10 - Bradford City
Aside from the absolute car crash that was our fifth round exit at the hands of Jon Stead in 2015, our trips to Bradford tend to be incredibly enjoyable. We rock up in our droves, take over the hospitable city and proceed to absolutely annihilate our hosts.
Valley Parade itself is a hugely impressive ground and will no doubt be packed to the rafters thanks to The Bantams’ logical idea of making season tickets affordable. There are an abundance of excellent pubs and some of the best curry houses you are likely to find. Is there much else to ask for?
Date: 6th October
9 - Bristol Rovers
Our gap year in League One means a notable dearth of cities to visit. It’s all well and good bowling about villages in Kent like we own an extra set of genitalia but a voyage to a cosmopolitan hub such as Bristol is a real treat for us over-confident, nouveau riche wideboys.
Another tick in the box next to the words ‘Bristol Rovers’ is the sheer beauty of the Memorial Ground. A veritable delight of hotchpotchery where it looks as if six people had a go at designing a stadium, the board took one look at them and declared “I like them all!”. There’s a quaint uncovered terrace and an over-enthusiastic match announcer who signals the emergence of the two teams by bellowing “IT’S THREE O’CLOCK ON A SATURDAY AND I SMELL GAS.”
If this wasn’t enough, there’s a fella selling pints of Thatcher’s cider in the stadium car park before the match.
Date: 23rd February
8 - Barnsley
Stick a framed picture of Mick McCarthy behind the bar of your pub and I’m yours until the day I die.
There are naysayers that proclaim Barnsley to be one of those trips where you spend the pre-match ritual in a larger nearby city. However, while all the part-timers will be thinking they’re git posh drinking their expensive beverages in Sheffield and Leeds, the proper lads fans will be found in the Victorian Arcade sampling a true slice of South Yorkshire.
Date: 12th March
7 - Southend United
For the past few years, I have joked to very bored looking friends that I would not be content with Sunderland’s atrociousness until I have a spent a weekend in a B&B in Southend. Finally, the lads have duly delivered the retreat on the Thames Estuary that I have craved for so very, very long.
It’s a weekend by the seaside, it’s a Sunday morning staring blankly across the open water, it’s a long walk along a very long pier to tell Jamie Oliver how much you hate his pretentious restaurants, it’s an afternoon in a cramped Roots Hall. The whole experience will feel like those holidays you used to have as a child and, in the end, isn’t that what we got into this whole business for?
As the Southend-on-Sea tourist board proudly proclaims about their beloved town - “there’s so much more besides the seaside.”
Date: 4th May
6 - Accrington Stanley
Remember yer da’s mate that hasn’t stopped banging on about how he received a special invite to AFC Wimbledon away? You know, the one that went to Brighton in ‘05 and Colchester in ‘07? He’s already bored you to tears about his voyage to Kingsmeadow where Cody McDonald didn’t score a hat-trick past us and, you know what, he’s going to Accrington Stanley.
The fixture that many onlookers have already mocked for merely existing is undoubtedly the most popular game on Sunderland’s entire calendar. And who could blame us? A stadium named after George Michael’s era-defining band, an open terrace, a relatively short journey and the prospect of dispatching a team that was the brunt of a milk advert - each ingredient is more delicious than the last.
The only issue? Good luck trying to get your hands on one of the 800 away tickets.
Date: 8th December
5 - Fleetwood Town
In days gone by we would visit Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London on multiple occasions over the course of a season - now it’s Blackpool. And if the Pleasure Beach is not your scene, then how about a tour of the Fisherman’s Friend factory in Fleetwood? Maybe you fancy a bit of crabbing on Fleetwood Boating Lake? Or maybe you just want to call Joey Barton a twat?
All of this can be done in Fleetwood.
Date: 23rd March
4 - Plymouth Argyle
Come on, imagine how many Proper Lads’ Fan points you can wrack up by going to Plymouth away. You will forever be able to one-up your mates when they moan about how long it took them to get back from Crystal Palace in 2015. And besides, Plymouth is in one of the nicest parts of the country.
Imagine all the extra kudos you could accrue by turning to your loved one and explain how you will be whisking them away for a country retreat in Devon? That’s brownie points in the bag for a good five years. You would be daft not to.
These trips are the one’s that cement your status as a football-supporting ultra. When you’re grey and old, you can regale everyone in The New Derby with the mammoth task you undertook to make it from Sunderland to Plymouth and back in the same day. They will have heard it before but they will smile and nod and indulge you in a story you love telling so much.
My enthusiasm for a visit to Plymouth naturally has nothing to do with the fact I need to cash in a free game of mini golf I won on The Hoe in 2004, that is completely unrelated.
Date: 3rd November
3 - Peterborough United
Hey, remember when we all went to Peterborough in those halcyon days of Martin O’Neil in 2012? The sun was shining, we drank beer on a boat and bowled about a terraced away end shouting about Kevin Ball and Thomas Sorensen. Good that, wasn’t it?
Alas, the fabled London Road End terrace has been demolished and replaced with a snazzy all-seater stand, but Peterborough is still a wonderful place to watch football.
Date: 22nd April
2 - Burton Albion
It is at this point I feel it necessary to issue an apology to both Burton Albion and the people of Burton-upon-Trent. Last year, I foolishly ranked your fair town at a lowly 15th for the best away trips in the Championship. How wrong I was.
Burton is one of the true powerhouses when it comes to association football in the British Isles. Not only does the Pirelli Stadium boast an excellent terraced away end, but the town itself is a veritable mecca of alehouses. Home to countless breweries and a huge array of frankly excellent pubs, Burton Albion should be circled with a giant red marker when the 2018/19 fixtures are released.
I made a mistake, Burton, and I truly hope you can forgive me.
Date: 15th September
1 - Blackpool
We’ve been to the English Riviera, the brewing capital of the United Kingdom, the birthplace of Fisherman’s Friend but was the pinnacle of our League One campaign going to be anywhere else than Blackpool? It’s time to don a Kiss Me Quick hat, stay in a B&B run by a Rod Stewart lookalike, throw 2p pieces in amusement machines and watch a Celine Dion tribute act murder ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on the promenade.
While we all hope that this venture to the Fylde coast will be on a sunkissed afternoon in late-April, is it even really a trip to Blackpool without battling against gale force winds coming in off the Irish Sea? I think not.
The best part is that since the majority of Blackpool fans are either boycotting or have just given up caring, there is the potential for a sizeable away allocation. And if you don’t manage to get a ticket, we’ll see you afterwards on the Pepsi Max.
It’s also maybe, probably worth mentioning that we play them on New Year’s Day too. I’m sure you can find some significance in that date.
Date: 1st January