The game started off very tense with Darren Huckerby having one of those games where he could win it by himself. Sean Thornton and John Oster were passing the ball around the slick surface and showing promise of the footballers they could have become. Then on the stroke of half time Thornton delivered a brilliant ball on a sixpence for on-loan midfielder Carl Robinson to rise above and head home past the flapping Robert Green. The lad’s battled out and held on to that 1-0 lead and as West Brom were down against Stoke, this meant that Norwich were winning the title anyway. The atmosphere was electric. Mexican waves were going round and round the stadium with all the fans in a carnival mood. I was sitting up in the concourse and it was still the most rapturous noise id ever heard. From then on in I fell in love with Sunderland, without wanting to admit defeat to my friends I tried to stand strong with Arsenal however Sunderland were under my skin, I was turned.
It was not long after when I witnessed the true meaning of being a Sunderland fan, having hopes built up only to be crushed, when we were beaten on penalties at home to Crystal Palace after Jeff Whitley’s world class penalty...
In the face of this, I still convinced my parents the following season I needed a season ticket, and to this day I still sit in that same seat I started the 04/05 season in the SWC. We don’t seem to get thrilling nights like that as Sunderland fan’s but I guess that’s what happens with, mid-table mediocrity.
And there you have it. A big thank you to Ben, our first correspondent for this feature, and hopefully the first of many. We'd really love more of these, so why not share yours! All the details and stuff are in the opening gambit.