The “quickest” way to the stadium is to make the usual start of taking the A19 to the A1(M) before joining the M18 at junction 35, near Doncaster. After just over 8 miles, join the M1, where you’ll turn off at junction 21 to take the M69 towards the M40. You’ll stay on this road for around 34 miles where you’ll then join the A34, which will take you towards the M3. You won’t be on the M3 for long before you need to merge onto the M27, followed by the A31. When you reach the roundabout for the A338, turn left and this road will lead you right up to the Vitality Stadium. Phew. In decent traffic the journey should take you roughly five and a half hours so bring loads of cans if you’re on a coach and ply the driver with coffee.
There’s plenty of parking available close to the ground and if you arrive early enough you can park just outside the stadium for just £1. If you plan on making a quick getaway then this isn’t the best option of course, so if you don’t want to be waiting, go for the nearby Harewood College. Located just a 10 minute walk from Dean Court, it’s only £2 for the whole day and it’s open from noon.
Last season we ended up in The Queens Park Hotel but soon realised we were the only Sunderland supporters in there. It turns out it’s a home fans only pub but if you’re in a small group (there was only two of us) and you’re not wearing colours, it’s worth a try. It’s quite close to the stadium but I’d avoid it if there’s quite a few of you or you’re wearing your finest red and white scarf.
The main recommended pub for away supporters is the Sir Percy Florence Shelley on Christchurch Road. It’s only 15 minutes from the Vitality Stadium and being a Weatherspoons, it also serves food. If you don’t fancy a ‘Spoons then I would check out The Cricketers Arms, located on Windham Road and just 20 minutes away from the ground. Specialising in real ale, you’ll hopefully be able to sample some more local brews if you opt for this boozer.
The Cricketers seems a more relaxed, quiet gaff so might not be one for if you’re wanting to get some songs going but the Mello Mello Bar, just next door to the Sir Percy, seems a more lively establishment.
If You’re At A Loose End
Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story is currently playing at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre with performances at 7.30pm on both Friday & Saturday night. A jukebox musical, the show takes you through Buddy’s life, how he rose to stardom and his tragic, untimely death. Tickets are still available from as little as £16.50.
If that’s not your scene but you still want something musical, The Australian Pink Floyd are bringing their show to the BIC Windsor Hall. Endorsed by David Gilmour himself, the Aussie Floyd have toured the world and are way more than just your average tribute. They use all the frills Pink Floyd did and they’re a must for any prog rock aficionado.
Arguably Bournemouth’s biggest tourist attraction is the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. If you want to see something different and don’t fancy a gig of any kind, then this could be the place to visit if you’re staying over and find yourself with some free time. As well as seeing all the great art and exhibitions you can also look around East Cliff Hall, one of the last Victorian houses to be built in Britain. It’s a very unique and cultured place, definitely somewhere to stop by if you want something a little different. Admission is only £6 for adults and it’s open across the weekend from 10am.
Dean Court, or The Vitality Stadium as it’s now known, is by some distance the smallest stadium in the Premier League, holding just over eleven thousand fans. With it’s four one tiered stands, towering floodlights and open corners it’s quite a throwback and a monument to just how highly the club has exceeded itself.
Away supporters are located in the East Stand of Dean Court, in the section closest to the Ted MacDougall South Stand. The away end holds around 1,500 visiting fans with decent views of the pitch overall. Obviously, the further back you are the better view you have of the whole pitch but the view of the near goal is pretty good regardless of how close to the pitch you are. You never know, if you’re sat close enough you might get to embrace Papy Djilobodji after he fires home a last minute winner.
The nostalgic feel of the stadium led to a good atmosphere last season, at a time when Sunderland found themselves in a similar predicament to what they do now. We may not be able to sing about Yann M’Vila this time out but let’s hope every fan in red and white makes a great atmosphere and (please, please, please) brings back three points back to Wearside.