Stadium Of Light
Sunderland v Stoke City
Sunday, May 8th 2005, 1pm
By David Wallace
Despite the fact that Sunderland had already been crowned Champions of the Championship, before being confirmed as insane, we decided that the 200 mile trip to the North East would be worth it to give the lads a final send off before the end of the season. Having only drove to games in the Midlands before, the 400 odd round mile trip seemed a bit of a jaunt in one day, and so we set out on the Saturday afternoon - taking in the Blackburn vs. Fulham match on the Saturday. After that game we headed up and stayed over for the night in the Lake District. This proved to be a great decision as we went to an excellent pub with local ale on offer.
On the Sunday we cut across from the North West to the North East by taking the A66 straight over to the M1. Despite the fact that there was a big music event on in Sunderland also, it did not take us as long as anticipated to get into Sunderland, arriving an hour and a half before kick off. We opted to use the free park and ride service from the Sunderland Enterprise Park, and I would recommend this to any supporter travelling to the Stadium of Light. We parked up and were on a bus within 5 minutes. It drops you outside the ground, and for a free service you can not ask for anything better. If only more clubs had such an efficient service as this!
With a 48,000 crowd expected we decided not to head for the pubs in the town, but instead went straight into the ground. Being a Sunday, the bars would not serve beer until 12 o'clock and so we had to wait for about 10 minutes before getting a drink and something to eat. The concourse area for Stoke supporters was very small and as supporters piled in it got quite cramped.
We found out seats with no difficulty at all, but one thing that surprised me was the absence of a "no mans land". With our unfortunate reputation for causing trouble it was somewhat strange to see simply one metre between Stoke and Sunderland supporters, with a few Police on hand. The supporters even shared the same steps to get down to the concourse - although directed to different concourses.
The Stadium of Light was deafening as the two team's emerged, with the music making a real impact. The Sunderland fans were also very vocal but that was not surprising with it being a sell out of home tickets.
As the match went on their was some decent banter between the two sets of supporters, with Stoke fans expressing their opinion that Sunderland will be "Coming straight back down" and that their Garden Sheds - with a door and four windows was bigger than the SoL!! The home supporters though managed to remind Stoke just who would be playing Premiership football next season.
The Stewards and the Police seemed to be ok as long as you were ok with them. They had "words" with a few fans but to be fair did a good job to keep supporters separated. It was also good to see that they did not stop Sunderland fans coming down to the pitch side as the final whistle approached, with the presentation of the Championship trophy imminent.
We stayed behind after the game to congratulate Sunderland on their achievements, and then afterwards, made our way through the partying crowd of home supporters back to where we were dropped off so that we could get the bus back to the Enterprise Park. When we got back to the car, we were straight off and on our way back home within minutes. You would need a great excuse to not park on here if you were visiting the Stadium of Light!!!
Overall, the Stadium of Light lived up to my expectations and I am disappointed that Sunderland have been promoted, as I eagerly await my next trip to the awesome Stadium of Light. However, they will have no problems fitting into the Premiership with their fan base and stadium.
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