Unless you live in a basement without any windows or aren’t from around these parts, you’ll probably be aware that up here in the Sunderland this morning it has been absolutely p*ssing it down with snow.
Horrible white stuff, isn’t it? It turns already horrendous drivers into dribbling morons, it stops self-employed builders from earning a living and it just gets absolutely everywhere.
It’s a nightmare just leaving the house and it makes that commute to work and then back home again even more unbearable than it already is (cheap plug - you can easily remedy that by listening to today’s Roker Rapport Podcast - it won’t melt the snow but it’ll certainly pass the time).
We got talking this morning in the Roker Report writers’ Whatsapp group chat about Sunderland games in the past where snow played it’s part, and it actually got me thinking back about some really happy memories.
The first one that comes to mind for me is the fixture against Fulham during our fifteen point season, where the game was called off after 21 minutes due to the horrendous weather - despite the fact that Fulham took the lead through a Brian McBride goal early in the game, meaning that at the time of the postponement the away side were winning.
Funnily, Chris Coleman was in charge of the Cottagers that day. When the now-Sunderland gaffer and his side eventually returned to the Stadium of Light just under a month later to replay the fixture, Kevin Ball’s Sunderland managed to do the unthinkable and win a game... having already been relegated in the most embarrassing of fashions, setting a (then) record low for a points return for any side in any given Premier League campaign.
That victory over Fulham was our only win at the Stadium of Light in the league that season. In an interview with Roker Report just weeks ago the manager that day, Kevin Ball, spoke at length about just how he prepared for the return fixture, particularly knowing that our fate was already sealed and that the home supporters were just desperate to have something to cheer about.
In his own words, Bally said:
Firstly, let’s say I was desperate to win it because to have that record of not winning a home game for the club - I mean the points tally was bad enough. When I took over the chance of getting out of it was remote, so you’re basically trying to get this group of players to do the best that they can and still have targets.
The game at Portsmouth for example - they were my first club but I was telling the Lads “let’s take them down with us.” I wanted to win for us as a club. So you’re 1-0 up then big Kev (Kyle) handballs it and we end up losing the game.
I lost it because the players didn’t seem to believe in what they could achieve. We should have won, we should have done more. As I came out of the changing room I still knew the staff down there, and a few of the security lads were backing off!
Lou, our media girl, asked me for a walk around the ground before I met the media that day. We should have won. There were other games we could talk about. Little things we could have changed if they just believed in themselves, just a little bit of hard work.
Anyway, the Fulham game - the one that got called off - the pitch was awful at that time; you couldn’t play football on it, never mind how low they were on confidence, so I went down on the morning and watered it. I thought I’d do it so the lads could get the ball down and play. Next thing you know you have snowflakes as big as you’ve ever seen them and they’re smacking me in the head! Rory (Delap) broke his nose, and there was a challenge on the far side with George McCartney, so the ref rightly decided to call it off.
So it all comes down to the rearranged game. I decided on the day to try something I would often do with the young lads. When it go to the stage where they had done well, or they needed a break from training I’d say, “right, let’s go for a walk.”
We’d get them bacon sandwiches, egg and sausages. Anything they wanted, and we’d just have a walk. It created a lot of craic between the - a bit of banter - sometimes a bit of ‘real talk’ too; proper discussions. All of a sudden you’re bonding. I don’t think this group of players had done that. They had hot chocolates like works of art, marshmallows the lot.
I decided it would be a good idea to take them down the seafront. My point was I wanted them to go out and speak to people. I wanted them to see how people reacted to them. People drove past, tooted their horns, wanted photos with them - the lot. When we got back to the gatehouse; all the lads agreed they had fun. “We haven’t done that before”they were saying and so on. I asked them how many of those fans - remember we were on twelve points at this time and already relegated - gave them s**t and had a go at them, and how many waved, tooted horns and wanted photos? I waited for them to realise and I said, “well win it for them, because you owe ‘em”.
Fantastic. In a season that was filled with misery and disappointment, a stroke of luck provided by the clouds in the sky ensured that Sunderland’s supporters at least got to witness one spirited Premier League win on Wearside that season - it seems almost apt that this coming Saturday, with former Fulham boss Coleman at the helm, we go in to yet another league fixture at the Stadium of Light search for an elusive home victory.
The other game that immediately comes to mind is the win away at Tony Pulis’ Stoke City in 2012 - a victory at the Britannia Stadium which in all honesty probably should have been called off almost as soon as it had began.
The arduous trip down to the potteries that day should have been all the warning that we needed in order to just turn around and head back home as the blizzard-like weather conditions swarmed the roads and railway lines of the North of England, but regardless, we battled on in order to reach our destination.
Upon (eventually) reaching Stoke the majority of us in the away end that day feared the worst - the pitch was covered in white stuff, and it seemed inevitable that the game would be called off due to the unsafe playing conditions.
But, to the credit of the referee and the ground staff, the game went ahead.
And yet again it was Sunderland who came out on the other side the luckier of the two teams due to the weather conditions - with the pitch wet and slippy, an awful tackle from Robert Huth on David Meyler led to the big German defender earning himself a dismissal just before half time.
The snow worsened as the half time break progressed and the Stoke ground staff did their level best to make the lines on the pitch at least visible so that the game could continue.
After an hour James McClean scored the only goal of the game to send the bitterly cold Sunderland supporters - and the brown dog (yes, there was a dog in the crowd) - in the away end back home to Wearside feeling warm inside.
It’s a good job that we did win because the taxing trip back up the motorway would have seemed a whole lot longer had we not taken all three points away with us.
Cold, wet and with our drunken stupors wearing off, we attempted to make the trek back to the North East having witnessed our side clinch a victory.
TWELVE HOURS LATER we finally reached Sunderland having had to cope with closed roads, accidents and coach drivers taking their legally required (yet still very annoying) breaks, all which contributed to slowing us down for longer than we really had anticipated. But, it was all worth it.
I think it’s perhaps a bit of a cliché, but as a fan you’d go to any lengths necessary to ensure you see your team win a game.
Was the trip home an absolute nightmare? Undoubtedly. But, would I do it all over again? Of course I bloody would!
What memories do you have of snowy games of football? Let us know in the comments section or drop us an email by clicking here.