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My First Game #6 - Sunderland 0-0 Coventry City, 1981

Do you remember your first SAFC game? Tell us!
Do you remember your first SAFC game? Tell us!

Ey up you, welcome back for another edition of My First Game, the feature where you get to lighten our workload and tell us all about your first Sunderland game.

It's been a great success so far, and the top quality submissions from you lot just keep on coming. Today being no exception as we've got a belter lined up. If you want to add your own, just cobble together 500 words or so, possibly even more it's up to you, on your first game and send them to rokerreport [at] gmail [dot] com.

So for today's game, a wonderful story from Jane Lowes, whom you can follow on Twitter @LydiaJane13 so if you enjoy it, give her a follow. For now though, enjoy this great story...

It's June 1981., St Cuthbert's Junior School, Seaham. The country is gripped with Royal Wedding Fever. Think Gene Hunt, Ashes to Ashes, Thatcher's Britain... you get the picture.

I am eleven years old and sporting a Princess Diana haircut (what WERE you thinking Mother?)

"I am delighted to announce that this term's trip for the 4th Year Juniors will be a guided tour round Roker Park..."


"....and the girls will be going on a visit to Thorpe Maternity Hospital".

If the phrase "WTF" had been invented then, I would have said it.

Are you SERIOUS?

The boys get to walk upon the hallowed turf and I have to go to a bloody hospital and look at babies? What the hell kind of fun is that meant to be ?

Devastated didn't even cover it. I am still aggrieved, thirty years later.

From a very early age I had been desperate to get to Roker Park to see my heroes play. One of my earliest memories is of my Mam struggling to get my arms into a cardigan while my Dad and Grandad (a very straightlaced, conservative sort of chap) were leaping around the sitting room, the latter making v-signs to someone called Billy Bremner on the TV, just after a football team in red and white stripes had scored a goal . Something important had clearly just occurred. My dad was (and still is) a fanatical Sunderland fan. I recall him heading out into the dark just as I was getting ready for bed, kitted out in a home made red and white knitted scarf which must have been at least 7 feet long, going to "The Match".

For years and years I begged and pleaded with him to let me go with him. He always refused. "It's not suitable for little girls. There's bad language" he would say. Which of course made me want to go even more. So I had to be content with following all the latest developments on the back pages of the Sunderland Echo and pouring over the match programmes Dad would always bring home for me.

Fast forward to October 1981. I think I just eventually wore him down, but Dad finally agreed to take me to Roker Park. Someone had loaned him two season tickets for the Main Stand Seats (we had posh friends). The fixture was Sunderland against Coventry City, October 3rd 1981.

I was beside myself with excitement. I never slept a wink the night before. I recall travelling to the match in Dad's Datsun Sunny (that's a Nissan to you younger folk), and walking for what seemed miles through increasingly narrow streets. And the people - I had never seen so many people in one place.

I was desperate to see my hero, the very lovely Shaun Elliott, and I had also taken a bit of shine to our new signing, a good looking 18 year-old Scottish lad called Ali McCoist... hey, I was eleven OK? I was easily impressed.

Dad took me into the club shop where I bought a Shaun Elliott keyring and one of those sew-on patches people used to stitch on to jackets and jeans back in the day, with a team photograph on it. I still have it. I then recall making my way up what seemed like endless flights of stairs, and out into the fresh air, to see Roker Park in all its glory. The noise was unbelievable and gave me goosebumps as the teams ran out. Everytime anyone swore (and I learned a whole new set of swearwords that day) my Dad would cough loudly in the hope that I wouldn't hear. Too late.

The Sunderland team was Siddall, Hinnigan, Munro, Buckley, Clarke, Hindmarch, Elliott, McCoist, Ritchie, Rowell and Cummins, Sub - Pickering. I couldn't tell you who was playing for Coventry apart from some dark haired lad called Hately who my Dad (the oracle) appeared to rate highly.

I can remember very little about the match itself. Mainly because nothing happened. Not one thing. I think there may have been a sending off, but that was the sole highlight. It was absolutely dire. The nil-nil scoreline clearly flattered both sides and set the tone for years of misery and disappointment. But it didn't matter. I got to see my hero and I was (and remain) completely and utterly hooked. It was certainly better than spending the afternoon looking at babies.

I bumped into Shaun Elliot about 20 years later in Johnny Ringo's on Park Lane. He was sitting at the bar with Jeff Clarke.


Still my hero...

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