Who knows why we still choose to spend our hard-earned Saturday’s traipsing around the country to watch Sunderland - is it sadism or is it love?
Maybe it’s so that when we’re 50 and playing Club Brugge in some obscure round of the Europa League we can look back and remember the scenes at Burton Albion away. Back when we were young and still loved the lads. Back when we had hope.
Coleman’s boys seem beaten and bruised, with the bright lights of the League 1 floodlight gleaming in the distance. With six games to go now seems like a better time than ever to take a look at some of the English towns and cities we’ll be visiting next season.
Stadium: The Crown Ground
The home of cult Lancashire club Accrington Stanley is currently called the WHAM ground and is the smallest in the Football League. Assuming Stanley manage to get promoted this will be only the second time in our 139 history that the two sides have met. The last time the two sides met was in 1893 when we were English champions.
The away fans are situated in the Coppice End, a small but atmospheric away terrace that can hold a maximum of 1800 lads fans. If the demand for away tickets is strong then Accrington will occasionally open a section of the Whinney Hill Terrace for fans who fancy a sit down. The Coppice End is a structure born out of Football League sadism and is the perfect place to be stood when it’s pissing it down and we are 1-0 down on a Tuesday night. Just look at it - a horrific concrete mass.
Nevertheless, the trip to Accrington Stanley gains points for being reasonably easy to get to by car, bus, and train. Accrington Station is about a mile away from the ground meaning we can all get well-oiled in the town before enjoying all the Coppice end has to offer.
Stadium: Home Park
The last time Sunderland fans made the long journey to Plymouth was in the glorious Championship season under Roy Keane. Sunderland won 2-0 of course with goals from Anthony Stokes and David Connolly.
Home Park suffered heavy bombing damage during WW2 and has since been redeveloped many times, with the traditional Mayflower stand remaining intact. The 2018/19 season sees the closure of this historic stand for redevelopment works so the ground may be a bit of a building site for our visit. Away fans are housed in the Barn Park end which has capacity for about 2000 fans and a good view of the action.
Providing Plymouth don’t maintain their play-off position the journey to Devon is the longest Sunderland fans will have to endure. The 403-mile journey takes about 7 hours by car but you can get a plane from Newcastle which costs about 50 quid and takes an hour.
Once you’ve arrived in Costa Del Plymouth there’s a few things you can do. Head to the Britannia which is a Spoons about 10 minutes away from the ground or take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool that looks out over the English Channel. This trip would be a good one for August – nice and warm, views of the channel, then watch the lads win 10-0.
Location: South London
Known for sponsorship reasons as the Cherry Reds Records stadium, AFC Wimbledon’s ground is in South-West London meaning it’s only a train journey away. The last time we played Wimbledon away in any capacity was in 2004 - the year they dissolved. That match was played in Milton Keynes at the National Hockey Stadium and we won 2-1, sealing Wimbledon’s relegation and ultimate demise.
Since then, AFC Wimbledon rose from the ashes and are now fighting it out in League 1 against their not-so local rivals MK Dons. Sunderland fans can expect to be allocated around 725 tickets in the Rygas Stand down the side of one half of the pitch. Side of the pitch away ends are often a bit shit but since this is the first trip to Kingsmeadow we can’t be too pessimistic. There’s no shortage of places to drink in London so all things considered AFC Wimbledon away should be a decent day out.
The Priestfield Stadium is the home of Gillingham, and was once the temporary home of Brighton for a couple of seasons in the 1990s. Many of you older supporters may still be enduring post-traumatic symptoms from the 1987 visit to the Priestfield but since then they haven’t beaten us. The last time we went there we won 4-0 and Marcus Stewart scored a hat-trick.
Sunderland fans will be situated on one side of the roofless Brian Moore stand with capacity for up to 1500 people. Despite being temporary the stand has quite good facilities underneath it meaning it shouldn’t be too hard to get a pint and a piss at half-time.
Apparently if it rains stewards kindly hand out ponchos to keep us from getting wet. Ultimately, these will end up getting set alight for no reason at all as we romp to a 3-0 victory in the sorry county of Kent.
Stadium: Valley Parade (Northern Commercials Stadium)
Location: West Yorkshire
Bradford is a good away day because it’s so easy, and it’s one of the few games that you wouldn’t mind going to on a Tuesday night. Get home for about 12pm, nice bit of kip then go to that job you hate. Lovely.
Valley Parade was redeveloped in 1908 by none other than pioneering stadium architect Archibald Leitch. Leitch was behind many a ground including Roker Park with his signature lattice work still featuring in the Stadium of Light car park to this day. Valley Parade remained much the same until the Bradford stadium fire of 1985 caused heartache as well as unrepairable damage. Nowadays, the ground has a nice 1990s rainy day feel about, the perfect cathedral for footballing greats like Peter Beagrie and Dean Windass to smash one into the stands.
These days, the away end is back in the TS Dallas Stand behind the goal and has room for about 1840 fans. For anyone unfamiliar with the TS Dallas stand it’s a compact, two floor seated end similar to the likes of Brentford and QPR and the one where Super Kev scored a couple in 99/00.