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Cans & Megabus Away Guide: Join us for Jack Ross’ first game as Sunderland boss at Darlington!

Stop going on about “football coming home” because the drudgery of following the greatest club team land is back. Sunderland Association Football Club are back to disappoint you, and we’re starting at Darlington.

Jordan Pickford, Darlington goalkeeper (Photo by Steve Drew - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)

Who Are These Jobbers?

Oh hello you... it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Enjoying a big dollop of World Cup fever, it’s coming home isn’t it, lads and lasses? It’s coming home. Anyway, let’s get back into the drudgery of following the absolute boys of Sunderland Association Football Club.

There was a time when a pre-season fixture at Darlington would be seen as a charitable gesture from the older, richer brother patting the head of the lower league sibling. We’d rock up to whatever stadium they were playing in that season, bring a load of supporters who would smile at their Darlo counterparts and lament “aye, it’s terrible what’s happened here” and someone like Charis Mavrias would rattle in a winner during a game played at a slow jog.

Ah, how fast life comes at you. Now, a pre-season fixture against Darlington is seen as a stern test of whether this incarnation of absolute jokers donning a red and white shirt are ready for the challenges of the laughable league we find ourselves in. Quakers fans will look across to their wearied Wearside counterparts with a knowing smile and lament that “you’re lucky it hasn’t got as bad as it did here”.

Darlington are now just three divisions below Sunderland after flying through the leagues and having an occasional scrap with nouveau riche Premier League play-thing Salford City. They currently play in a rugby ground while a rugby team play in their former white elephant stadium - a lovely bit of symmetry.

Darlington FC v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

How Do I Get There?

I was ready to completely lambast anyone who couldn’t find their way from Sunderland to Darlington but then Googled where Blackwell Meadows was and I think should probably help you lovely delightful lads and lasses.

If you’re driving then take the A1 (M) to junction 58 on to the A68 and then subsequently the B6280 in Blackwell. Take the first exit at the roundabout on the A67 (near an Evans Halshaw Ford garage) then up to Grange Road taking a right for the rugby ground. If those directions are completely hopeless, then whack DL1 5NR into your sat nav. There’s parking around the ground for £5 a car.

If you’re arriving by train (like the big dawgs you are) then you can hop on the MAX X26 bus from the station which drops off near the ground. Alternatively, jump in a taxi or walk it, yer lazy gets.

A Love Supreme coaches leave the Stadium of Light at 4.30pm with fares costing £15 return. Book your place here.

Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?

We’re pretty small time nowadays so drinking in social clubs at football stadiums is set to be the order of the day for the next 12 months. If you’re looking to get tanked up on pre-season merriment before this one then you better to do it in Darlington town centre because there’s absolutely nothing near the ground.

What’s that? You want to know where to drink in Darlington as well? What do you mean you’re completely lost without the guidance of a sneering away guide and you’d just stand in the centre of the town looking like a lost puppy for hours? Do I have to do everything for you? What? Oh, I do it seems.

It would only be fitting to start the new season by honouring the life and times of the late Dale Winton by raising your glass in The Hole in the Wall on Horse Market to everyone’s favourite Supermarket Sweep host. Get your absolute Spoons on at The William Stead on Crown Street, order a regrettable cocktail at The Pennyweight on Bakehouse Hill and then finish up at The Tanners Hall (wait, that’s another Wetherspoons?! They’re literally facing each other, I don’t get this country anymore) on Skinnergate.

I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?

You are not staying over in Darlington, stop kidding yourself. What are you honestly going to do in Darlington for the night when your house is half an hour away? Behave yourself.

What’s The Ground Like?

The fact that Darlington are back to playing in the confines of their own town is a victory in itself. After being royally shafted by the ego and criminality of George Reynolds and being landed with a 25,000-seater white elephant, they have been evicted, ostracised to Bishop Auckland and were nomadic up until 2016.

They play at Blackwell Meadows, home to Darlington Rugby Club, which finally provides a settled home for the Quakers. It is your typical non-league ground with a small grandstand on one side, the delightfully named Tin Shed Terrace on the other and a couple of open ends.

It’ll be a nice night and you’ll probably get a nice suntan as Chris Maguire shanks a couple over the bar. Isn’t it nice to have them back?

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