Although it may seem like the blink of an eye to many of us, it has now been 25 years since Sunderland’s ‘new’ ground was officially opened. Since then, the club has endured a series of ups and downs, bringing us back to where we started with the Stadium of Light now once again set to host second tier football in 2022-23.
The new season of course starts with a game against Coventry City, who themselves hold a spot in the stadium’s record books - their infamous 5-4 victory in 2019 is joint top for most goals in a single game, alongside cup wins for the Lads against Exeter City (6-3) and Aston Villa U21s (8-1).
The Football League Trophy win (Papa John’s did not commence their sponsorship of the competition until later in the season) against Villa’s kids is also the only instance of Sunderland scoring 8 times in a match there.
During the fixture Charlie Wyke got a brace, making him one of 35 Sunderland players to score two or more goals in a single Stadium of Light game on at least one occasion.
Seven of those have gone on the earn a hat-trick, whilst Wyke himself is the only man to have totalled four in a game (Doncaster Rovers 2021 – on a day where Lee Burge also became the first Sunderland goalkeeper to save two penalties in standard time at the ground).
Fittingly given how much he has done for the club since it moved in 1997, the first player to get a hat-trick at their current home was Niall Quinn, who had also scored the first ever goal at the stadium.
Staying with hat-tricks, the only person to earn more than one match ball is Chris Maguire; albeit one of his trio’s was for Lincoln City.
Three other visiting players have managed the hat-tricks, including Freddie Ljungberg – the Swede being the joint top opposition scorer at the Stadium of Light with four in total. Eight other players stand on the same amount, with James Milner (Leeds United, Newcastle United and Aston Villa) and Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, Liverpool and Crystal Palace) having spread these across three sides each. The only other player to score for three visiting teams is Darren Bent, who by virtue of 23 strikes for the home side has scored for more clubs than any other player at the stadium.
With 27 in total, Bent sits third in the list of most goals scored at the ground. Next is Quinn, with 33 whilst unsurprisingly Kevin Phillips tops the lot (64, including one for Aston Villa). Phillips is also joint top in terms of most teams played for at the Stadium of Light having turned out for five different sides (Sunderland, England, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City). Alongside him in that regard is Kevin Kilbane (West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Everton, Wigan Athletic and Hull City) who in addition to those also played for the Republic of Ireland in a non-competitive game.
Kilbane ended his playing career with Sunday’s opposition Coventry, and whilst a bit of tension has formed between the two clubs of late, they have not been that regular a visitor to the ground in truth.
This with be only their 8th trip, less than half that of the most frequent guest West Ham United; the Londoners have played on the banks of the Wear 18 times, whereas both Arsenal and Manchester United have done so on 17 occasions.
The match this weekend will be Sunderland’s 595th at the Stadium of Light and if the Lads gain revenge for that record-equalling 5-4 defeat to Mark Robins’ side it will mark the 270th victory for them in all competitions (218 of which came in league matches).
This represents a decent win percentage of 45%, and home form will be important if Alex Neil’s squad is going to compete in the Championship; last season he helped guide the team to a total of 18 home victories, 16 of which were in the league.
This was joint second best in terms of most league successes in a campaign alongside 2004-05, and behind only 1998-99 (19). The most league draws in a single season was 10 and the most league defeats was 14 in both 2002-03 and 2005-06.
In terms of cups, during 2013-14 the side enjoyed a 100% record at the stadium as they reached the Capital One Cup final and the FA Cup quarter-final – losing both matches on the road. In the seven seasons prior they had only managed seven wins in total, whilst the 17 cup goals scored that term has only been bettered once, with 18 in 2020-21.
Across all competitions, Sunderland have scored a total of 847 times and of the 25 seasons completed since the showpiece opening against Ajax in 1997, 15 have been in the topflight. Supporters may not be expecting a return to the Premier League just yet, but that goal total will no doubt increase in the coming weeks and hopefully each one will be greeted with huge roars; even when things have been bad at the Stadium of Light, fans have streamed through the turnstiles and backed the side regardless.
Long may it continue, and long may records continue to be made.
Many thanks to the brilliant Barry Jackson, who has kindly provided the information for this article. Barry helped co-write Sunderland AFC: The Absolute Record alongside fellow aficionados Rob Mason and Mike Gibson and has a wonderful collection of diligently compiled statistics on the club.
Please note that all data in the article refers to competitive men’s games only.