It may have only lasted for forty five minutes, but Saturday night’s game against Rangers was an important milestone during our preparations for the 2022/2023 season.
The players are back in training, the new kit has been released, and before long, the Lads will be coming out onto the pitch to take on Coventry City. Spirits already seem high and the players will no doubt be welcomed with a huge roar, but will their entrance be accompanied by a new song, or an old favourite?
The Stadium of Light is twenty five years old now, but when it first opened in 1997, there was a very real sense of reawakening being felt at the club. To that end, the choice of Republica’s alternative anthem ‘Ready to Go’ as the new entrance music summed up the mood perfectly, and even now, it is still associated with some very happy times.
With that in mind, it was no surprise that this song was brought back for the playoff semi-final home leg against Sheffield Wednesday, and that decision was one of several that helped to create a fantastic atmosphere and give the side a platform from which they eventually won promotion.
During the final days of Roker Park, the Queen classic ‘We Will Rock You’ had been used to introduce the players. Before that, the stirring theme tune from ‘Z Cars’ had greeted the teams for a long time, and it proved very poignant when played at the new ground following the death of Ian Porterfield in 2007.
In between those songs, the club hoped that Lindisfarne’s ‘Sunderland Boys’ would catch on. They printed the lyrics in the 1989/1990 edition of the ‘Roker Review’ ahead of a game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and even referred to it as a ‘new theme tune’. Already several years old by that point, it has occasionally been played at recent games.
The last few years have seen the run-out music change regularly. The ‘SundIreland’ era of Drumaville and Roy Keane saw ‘Elevation’ by U2 played through the speakers before games, before ‘Beginning of the Twist’ by Sunderland’s very own Futureheads got the gig.
That was an inspired choice, and it is still used for the introduction to the official ‘SAFC Unfiltered’ podcast, whereas the one that followed, ‘Power’ by Kanye West, gained little traction. On the other hand, that song was played during the David Moyes season of 2016-2017, and perhaps people are still trying to forget it.
‘Dance of the Knights’, like ‘Ready to Go’, instantly conjures up images of the early Stadium of Light years, when Sunderland were a force to be reckoned with.
Prokofiev’s composition has become synonymous with the team, and for a period after relegation in 2017, was used as the run-out selection, despite being better suited to the pre-match build up.
These decisions proved that the music choice needs to be properly thought out, as the wrong option can jar badly. This was demonstrated when David Guetta’s ‘Play Hard’ (featuring Ne-Yo and Akon) was introduced and quickly binned off a couple of years ago.
That song was used during the early stages of Sunderland’s League One travails, during which time The Prodigy’s ‘Invaders Must Die’ became the standard. That track, however, has never gained universal approval and has been tainted by association, due to the farcical discussions led by Charlie Methven on ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’, that eventually led to it being chosen.
I say sadly because the choice itself was sound. After all, the the Stadium of Light had become too easy a venue for visiting sides, and there wasn’t a better song to try and reset the tone. Forget coming here for easy pickings – the feeling should always be that you are made welcome in Sunderland until kick off, at which point it is game on, and because you are on our turf, you had better be ready for a battle.
When the opening bars of ‘Invaders’ were played on a loop in conjunction with ‘Makers, Creators, Innovators’, combined with video footage showing people grafting away during the week, it worked to perfection.
Whether it will be heard on the 31st of July, however, remains to be seen, as some people may feel it is time to hit the shuffle button once more, in the wake of Methven’s departure.
Recently, there have been several fans asking for ‘Ready to Go’ to make a permanent return.
Prior to the playoffs, it received a huge number of votes and proved a clear winner over ‘Invaders’, but whilst a healthy dollop of nostalgia was welcome in a one-off fixture, Sunderland look to be going through another rebirth, and the time might be right for a fresh approach.