I was born in Sunderland and indoctrinated by my father into the joys of being a SAFC fan at a very early age - I think he wanted a boy.
When I was ten my family moved to Whitehaven, where a girl who liked football was a novelty and one that supported Sunderland was ripe for a piss take. The constant ridiculing made me even more proud of my heritage and that I was a Sunderland fan.
At this point I still wasn’t considered old enough to go to Roker Park, but after constant nagging my father finally agreed to take me to my first ever game, it was just after my 12th birthday. It was an evening kick off vs West Ham United on Monday 12th May 1980, which meant I had to be bunked out of school - we both knew how important this game was, my father would never normally bunk me out of School!
I was so excited. We got to Roker at some point in the afternoon; we were one of the first to start queuing outside the Roker end. It seemed ages before they let us in, I remember the orange brickwork outside the ground, lots of it. The ground was full, it wasn’t until much later I found out that so many people were locked out that night, hence the reason my dad was anxious to get there early.
We were stood in the far corner of the Roker end, next to the paddock where the West Ham supporters were. They were throwing two pence coins at us. I’d never seen claret and blue skin heads before – I was fascinated with them and their banter.
My memory seems to think that my dad placed me just behind a small wall and he stood right behind me. A man with a boy, about the same age as me, did the same; we were both just about tall enough to see over the wall, everyone else was squashed in very tightly behind us. I remember both my dad and the boy’s dad being very protective of us.
West Ham had just won the FA cup and had brought it with them, I seem to recall one of the Sunderland players kicking the ball and knocking the top off it and everyone laughing.
My memories are more about the atmosphere and how I felt than the game itself, when Sunderland scored their first goal I do remember the roar and everyone jumping up and feeling like I was disappearing down among a sea of arms and elbows and not being able to see anything anymore. Sunderland beat West Ham 2-0 that night and we were promoted to what was then the old first division. Leaving the ground there were masses of people, it is the only time I ever remember my dad holding my hand.
And just to add, if the boy that was stood next to me that evening recognises himself in this description, I’d love to get in touch…