Date: 27th December 2010 at 2:33pm
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The Stadium of Light – Sunderland

Will we won’t we ever play again? Will Charlie’s suspension finally be served at the non-event FA Cup game at Southampton?

The postponement of Sunday’s game means we’ll play a maximum of a paltry 2 games out of 5 in December – with Bloomers falling foul of the weather to 3 of our biggest games of the season, Man Ure, Spurs and Liverpool.

Holloway must be as desperate to get a game under our belts as the fans. Every snow flake has a silver lining though, Harewood, Martin (he plays in midfield allegedly), Gilks etc will be nearer fitness and with the window open this time next week surely the team will be strengthened in the very near future. Which of course can only be better for us, when we have to rotate the squad when the inevitable fixture backlog begins to catch up with us.

The Ground
TSOL replaced the infamous Roker Park where the Roker Roar was usually the least of a worry for visiting supporters.

Following Hillsborough and with no room to expand at Roker, Sunderland began considering building a new ground in the early 90s.

The initial front-runner that emerged was a proposed stadium located on an area of land adjacent to the Nissan car plant. The 48,000 all-seater ground was labelled ‘The Wembley of the North’.

These plans did not come to fruition, in 1992, Nissan launched an official objection, ultimately forcing Sunderland to abandon the idea.

In 1995, Sunderland put forward a plan to build a stadium on the former site of Wearmouth Colliery. The area, on the north bank of the River Wear in the Sheepfolds district of Sunderland, was only a few hundred yards from Roker Park, and close to the centre of the city.

On 13 November 1995, the Sunderland Chairman Bob Murray announced that the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation had approved plans for Sunderland to build a 34,000-seater stadium on the site.

Ballast Wiltshier plc, a contracting company that had built the Amsterdam Arena, was contracted to build the stadium at an initial cost of £15 million. In June 1996, as the planned capacity rose to 40,000, construction work began. The capacity was revised again in early 1997, and the stadium was completed on time, with a capacity of 42,000.

The stadium’s design allows possible expansion of a further tier, completed expansion of the whole upper tier would produce a capacity of 63,000. During construction, the stadium had not adopted an official name, and had been known colloquially as the ‘Wearside Stadium’ and ‘New Roker Park’.

The name was eventually revealed as the Stadium of Light, a reference to a miner’s lamp (the stadium is built on the site of the old Wearmouth Colliery), and to emphasise this fact, a Davy lamp is located in front of the stadium’s ticket office, adjacent to the stadium.

After 99 years at Roker the stadium was opened on 30 July 1997 by Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The North Stand was extended in 2000 to bring the capacity to 49,000, costing the club a further £7 million, making the final cost of the stadium £23 million.

On 18 July 2006, a statue of 1973 FA Cup Final winning manager Bob Stokoe was unveiled.

The pitch is several metres below the level of the ground outside of the stadium. The pitch uses a lighting system from Stadium Grow Lighting to ensure the grass can grow at any time of year. The device controls the factors of the pitch, including exposure to light, temperature, water, and air, to make the grass able to grow in any condition.

Away fans are seated in the west half of the South Stand, we were initially allocated 2000 but late last week an extra 1000 pay on the gate tickets were made available to us. I’m expecting around 2100-2200 to make the trek.

How To Get There
M55, then take the M6 North. Leave the M6 at J38 and at the roundabout, take the second exit onto A685. Via the A66 at Scotch Corner join the A1. Leave the 1 at J62 and at the roundabout take the 3rd exit on to the A690. At the roundabout, take the first exit onto slip road, continue onto A19 then at the roundabout, take the third exit onto Wessington Way (A1231). Pass through four roundabouts remaining on A1231, bear right onto Queens Road (B1289). At the roundabout, take the second exit onto Stadium Way – the ground will be clearly visible.

For the sat navvers – SR5 1SU.

For the Virgin lovers amongst us – Seaburn 10-15 minute walk from the Stadium of Light. Leave the station and turn right onto Charlton Road. At traffic lights turn left onto Newcastle Road. At the bottom of Newcastle Road the stadium is visible on the right hand side. Sunderland City Station 10-15 minute walk from the stadium. From the station exit opposite taxi rank and turn left onto Fawcett Street. At the end of the street continue walking over the Wearmouth Bridge and the stadium is on the left.

Metro – When travelling to the match by Metro, supporters have the choice of arriving at either St Peter’s or the Stadium of Light Metro Station prior to the game.

For Those Flying Samm Airways – Newcastle International Airport is the nearest, and is approximately 30-45 minutes to the ground depending on traffic.

Where To Drink
The ground is a 15-minute walk from the city centre and there are no hostelries next to the ground, all are centre based. The William Jameson, a Wetherspoons pub, is a stone’s throw away from the train station at 30 Fawcett Street.

Another Spoons bar a couple of streets away in Low Road is The Lambton Worm.

A good place to try is The Borough at 1 Vine Place. ‘Quirky’ doesn’t begin to describe this place. Drink prices are about average (£2.50 for most pints of lager), but you can warm up your belly with a Borough Bomb cocktail, which costs £3.50 and is made up absinthe, Red Bull and Aftershock – served on fire.

Another decent boozer is Sinatras at 31 Holmeside right near the train station, though it is quite near to Yates, which is firmly a home-fans’ pub on match days.

A favourite pre-match watering hole in this part of the North East is Laings at 26 Olive Street. It’s named after a local shipping dynasty and, while it’s not massive, it is big enough for you not to be too crammed in on match days and get served quite quickly.

Ale is on sale inside the ground.

Plod & Stewards
Gone are the days of trepidation travelling to Sunderland. The new ground has had a calming effect and is rated as one of the top away days in the league. It’s been that long since we’ve played each other the Stokoe factor will mean some love between us. Be wary of the stewards though who have a reputation for slinging out persistent swearers of all things.

Fear Factor Rating – 3.

It’s been 22 years since we last played Sunderland and it feels like 22 years since we last played a game at the moment. Mickey Walsh, goal of the season, Bob Stokoe, Bobby Kerr, Dick Malone (for the youngsters Google this full back legend), Shaun Elliott etc we had a lot of crossovers with the Black Cats and in some ways their excellent start this season has been overlooked. Sat nicely in 6th they’ve gone about their business with the majority of games going under the radar with the exception of probably the result of the season – a 3 nil win at Chelski. In this month of darkness here’s hoping that come 5pm on Tuesday we’re the ones who will be remembered as the shining light coming from the stadium of Sunderland.

Onwards + Upwards