Football – Sunderland AFC

Who are Sunderland AFC? Or, who is Sunderland AFC? Well it is  obvious, isn’t it? They are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. Sunderland AFC are one of the biggest footballing clubs in the World. Yes that’s right, the World. How? Why? Simple, the supporters alone are phenomenal people who follow their club with unrivalled passion and desire. Through thick and thin they/we will support them ever more. In other words, “Sunderland ’til I die”.

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The impressive gates at
the Sunderland Stadium of Light

On a more serious note, Sunderland AFC , the 13th member of the football league/association has enjoyed many successful seasons throughout its history. Most however came prior to the Second World War, where League Championships were commonplace. Since the end of the last War Sunderland AFC has bounced up and down between the top two divisions However in 1973 one of the clubs greatest triumphs was achieved when they lifted the FA Cup as a struggling second division side over a very mighty first division Leeds United.

The Sunderland Stadium of Light main entrance

The club then went from bad to worse with relegation into the old third division for the first time in the clubs history in 1987 being the lowest point. Since then the club has bounced back but once again found themselves up and down between the old division one and two (or the premiership and division one).

Fans enjoying a pre-match pint
outside the Colliery Tavern Pub

Finally, the other year the club said farewell to Roker Park, its home ground for over 99 years. The size of the ground and safety/expansion factors meant it was time for change and the Stadium of Light, a 42,000 seater arena was opened for the start of the 1997/1998 season. This also meant a change of club badge which at the time disappointed many but the new crest has grown to be liked (not many people realise that we’ve actually gone through 7 badge styles in our history).

Long range view of the North Stand extension construction

The 1997/1998 season was a tremendous one, full of excitement and passion. It ended in disaster with a play-off final defeat at Wembley against Charlton Athletic. The prize at stake was a place in the Premiership. It never happened, yet those who were there took part in one of the greatest games ever witnessed on British soil (the match ranks alongside the 1966 World Cup Final and the Euro ’96 Semi-Final).

Inside view of the North Stand extension construction

In the 1998/1999 season we astonished everyone by taking the first division by the scruff of its neck and ran away with the Championship beating every team in the division at least once and losing only 3 matches. We scored more goals than anyone, achieved the highest number of points ever in the history of English football. We played to packed 41,000+ games and it is rumoured 50,000 people was inside the magnificent stadium of Light at the last game of the season to see the Lads lift the Championship trophy (when at the time the capacity was approx 42,000).

Workmen constructing the North Stand extension

Of course in 1999-2000 we finished 7th in the Premiership, our highest finish for 40 plus years. We are a force to be reckoned with, the North East’s number one team.

Sunderland AFC are officially known as the Black Cats. Sunderland AFC polled supporters of the Club to decide what nickname they should have. Unofficially and allegedly the majority vote was Mackem however the Club ensured it as Black Cats as Premiership rules stated that teams cannot have on display any logos other than official Premiership badges on the sleeves of team strips other than those reflecting a clubs nickname.

Close up of roof detail from the North Stand extension

Sunderland during the 1999-2000 had a black cat – always the mascot of the club, embroidered on the sleeve of their strips and at that time had no official nickname thus to avoid any possible infringements of Premiership rules they – allegedly – quickly put the vote to the fans and made sure Black Cats was chosen.