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Opinion

When West Ham AND Newcastle fans descended on Sunderland – Back in the day

4 months ago
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One of the best things to have come out of The Mag in the last few months has been the contributions from Bazoox.

No holding back, sometimes controversial, often extremely funny – definitely no sitting on the fence.

In his many offerings he has often referred to the “Gloaters club”, a celebration and hopefully future get together for those Mags lucky enough to have been in attendance at Roker Park back in May 1987 when Gillingham legend Tony Cascarino condemned Sunderland to their first spell in the third tier of English football.

However, was it the first time when we were going down there, hoping to bask in their failure?

Well, just seven years earlier on 12th May 1980 we were at it again, or should I say, a prelude happened.

Sunderland had one game to go that season, it was against West Ham United, who just three days earlier had lifted the FA Cup at Wembley. Unfortunately, on this occasion there was no gloating to be done, as Sunderland ran out comfortable 2-0 winners and were subsequently promoted to Division One, but that only tells half the tale of that night…I am going to dip into my memory and tell the rest.

First of all, New Year’s Day 1980 started with a bang, as Sunderland were despatched 3-1 at SJP with goals from Peter Cartwright, Alan Shoulder and Tommy Cassidy (pictured below), this left us top of the league and seemingly destined for promotion ourselves.

Tommy CassidyHowever, a second half season collapse saw us finish mid- table while Sunderland flourished, including beating us 1-0 at Roker Park at Easter time, where seemingly there was more action off the pitch…they did not defeat us on home soil again for 28 years!

Anyway, I digress.

On the evening of the Sunderland v West Ham game, me and a couple of 16 year old mates thought we would mischievously head over to Roker Park in the hope of some teenage gloating. Arriving at Newcastle central station there were a few gangs of kids looking to catch out Sunderland fans passing through the station en route.

It has to be said it was 5.30 and a full two hours before kick off, much mischief could be had as plenty of them did indeed pass through, scurrying from mainline trains to the local rattler. Just after 6pm we were, as kids do, beginning to get bored and were about to head home thinking it might not be such a good idea after all. However, a few moments later a group of seriously hard looking blokes arrived in the station, I was a programme seller at SJP at the time and recognised them from home games, they were not just hard looking – they numbered many, I would guess about 60- 80, maybe more.

Now was not the time to go home as this lot were heading to Sunderland and we and many other ‘young uns’ decided to cling onto them. How or why the police at that time let this happen is remarkable but a few minutes later we were on a train to Sunderland (Seaburn) and I was pretty sure mayhem would follow…

Getting off at Seaburn, it was later than most fans going to the game would have been and us clinging on were given absolute strict instructions not to give the game away, although walking down Fullwell Rd it must have looked fairly obvious.

Sunderland FansHeading toward Roker Park, the plan was to go into the Roker End – possibly with the West Ham fans, this was a few months before the petrol bomb incident, so no problem there. The streets near the ground were quite packed and it was then that the first shouts of United started, cue the police arriving in numbers and holding us back from getting to the turnstiles at the Roker End. Obviously you expect a swift escort back to the station but surprisingly this was not to be, a police officer asked who we were and why we were there…easy answer, from Newcastle and come to see Sunderland lose.

There seemed to be some police confusion at this point, we were told quite clearly the turnstiles were closed as it was a full house and no entry was possible. There were no threats of arrests, no anything, just a state of confusion as the police had no idea what to do. We sloped off in small groups and headed over the bridge and into the City, or at that time the town, centre. Could you imagine that these days?

The older more menacing types found a couple of pubs while we being under age took a chance and invariably eventually got lucky. Though we decided we would not stay long and would leave before the match finished, as we knew it would get lively and once you are away from the bigger group – despite sniffing lager, your bravery drops a little. We also heard that Sunderland had scored early and seeing them celebrate would be a little too much, match would finish about 9.15pm, so we headed for Sunderland station this time to get a train back to Newcastle before the celebrating masses came out.

In the station it would seem the police were now nervous and aware of what could happen, so had rounded up virtually all the initial group of Newcastle fans including the seriously hard looking blokes, so the platform was quite busy. Problem is, trains are a bit infrequent and we had to wait a while, exits and entrances to the station fully guarded or locked, the clock was ticking and we knew by the time the train arrived at Sunderland it would be passing through Seaburn about 20 mins after full time. I was only 16 and what started out as a bit of frivolity now looked liked it could well escalate as the older lads were getting quite excitable….and we were warned in no uncertain terms, if it gets lively – no running.

Train arrives on cue and the police make sure we are all on it, kept in one portion of the train, the back four carriages, a few police got on it which I thought would keep things calm, little me was hoping the train would go straight through Seaburn but that was not to be.

It is about five minutes from Sunderland to Seaburn and pulling into the station, clear the platform was rammed with red and white, cue the doors to burst open with shouts of Newcastle etc etc. Did a pitch battle occur? Not really, there were a few exchanges but my abiding memory is seeing the Mackems scattering up the grass banks like rabbits, our older friends were having none of it and those that had not scattered took some punishment etc, after a few minutes the police restored some order and our lot were forced back onto the train, remarkably they let Sunderland fans into the front section!

However, there was to be no more major trouble until the train reached the High Level bridge, where the emergency cord was pulled and some Sunderland fans were chased along the tracks into the central. My backside was staying firmly planted in my seat.

It is 42 years on, so why tell the tale now?

Well, first of all, does anyone else have any memory of this?

Secondly, Mr Bazoox, were you there?

Thirdly, it really was how it was when it was and while times have changed, I still look back on that time with some good memories.

Make no mistake, some games you had to have your wits about you but Newcastle as a fan base were just about as bad as anyone in the country. Is that something to be proud of? Not really I guess, but history is history still and I am sure many older folk will have similar tales to tell.

Sunderland fans have often accused us of being obsessed, and we can also levy the same at them, indeed one of their websites has a couple of threads about NUFC, and it has to be said that they try to take the moral high ground by accusing us all of being in league with the devil with our new owners, they virtually all say that if they were taken over by KSA they would walk away!

Really? Hogwash and if any Sunderland fan says this they are lying. I would say 90% of the fans of any UK football club would welcome the investment we now have, but if they are happy with the two charlatans Donald and Methven plus some kid who has to ask his mam for pocket money, then good luck to them.

Sunderland FansOh yeah, they also love Mike Ashley, you could not make it up.

One sad fact is, it is unlikely we will ever compete on a level playing field with them again, even if they did one day make it back into the PL

My only regret about our owners is the fact I am 58, why could they not have been here 15 years ago?

I am so jealous of the young uns today, they are possibly going to have unlimited success to watch, so am I being greedy by just wanting the 10 EPL titles, the 6 CL trophies, the 8 FA cups and the 10 times league cup winners before I die?

Pass me my sunglasses!

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