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On This Day (20 August 1994): Sunderland fans tune in for the debut of Roker Radio!

A brand new radio station for SAFC supporters launched, with news and views from around the club building up to kick off.

Today it’s all about the streaming, isn’t it? But back in the late 80s and early 90s we were lucky to be able to even see the goals from Roker Park on the news, let alone catch the full game live.

Bob Murray had an ongoing dispute with TV companies over how much SAFC should receive in exchange for letting the cameras in and, as a result, there was a bit of a blackout for a few years.

By the time the mid-90s rolled around, however, the club had slightly increased their media appetite, and on this day in 1994 Roker Radio launched as we took on Millwall for our first home game of the season.

Of course, you’ve got to remember that FM pocket radios were part of the matchday uniform back in the day. With no internet, no mobile phones and only the Roker End scoreboard to notify you of the half-time scores, a portable radio was a necessity to keep up to date with what was going on around the grounds during the afternoon.

So, a club radio station made a lot of sense.

On air from 1.30pm to 3pm, in association with Wear FM, you could tune into 103.4FM and listen to club news and the build-up to the game.

The line-up for Roker Radio’s debut was:

1.30pm: Club news and match details. including stadium news from Fred Bailey and ticket news from Marilyn MacAndrew

1.45pm: ‘At home’ interview with players, management or chairman

2pm: Interviews with Jimmy Montgomery, George Herd and Ian Ross (all of whom were on the coaching staff the time)

2.13pm: (very precise) Mick Buxton on today’s game, Toby Hardisty reviewing the papers, and an interview with assistant manager Trevor Hartley about the opposition

2.35pm: Club historian Billy Simmons discussing previous encounters

2.45pm: Mick Ferguson on SAFC in the community, a first division round up, news, team news and ‘Roker Park gossip’.

3pm: Kick off

The show was presented by a chap called Dan Entwisle from a studio in the Main Stand, and Wear FM’s Bill Mantle was the roving reporter.

The broadcast could be received across the north east – from Morpeth to Hartlepool – as well as being broadcast over the Tannoy system at Roker, and the launch followed the trail blazed by radio pioneers Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers, who’d introduced their own radio stations the year before.

I have vague recollections of tuning into this while on the way to Roker Park every other Saturday. The other radio stations (presented by Charles Harrison on Metro FM and John Cairns on Radio Newcastle, both superb commentators - or is that a hazy nostalgia?) started their programmes at 2pm, so Roker Radio was able to steal a march broadcasting in that earlier time slot.

A portrait of Mick McCarthy
McCarthy played around 40 games for Millwall after initially joining the club on loan from Lyon

On the field, the lads drew 1-1 with player-manager Mick McCarthy’s Millwall – Don Goodman notching a second-half goal to equalise Alex Rae’s opener for the Lions.

By the end of the season, Peter Reid was in charge and it was a whole new dawn at SAFC.

Who knows, maybe Roker Radio paved the way for Premier Passions!


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