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Peter Reid

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Warm Up Acts: A look back at Sunderland’s previous pre-season Stadium of Light friendlies

With Sunderland set to host another friendly this evening - still in search of a pre-season win at the Stadium of Light - SAFCMerch looks back at all the games we’ve hosted at our home over the years.

Sunderland 0-0 AFC Ajax: 30 July 1997

The Hull game falls on the 24th anniversary of the first-ever game at the Stadium of Light, which saw Sunderland start a new chapter in its history with a game against one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

Prior to kick-off there was an action-packed schedule that included appearances from the Red Devils parachute team, the Bishop of Durham and Status Quo, but the match itself proved to be a slightly dour affair as players and fans alike got used to their plush new surroundings.

Kevin Ball looked to have become the first person to score a goal at Sunderland’s new home, and whilst his effort was ruled out by referee Jeff Winter he did have his moment in the limelight the next time there was a pre-season game at the ground.

Ronald De Boer
Ronald de Boer helps christen the new pitch

Sunderland 0-0 Sampdoria: 31 July 1999

Bally’s richly deserved testimonial match attracted a crowd of over 27,000 as Sunderland once again went toe to toe with a European heavyweight.

After another goalless draw, the match was decided via sudden death penalties with Ball, who earlier in the game had been replaced by Eric Roy but was later allowed back onto the pitch, seeing his effort saved by party pooper Marco Ambrosio to give the Italian’s a 1-0 shootout win.

Nicky Summerbee

Sunderland 1-1 Juventus: 4 August 2007

Juventus became the third glamour club to make a pre-season trip to the Stadium of Light as Roy Keane’s side stepped up preparations for their Premier League return.

The Lads gave as good as they got, and would have won were it not for a late Cristian Molinaro leveller that cancelled out Daryl Murphy’s neatly taken opener.

Held to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Stadium of Light, even Spiderman made an appearance at the match and famously helped retrieve the ball after a wayward shot found its way into the stands.

Sunderland v Juventus
Cristian Molinaro celebrates his goal
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sunderland 0-1 AFC Ajax: 3 August 2008

A day short of a year after welcoming Juventus, the Stadium of Light hosted another warm-up game as the club invited Ajax back to Wearside.

Although they lost to Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s second-half strike the test helped put Sunderland in good stead for the 2008-09 season, but despite a reasonable start to the campaign things soon turned sour and by December Roy Keane had left.

Sunderland did later play two games at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park in 2014, winning 2-0 against both Real Betis and Udinese, but it was to be another nine years before the Stadium of Light hosted another pre-season fixture.

Sunderland v Ajax - Pre Season Friendly Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Sunderland 0-5 Celtic: 29 July 2017

The wait was certainly not worth it. The signs were ominous for what proved to be a dismal 2017-18 for the club, with the Lads falling to their heaviest ever Stadium of Light defeat on a day meant to celebrate 20 years since it opened.

Visitors Celtic were awarded the Dafabet Cup following the final whistle, which was presented to them by snooker legend Jimmy White, but come the end of the season most Sunderland fans needed a long rest after witnessing a second consecutive relegation.

29/07/17 DAFABET CUP .SUNDERLAND v CELTIC (0-5).STADIUM OF LIGHT - SUNDERLAND .Mark Hill with Adam Matthews
Not the best of days for Sunderland against Adam Matthews’ old club
Photo by Craig Foy - SNS Group\SNS Group via Getty Images

Sunderland 0-1 Heerenveen: 27 July 2019

Jack Ross’ first pre-season game at the Stadium of Light was this Saturday evening fixture against Heerenveen, which took place during the weekend of the Sunderland International Airshow in the hope it would encourage visitors to the city to come along.

A brilliant hit from Hicham Faik was the only thing that separated the two teams, meaning that the Lads take on Hull whilst still looking to record a first pre-season victory at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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