How Do I Get There?
It’s alright everyone, we’re on the home stretch now of this feast of pre-season festivities and getting to Bradford from the homely surroundings of Sunderland couldn’t be easier. For those of you driving, hit that beautiful highway known as the A19, join the A1 (M) at Thirsk and continue down to junction 47 and join the A658 through a cluster of delightful Yorkshire villages.
Take a left from Harrogate Road and onto the A6177 before turning right onto Manningham Lane and Valley Parade is on your left. In terms of parking, it’s probably best to scout out a spot on the streets around the ground.
For all you Massive Lads Fans getting the train, you’re most likely going to have to change at Leeds. From there you have the option of heading to either Bradford Forster Square or Bradford Interchange, the pair are fairly close to each other and take around the same amount of time to reach - the Forster Square trains are air conditioned and have free Wi-Fi mind.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
Some absolute charlatans may suggest drinking in the swanky, hip, sexy, suave city of Leeds before heading over Bradford. These people should not be trusted and the rolling hills and barrel glasses of this former mill town should be embraced.
Near to the ground there is the comfortable surroundings of The Bradford Arms on Manningham Lane which serves propa aaaaaaale and has a dartboard or something like that. Although, last time I ventured in there it was full of Port Vale fans which, if you have never met a large group of Port Vale fans before, is not good.
If you’re arriving in the city centre there is a veritable feast of boozers to whet your whistle. While there are so many bars to explore, most of you will inevitably end up in The Turls Green Wetherspoons in the quite lovely Centenary Square.
Right off the station of Bradford Forster Square is the Midland Hotel where you can grab a swift pint before wandering up to the ground. However, if you fancy a Mike Ashley power drinking session then head to North Parade where you can get your bar crawl on.
Slink your way between the delightful haunts of The Sparrow Bier Cafe, The Beer House and finish off with a refreshing cocktail or fine Bordeaux at Plonk Bar.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
Unlike most of our other warm-up games, the good Lord of pre-season has granted us a Saturday 3pm fixture in one of his glorious heartlands. It means that you can easily convert this venture to West Yorkshire into the ultimate party weekender.
Again, why fall for the temptation of Leeds when you could be sampling a spot of culture at the Drunken Film Festival across Bradford city centre? Saturday is the final day of this celebration of independent film which is spread across 12 unique venues (all happen to be pubs - hence the name) and showcases the very best up and coming directors, producers and actors from Yorkshire.
If all those festivities weren’t enough, we happen to be in Bradford when the annual Music & Arts Festival takes place on North Parade. If you like booze, food, entertainment and music with a large slice of Bradford-ness then join this utterly bangin’ party which kicks off at 11am.
Should you have a bit of spare time on your hands the following day, I would highly recommend a drive/train out to Saltaire to see the famous Salts Mill - yer knaa, for culture all that.
Desperate Journalist are also playing at The Lending Room in Leeds on Saturday, mind, and they’re git mint.
What Is The Ground Like?
Valley Parade seems to have pioneered the Newcastle United way of thinking when it comes to building football grounds. Have two GIANT stands on the side and behind the goal and then two tinpot rust buckets to complete the stadium.
It is genuinely striking how bloody big both the Main Stand and Kop Stand are compared to the rest of the ground. For this friendly, as with our previous visit to Valley Parade in 2015, Sunderland fans will be housed in the Midland Road stand which runs the length of the pitch. This provides both a decent view and good acoustics for stirring up a raucous atmosphere.
Valley Parade was once a happy hunting ground for Sunderland as we always seemed to smash four past whatever hopeless jobbers Bradford put out. Unfortunately, now it is tainted by the memory of Jon Stead mugging us off on a ploughed field in a 5th round FA Cup tie. And while we’re at it, that game was absolutely murder to get a ticket for - probably less so this time around and I should probably let it go.
No wait, Ricky Alvarez was absolutely abysmal that day and I wanted to shoot Steven Fletcher out of a cannon and don’t get me started on Kevin Friend the absolute fuc.... enjoy the game.