I was brought up in South Shields to a poor working class family. My dad had little interest in professional football, instead he used to take me to see Shields play at Simonside Hall. When I was about fourteen, Sunderland were starting to put a decent team together under Alan Brown and lots of the talk at school was about how they were doing and promotion.
At that time I was very small for my age and didn't play or like football at all. My mates were all talking about just missing out to Liverpool who got promoted instead of SAFC (I think we had to win at Swansea at the Vetch Field but didn't). Brian Clough's name was everywhere in the papers on the news, Old Big Head.
At this time I thought, to hell with this, all my pals talk of nothing else but Sunderland and Clough. I'll show them, so I started a scrap book of Newcastle players. Although I had never been to a professional match, I knew all the Newcastle players off by heart, all the statistics, etc.
Then things changed. Boxing Day 1962. Clough got injured. Guaranteed promotion became a lottery. Chelsea came to Roker and Sunderland just needed a draw to go up. Tommy Harmer's backside put paid to that. But wait, Chelsea still had a game left, away to Portsmouth, I think, but they won it 6-0.
Heartbreak at Roker, but I was interested in Sunderland, at last.
I left school and started an apprenticeship. At the same time I decided to cycle to Roker to see the lads play (I had money from my first job) but didn't know the way, so got there late. It was Northampton Town. '
Don't bother coming in', shouted a lad from the wall in the Fulwell end.
We were losing 2-0.
I didn't go in, but learned where to store my bike in some ones back yard for coppers.
Now, epiphany. Derek Kevan had signed for Man City, a famous goal scoring centre forward. I had to go, a game in September of 1963. I was there. The noise, the absolutely lovely roar, in the Fulwell end, before the roof was put on, as we scored. Then scored again. Utter bliss. I got in for one shilling and sixpence, and continued well past the legal age paying this, cos I was small and very young looking. I would have paid anything to see that match. I was hooked, and never missed a game for years after that.
The same season, Cardiff City came to us, and Allchurch scored three against us from miles out. Monty was to blame, I thought, but Stan Anderson carried the can and got transferred to the mags soon after, never playing for Sunderland again.
Incidentally, I don't think the atmosphere at the Stadium of Light has been anything like that at Roker. Even when it was empty, like just before Stokoe arrived, you could taste the atmosphere as soon as you entered the turnstiles.