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On This Day (7th November 1996): Internet a leap forward at Roker

It was on this day 26 years ago that Sunderland become one of the first clubs in the world to officially “hit the Internet”...

Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Those of you who are unfortunate/fortunate (delete as applicable) enough to be of a certain age, may have been in a position to experience the Internet before the full commercialisation in the mid-1990’s and will remember what was essentially a communication portal for primarily academia and well - let’s not beat about the bush - absolute filth.

In many ways not much has changed, but from around 1995 the introduction, commercialisation and governance of the Internet to the world is something that will likely be studied for generations to come.

Almost thirty years ago there was a hesitancy for some organisations to get involved due to the dubious reputation of the platform in the early days, and even though 1996 was very early days, Sunderland’s corporate communications manager Lesley Coates was writing in the Journal regarding the club’s launch on to the world wide web:

We have received a terrific response from becoming one of the first football clubs in the world to officially hit the Internet, the fastest growing global communications network. Within 12 hours of Peter Reid switching on Sunderland-AFC.COM, part of virtual Sunderland, the service recorded 20,000 hits!

The club, in partnership with its supporters, has developed its own distinctive, exciting and informative site on the world-wide web.

Once again, those of a certain age will remember that following the official launch, the site didn’t receive a facelift for a number of years.

Lesley Coates also described what the new site would provide to fans wanting to access more of the latest news of what was occurring at Roker:

The site includes comprehensive match reports, squad information including photographs, and statistics on all matches - including the youth and reserve teams. The official club information section features the club history and honours, details on the new stadium, hot-off-the-press club releases, an interactive quiz and access to the club shop.

Peter Reid was busy in 1996 masterminding promotions... and launching websites
Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images

If it gave access to a club shop that actually had products in stock that you could buy with actual money, then it could be argued the original was of a higher quality of the current website, especially over this summer.

In other news, Michael Gray was filling the column inches for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was his fine form and the fact he had been called up to be a representative squad for the Football League to face an Italian XI, made up from top players from Serie B.

Gray was also having to answer questions about comments on his hairstyle. Following Sunderland’s draw at Charlton, Mickey Gray was commenting on an incident in an interview following the game with TV interviewer Matthew Lorenzo. When Gray was awarded man of the match, Lorenzo commented “You’ve got to play well with a haircut like that!”.

The story continued in the Journal:

This season Gray has adopted a hairstyle described in some circles as resembling “Lancelot’s squire”. An easy-going, Sunderland born youngster, the 21-year-old Gray decided to turn the other cheek to Lorenzo’s cheap shot.

“I was not bothered at all, said Gray. “It was just a joke. I have to put up with the lads taking the mick in training every day anyway, so I’m used to it”.

Leicester City v Sunderland
“Lancelot’s squire”
Photo by Barrington Coombs/EMPICS via Getty Images


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