I Wasn’t Brought Up To Hate Sunderland…
Being brought up in the east end of Newcastle I was never brought up to hate Sunderland. This probably stems from my parents, but especially my father, who was the football influence in my early life, like myself today it was lets concentrate on our own club.
I knew my father and grandfather had been to Roker Park together for the cup semi in 55 v York (playing a semi on your rivals’ pitch would never happen again, how times change) and of course all us kids from our council estate used to go to the home games v the mackems at SJP. I remember one particular memorable New Year’s day in the 80s when we had to get the old train from Wallsend station to the Central, which was the only means of getting into town. Also strange was the fact that I didn’t even know one Sunderland supporter growing up – it was simply all Newcastle where we lived in Walker .
I think as I have got older a victory over Sunderland has come to mean more as an adult. Of course, home games were never missed but it was quite exciting to go to Roker Park for the first time as a 16 year old and I am not even sure I told my parents where I was going that Wednesday night, for the league cup 1st leg game (1979) which we drew 2-2.
Getting off the train at Seaburn station I specifically remember seeing quite a few lads dressed in dungarees & woolly hats & whistling to ‘Geno’ by Dexys. The walk to the ground, as I came to experience on many occasions later, was poorly escorted by the police, meaning it was always eventful and the toon fans on this occasion were crammed into the corner at one end. Surely a good score and performance with some youngsters in the team that night left us feeling confident of going through but as we know nothing is ever that straightforward with nufc losing the return.
A few years later I was in the Fulwell End for a midday Sunday kick off when the shenanigans started a couple of minutes before KO. It soon came to a quick end and a small group of us pushed our way to the front when suddenly a policemen grabbed me to arrest me and as he did that, by some miracle a Sunderland lad said ‘it wasn’t him’ so the copper let go of me. Thankfully justice was done because I hadn’t thrown a punch, partly due to having an outstanding trip to Horseferry Road, London on the Wednesday as Mrs T was finally losing patience and instructing courts to come down hard with more severe punishments.
After this match I suddenly changed my matchday rituals and basically decided to grow up, so in a remarkable coincidence you could say that the mackem that game did me a massive favour. Recently, having got myself onto the mackem database quite a few years ago, I have often gone with my little lad who was kissed by a mackem when they took the lead in the 4-1 win game, this has put him off going in the home end and will only go in the away end now.
Moving on a few years and my father and I were there to see Andy O’B with one of the most popular goals scored v the Mackems but unfortunately we were unable to celebrate, as we got tickets in the home end (the risks we do to support our team), we moved away from the mayhem in the Clock stand paddock and up towards the Fulwell end to stay clear of any trouble and keep ourselves to ourselves. To our amazement though we had approx 8 -10 Toon fans in seats behind us in the stand who were stamping their feet and shouting ‘’get your season tickets now’’ in reference to a radio advert which still amuses toon fans to this day, the mocking will never end.
Nowadays, I am not too bothered about going as long as I sort my lad out with a ticket but as I now live in County Durham surrounded by mackems, who I guess have a 65% to 35% (at least those 35% are more committed going to games I have found) advantage in my area of Durham, the game takes on an greater importance as well, as we are no longer so far ahead of them in football terms. This means the dislike takes on even more significance and I now even find myself wanting the 5under1and losing every game, whereby in the past I haven’t been too bothered as long as they are below us.
Strangely, when I was doing my wife’s family history I received an email confirming she was related to one of Sunderland’s most famous players, a certain Alf Common, (who many mackems fans who I have spoken to have not heard of) who broke the record twice for the most expensive footballer at over £500 and £1000. This by the way makes no difference to our loyalties when it comes to this game or at anytime throughout the season, however, I do still wonder if my life would have ended up differently if it wasn’t for the mackem that day in the Fulwell end.
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