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Sunderland Awaydaze
Friday, 18th Aug 2017 13:14 by Tim Whelan

This game is on Saturday at 5.30pm, and it’s yet another of our matches to be moved by Sky Sports. We’re not famous any more!

You'll find the Stadium of Light on the site of the former Monkwearmouth Colliery on the north bank of the river Wear, the opposite side from the city centre.

To get there by road you need to take the A1231 exit off the A19 (signposted Sunderland North) and follow that road till the fourth roundabout, from which it is another mile along the B1289 to the stadium. Parking however is limited, so it is advised that you park well away from the ground and the best bet is probably to use the free park and ride service, which is signposted from the A1231.

There is limited parking by the stadium, and a residents’ only scheme on the surrounding streets, which naturally is strictly enforced by the local traffic wardens. But you can park at the Stadium of Light Metro Station (cost £4) or one of the city centre car parks in the city centre (about 10-15 minutes walk from the ‘Light’).

Sunderland’s railway station is an underground affair, and looks surprisingly grotty and insignificant for the main station in quite a large city. To get there you’ll have to change trains in Newcastle, and when you emerge into the daylight you’ll find yourself in the midst of the pedestrianised shopping streets.

The station is about a mile from the stadium, and you have to turn right outside, then go through the gap between JJB and a nail bar, emerging on Bridge Street. By then you’ll see the stadium in the distance and you just have to go down the main road and over the Wearmouth Bridge.

If that seems like too much effort, you can get the Tyne and Wear metro to the ‘Stadium of Light’ or ‘St Peters’ stops. After the game the metros from ‘Stadium of Light’ only go northbound (towards Newcastle) and southbound only from ‘St Peters’, presumably in the interests of relieving congestion at both stations.

There is a fan zone outside the south-east corner of the stadium, which is available to both sets of fans. But the best watering hole close to the SOL is the Colliery Tavern, which gets packed but is safe for away fans to use. Also close to the ground and slightly bigger than the Tavern is the Wheatsheaf, but like its rival, the Wheat gets packed to the rafters on Matchdays.

There are also two social clubs which admit away fans on North Bridge street, which as the name suggests is the main road just north of the Wearmouth Bridge. These are the Sunderland Companions club, and the New Democratic Club. Other options are the ‘Albion’ on Victor Street, off Roker Avenue (heading away from the stadium on the other side of North Bridge street), and ‘The Promenade’ or the CAMRA listed ‘Harbour View’ on the sea front.

Alcohol is also available inside the stadium, in the form of Carling Lager (£4), Carling Cider (£3.80) and Worthingtons (£3.80) and various wines (£3.90). The Club also offer 2 Pies and 2 Pints for £12. The food is a bit average, though the meat and potato pie isn't bad and the vegetable balti is a particularly cheeky little number. Outside the stadium there are quite a few takeaways along North Bridge street, and a chippie next to the ‘Albion’ pub (see above).

The stadium has a present capacity of 48,707 (expanded from the original 41,590). When the new stadium was first built Sunderland were one of the few clubs where the atmosphere had improved since they went all seater, but the crowds have since dipped alarmingly after they’ve got relegated from the Premiership a couple of times.

According to Simon Wade of the now defunct 'The Wearside Roar' fanzine: "One day, all stadia will be made this way. It was designed and built with the fan in mind. There's no such thing as a bad seat. Uninterupted sight-lines from every one of the 48,300 seats".

The allocation to visiting clubs is in the upper tier of the north end of the stadium, where the allocation is 1,100 or 3,000, depending on the size of their travelling support, though up 6,000 seats can be made available for cup ties (as was the case for our last visit, in the FA cup in 2015). Tickets for the home parts of the stadium will only be sold to those who are already registered on the club’s database, and those sold to away fans cost £30 for adults, £23 for over 65s and £12 for Under 16's.

The club have preliminary planning permission to extend the south stand and raise the capacity to 55,000, with the board's final goal being a stadium that will host 64,000, but this will all have to wait until Sunderland establish themselves in the Premiership. And as they’ve yo-yoed between there and the Championship more than any other club, I’ve a feeling that could take quite a while. Some of this stuff came from .

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Photo: Action Images

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