Dear Roker Report,
After living away from the area for a few years, 2022/2023 has been my first back at the Stadium of Light with a season ticket.
At the beginning of the season, I thought this would feel similar to the Roy Keane days, with an electric atmosphere week in and week out. However, to say it’s been disappointing would be the understatement of the century, and it begs the question: what can be done to improve it?
The club is on the up and should be surrounded by positivity after such an impressive season so far, yet the atmosphere is flat for the majority of each game.
I hope that the possibility of moving away fans back to the lower bowl will improve this, but something needs to be done in the meantime as the players need our support at home this season.
The other issue I want to mention is the fact that the stadium is often half empty by the 85th minute, regardless of the score.
This can’t be helpful to the team when we’re chasing a goal or defending a lead, so what can be done about it?
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Dean. Thanks for getting in touch.
The issue of the atmosphere at the stadium is a long-running one, and I don’t think there’s an easy solution. Attendance figures at home are generally very strong, but it’s often failing to translate into a raucous backing.
I agree that there is a lot of positivity surrounding the club at the moment- we have a talented squad and we’re playing some excellent football, but there’s often been quite an apathetic atmosphere inside the stadium and I can’t put my finger on why.
Are people simply being cautious about getting their hopes up for fear of disappointment? We’ve certainly been through some turbulent times in recent years, with plenty of false dawns, but we’re moving in a new direction now, and it would be great to see everyone firmly on board.
I’d love to see the club really step up their marketing of home games, perhaps by getting out into the community, reaching out to previously disaffected supporters, and encouraging them to return. That feels like a really positive step that could be taken.
Dear Roker Report,
My second ever Sunderland match was the Boxing Day home game against Bury in 1962.
It was a cold and frosty day and we were well on track for promotion. That was until Brian collided with Chris Harker, the Bury goalkeeper, when chasing a through-ball. On the way home, little did we know that we wouldn’t see Clough again for over eighteen months.
My first game was on the 1st December 1962 when we played Cardiff at home. The score was 2-1 and Clough was one of the scorers. I have very little memory of the goals, but my dad was so impressed that he named my youngest brother Brian after him.
The next time I saw Clough was for our reserve team during a pre-season friendly against Halifax Town, which was at the start of the 1964/1965 season- a game in which he scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 win.
He scored one goal by knocking Dickie Rooks out of the way to get the ball and score from a corner.
Clough didn’t play in the first three games of the new season, but he made his First Division debut at home to West Bromwich Albion the start of a run of three home games in seven days.
During the second match against Leeds, he scored with a glancing header at the Fulwell End. The third match was against Aston Villa and like the other two, ended in a draw.
When he scored, the ground erupted and we thought we had him back, but it wasn’t to be, as the injured knee couldn’t take it and he never played for Sunderland again.
He scored just the one First Division goal but as a poacher, there was nobody like him. He didn’t do much chasing back but was always in the box looking for a half-chance.
I always say the history of our club changed the day Clough was injured, as without that happening, we would’ve gained promotion a season early.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, David. Thank you for your letter and for sharing your memories of the great man!
Clough, like so many Sunderland greats, was someone who wore the red and white stripes long before my time, but having read interviews in latter years, it’s clear he always had a real affinity for the club and even though he only spent a short time on Wearside as a player, his goalscoring record was very impressive.
The fact that he retired aged just thirty, after such a stellar career, has always been one of the saddest episodes in Sunderland history. As you say, he would’ve almost certainly enjoyed a long and even more productive career at Roker Park had the injury not occurred.