The Stadium of Light
Sunderland play their home matches at the Stadium of Light, an impressive 49,000 capacity stadium that has won numerous awards. The Stadium of Light is the club’s eighth home ground and the fifth to be located on the Monkwearmouth side of the River Wear. Previous home grounds include, chronologically, Blue House Field in Hendon, The Grove in Ashbrooke, Horatio Street in Roker, Abbs Field in Fulwell, Newcastle Road, and Roker Park. The club were forced to consider a relocation away from their beloved Roker Park in the late 1980s following safety concerns and limited space for expansion. Initial plans included building a stadium on a large plot next to the Nissan car plant. Nissan eventually rejected this proposal, though, and the club were forced to look elsewhere.
In 1995, Bob Murray announced plans for the construction of a new stadium on the former site of Wearmouth Colliery. This location seemed perfect, being near the centre of the city and within close proximity to Roker Park. The stadium was opened on time, in 1997, with a capacity of 42,000. To celebrate, Ajax visited the ground to play a showpiece game. Three years later, the club chose to increase the ground’s capacity to 49,000, a scheme which cost them £7 million. Sunderland have announced plans for further expansion and hope that the ground will one day hold over 60,000 people.
The stadium is named after a miner’s lamp, since the ground was built on the former site of Wearmouth Colliery. The city’s mining history is not forgotten in the Stadium of Light, with a large Davy lamp on display near the box office. Furthermore, one of the West Stand’s stadium gates bears a sign that reads “INTO THE LIGHT”, the same words that could be found on a sign at the elevators of Wearmouth Colliery.
The Stadium of Light is such an impressive ground that it has been chosen to host international matches on several occasions. The first such occasion came in 1999, when England hosted Belgium in a friendly game. The first competitive international match to be held at Sunderland’s ground came in April 2003, when England took on Turkey in a vital qualifier for the Euro 2004 competition.
The Stadium of Light is made up of the West Stand, the North Stand, the East Stand, and the South Stand. The North Stand has an upper tier that includes a famous bar, and the West Stand is home to several executive boxes, as well as the main entrance to the ground, the team changing rooms, the tunnel, and media suites. The North Stand is generally regarded as the home end of the ground. The South Stand usually accommodates away fans, who sit in close proximity to the loudest section of home support. The overall design of the stadium is influenced by the city’s heritage in industries such as glass-making and ship-building.
The pitch itself is actually a few metres below ground-level and so the stadium appears much smaller when viewed from the outside. The Stadium of Light has been commended for the consistently good quality of its pitch. The latest rootzone technology is utilised to ensure that the pitch is stable even when the weather conditions in winter hinder the growth of the grass. Under-soil heating prevents problems caused by frost and snow and electronic sensors in the pitch monitor the temperature and moisture-levels of the rootzone. When the club chose to re-turf their pitch for the first time, they decided to grow the new turf at a specialist nursery in Lincolnshire. Hi-tech equipment was used to ensure that the turf stayed in the best condition from the moment of harvesting to the moment of laying.
Getting to the ground
To reach the stadium by car, take the A19 from both the north and south. Take the A1231 (Sunderland North) exit and after crossing four roundabouts, follow signs for B1289 (Roker), staying in the left hand lane all the time. Continue along this road and you will eventually see the stadium on the right-hand side. There is a detailed route map here.
If you park at either the University of Sunderland or St. Peters, you can walk easily to the ground. Simply follow the signs for Matchday Parking. Alternatively, there is a free park and ride scheme operating on match days. This scheme departs from the Sunderland Enterprise Park on the Wessington Way (A1231), which is easily accessible from the A19. Buses depart every 5 minutes before the game and do not stop running after the match until all supporters are back in their cars. If you want to park at the Stadium of Light, make sure you arrive early. There are 1,146 parking spaces and there is also room for approximately 24 coaches. If you would like to purchase a parking permit for the whole season, contact the ticket office on 0191 551 5151.
Sunderland train station is just a 10 to 15 minute walk away from the Stadium of Light. The ground is well signposted from the moment you leave the station.
Travelling to the ground by metro is very convenient. You can choose to arrive at either St. Peter’s or the Stadium of Light Metro stations. However, bear in mind that when leaving the ground after a match, you must board at St. Peter’s if you wish to travel towards South Hylton. Those supporters wishing to travel towards Newcastle must board at the Stadium of Light station. These restrictions have been put in place to ease congestion.
All the main bus routes across Wearside connect to the central bus station of the city, Park Lane Interchange, which is actually within walking distance of the ground. Bus numbers 2, 3, 4, 12, 13, 15 and 16 all stop close to the stadium.
If you wish to attend more than just a few matches during the next league campaign, Sunderland offer reasonably priced season tickets for all areas of the ground. You can buy a season ticket in a concession area for just £415. The club has ensured that it remains family-friendly, offering season tickets for children for just £125. To purchase a season ticket, call 0845 671 1973. Buying a season ticket may initially seem like an expensive option but it saves you a considerable amount of money when compared to normal match-to-match prices. Sunderland are constantly introducing new promotions specifically aimed at season ticket holders, such as the discounted ticket offer, which allows ticket holders to purchase two tickets for a nominated home match for the bargain price of £10 each.
Once you have purchased a season ticket, you can choose to apply for tickets for every single league away match. To do this, use voucher 62 from your new season ticket book.
Sunderland have made it extremely easy to book home match tickets online. Simply choose the area of the ground that you wish to sit in and then choose which match you wish to enjoy. Tickets for matches currently on sale can be found here. You will be shown a detailed break-down of your purchase prior to payment, including seat details. You can use the following payment methods online: Switch/Solo, Visa, Mastercard, American Express.
All tickets purchased over the phone are subject to a booking fee that will cover postage costs and credit card transaction charges. To reach the Sunderland Ticket Hotline, call 0845 671 1973. To find out more about purchasing tickets over the phone, you can contact the Sunderland Ticketing Information line on 09068 12 18 81. This line is available 24 hours a day for your convenience.
The ticket office at the Stadium of Light is open between 10.00am and 5.30pm every Monday to Friday. On Saturdays it opens at 10.00am and closes at 1.00pm. The ticket office closes at kick-off on every match day.
Send requests for tickets to the following address: Sales, PO Box 165, Sunderland, SR5 1WF.
Fax ticket requests to 0191 551 51 50.
Ticket prices for Sunderland home matches are fairly reasonable for a Premiership club and they offer a wide range of concessions.
Category A matches
Category A matches include matches against Manchester United, Newcastle United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Middlesbrough, and Chelsea. All tickets in the Kronenbourg Upper Stand and the Home End, with the exception of two sections, are charged at £30. An adult ticket in the SE Concession Corner, the NE Concession Corner, the SW Concession Corner, the NW Concession Corner and most of the North West Upper Concession Corner, will cost £28. Over 65s and under 22s can get tickets for just £22, whilst under 16s will be charged just £12. Sections of the East Stand and the West Stand have tickets available at £33 for an adult. Concession ticket prices for these areas are the same as for the Concession Corners. The Black Cats Bar area is the most expensive part of the ground, with an adult ticket costing £60. Certain parts of the ground are allocated as matchday sales only areas. A detailed stadium plan with prices can be found here.
Category B matches
All tickets in the Kronenbourg Upper Stand and the Home End, with the exception of two sections, are charged at £25. An adult ticket in the SE Concession Corner, the NE Concession Corner, the SW Concession Corner, the NW Concession Corner and most of the North West Upper Concession Corner, will cost £22. Over 65s and under 22s can get tickets for just £17, whilst under 16s will be charged just £12. Sections of the East Stand and the West Stand have tickets available at £27 for an adult. Concession ticket prices for these areas are the same as for the Concession Corners, with one exception: under 16s will be charged just £10. The Black Cats Bar area offers tickets costing £50.
First Team Players
Former Hearts goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, joined Sunderland last season in a deal that broke the British transfer record for a goalkeeper. He excelled during his time at Hearts and caught the eye of several Premier League clubs with some impressive performances in the UEFA Cup. The Scot made over 30 appearances in his first season at Sunderland, becoming an integral part of the team.
When Sunderland won promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2006/2007 season, they had their goalkeeper, Darren Ward, to thank. Ward conceded just 14 goals in a total of 16 matches at the beginning of 2007 and was instrumental in helping Sunderland top the table. Unfortunately, the talented goalkeeper was sidelined for much of last season due to injury.
The young Northern Irish goalkeeper, Trevor Carson, is yet to make his senior team debut, after joining Sunderland from Killyleagh Boys in 2004. However, he performed impressively for the reserve team throughout last season and the hype surrounding him at the club is ever-increasing.
Martin Fulop spent much of last season out on loan at Leicester and made just one senior appearance for Sunderland, against Arsenal in the last home match of the season. He proved himself to be a capable goalkeeper during the 2006/2007 campaign, performing excellently in 5 matches. Fulop has played for the Hungarian national team several times and even kept a clean sheet against France.
The former Reading defender was Roy Keane’s first signing. Despite showing great promise, the young right-back has failed to cement a regular place in the starting line-up. In January 2008, Halford joined Charlton on loan but is expected to fight for a place in the Sunderland first team throughout next season.
Nyron Nosworthy moved to Sunderland from Gillingham in the summer of 2005. After a serious injury to regular right-back, Stephen Wright, Nosworthy soon established himself as one of the team’s most consistent defenders. Since joining the club, he has made over 80 appearances and was even voted Sunderland’s Player of the Season at the end of the 2006/2007 campaign.
July 2007 saw the arrival of Paul McShane from West Bromwich Albion. He made over 20 appearances for Sunderland last season. His debut came against Tottenham Hotspur and an inspired performance helped the side to a 1-0 victory. McShane is an extremely versatile defender and has enjoyed successful spells at both right-back and centre-back.
Danny Higginbotham signed a four-year contract with Sunderland in summer 2007. Higginbotham has enjoyed spells at Southampton, Stoke City, and Derby and made 21 appearances for Sunderland last season. As well as being an integral part of the team’s defence, Higginbotham scored a total of 3 goals during the 2007/2008 campaign.
The Welsh international, Danny Collins, played 40 games during Sunderland’s successful 2006/2007 campaign. He has continued to impress in the Premier League, winning the Sunderland AFC Player of the Year award for 2008. In 111 appearances for Sunderland, Collins has scored 2 goals, including one against Fulham in April of this year.
Russell Anderson established himself as an extremely talented and solid defender at Aberdeen. Before he left Scotland for Sunderland in June 2007, Anderson was awarded a testimonial match against Everton and was also named club captain. His Premier League debut came against Wigan Athletic but he was unfortunate enough to give away a penalty following a clumsy tackle. In February 2008, Anderson was sent on loan to Plymouth Argyle.
Jean-Yves M’voto joined Sunderland from French side, Paris St Germain, in January 2008. The young defender, who stands 6 foot 4 inches tall, is regarded by Roy Keane as a player for Sunderland’s future and great things are expected from him.
Talented right-back, Phil Bardsley, has spent much of his career out on loan, although he has been included in several UEFA Champions League squads for Manchester United. Following spells with Burnley, Rangers, Aston Villa, and Sheffield United, Bardsley joined Sunderland earlier this year. He made his debut against Birmingham and has become a firm favourite with the fans at the Stadium of Light.
The young defender, Peter Hartley, joined Sunderland in 2000 on a youth contract and was offered a professional contract in 2006. His first team debut came in early 2007, against Leicester. Earlier this year, Hartley was sent out on loan to Chesterfield to gain some invaluable experience.
The Irish centre-back, Gavin Donoghue, was unlucky to miss most of the 2006/2007 campaign with a serious ankle injury. He worked hard to eventually regain his match fitness and became an integral part of Sunderland’s reserve team last season. If his form continues to improve, Donoghue can expect to start fighting for a place in the club’s first team.
Arnau Riera excelled during a trial at Sunderland in 2006 and the club management were keen to sign the former Barcelona midfielder as soon as possible. He has spent a considerable amount of time out on loan since signing for Sunderland but he remains an exciting talent.
Last season saw the arrival of Nigerian midfielder, Dickson Etuhu. The former Manchester City player made 20 appearances during the 2007/2008 campaign and scored his first goal for the club during the home league match against Wigan in February.
Rumour has it that Sir Alex Ferguson made Roy Keane aware of the talent and ambition of Trinidadian midfielder, Carlos Edwards, in early 2007. Edwards made an immediate impact upon arrival at the Stadium of Light, scoring important goals against Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry City, and Birmingham. He added to his tally in the match against Southampton and an amazing goal against Burnley made Sunderland’s promotion back to the Premier League official.
Club captain, Dean Whitehead, has been a revelation since his move to Sunderland from Oxford United. He was an influential part of the team that won the Championship in 2005 and was voted Players’ Player of the Year at the end of the campaign. Overall, Whitehead has made over 150 appearances for Sunderland, scoring over 10 goals in the process.
Kieran Richardson made a name for himself at Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion. The talented young midfielder joined Sunderland in July 2007 but was sidelined with a spine injury for the first few months of the 2007/2008 campaign. His first goal for the club came against Bolton in late December and a further two goals came in the league match against Portsmouth in January.
Liam Miller joined Sunderland in 2006 and has made over 50 appearances for the club, scoring 3 goals. The Irish midfielder has not been an instant hit since his arrival at the club, with Roy Keane criticising his poor timekeeping. However, Miller’s potential is undeniable and Sunderland remain hopeful that his form and discipline will improve.
A favourite with the fans, Grant Leadbitter has steadily worked his way through the ranks at Sunderland and has established himself as a regular first-team player. He was sent out on loan to Rotherham during the 2005/2006 season and showed such impressive form that he was recalled by Sunderland soon after. The 2006/2007 campaign saw the young midfielder play 46 times for the club, scoring 4 goals in total.
Former Manchester United legend, Dwight Yorke, signed for Sunderland from Sydney FC in August 2006. He became an instant hit with the fans, scoring his first goal in a 2-1 defeat against Stoke. There has recently been speculation linking Yorke with a move away from Sunderland.
Combative Irish midfielder, Andy Reid, started his career at Nottingham Forest before enjoying spells at Tottenham Hotspur and Charlton Athletic. He signed for Sunderland earlier this year and made 13 appearances during the 2007/2008 league campaign. Reid’s first goal for the club came during the team’s victory over West Ham United in March.
A former star at Cardiff City, Graham Kavanagh joined Sunderland in 2006 from Wigan Athletic. During his first season at the club he scored 1 goal in 14 appearances but suffered from various injuries. Kavanagh has spent much of his time at Sunderland out on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
The young Scottish midfielder, Ross Wallace, caught Sunderland’s eye whilst playing for Celtic. Some impressive performances on the left wing tempted the club to sign him in August 2006. The 2006/2007 season saw some excellent performances from Wallace but injury kept him out for much of the following league campaign.
Former Arsenal player, Anthony Stokes, established himself as a talented young striker whilst on loan to Falkirk in 2006. During 16 appearances for Falkirk, Stokes scored an impressive total of 14 goals. Sunderland won the race to sign him in January 2007. He wasted no time in establishing himself at the club, supplying an important assist during his first appearance. His first Premier League goal for the club came against Derby County in December 2007.
Daryl Murphy joined Sunderland in 2005 and the young striker scored 10 goals during the 2006/2007 campaign. This impressive form continued throughout the 2007/2008 season, with Murphy scoring several goals, including a superb strike against Wigan Athletic in February. Perhaps his finest moment at the club so far came during the 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough. Murphy scored the winning goal that ensured Sunderland would remain in the Premier League for another year.
The former Newcastle United player, Michael Chopra, signed for Sunderland from Cardiff City in July 2007. He made an impressive start at the Stadium of Light, scoring in his first competitive match. During his first season at Sunderland, the striker scored 6 league goals, including one against Middlesbrough.
The young striker, Kenwyne Jones, made a name for himself at Southampton between 2004 and 2007. His power, strength, and goal-scoring ability caught the eye of several Premier League clubs. Sunderland won the race for his signature and he arrived at the Stadium of Light in August 2007. His first goal for the club came against Reading in September and he continued to score 7 goals in the league.
Irish striker, Roy O’Donovan, signed for Sunderland from Cork City during the summer of 2007. He made his league debut against Birmingham City early in the season and went on to make 17 impressive performances during the Premier League campaign. There has been talk of the young striker going out on loan in the near future to gain some invaluable experience.
David Connolly made a name for himself at Watford before impressing at Feyenoord Rotterdam and Wimbledon. He signed for Sunderland in summer 2006 and was an important part of the team that won promotion to the Premier League in 2007. Despite finishing as top scorer for the 2006/2007 season, Connolly only made one appearance for the club during the last campaign.
David Dowson is currently out on loan to Chesterfield but is rapidly making a name for himself as a talented young striker.
Rade Prica signed for Sunderland in January 2008, from Aalborg BK. During his time at Aalborg BK, he scored 28 goals in just 48 appearances. The striker scored on his Sunderland debut, against Birmingham City in late January, but is yet to make a real impression at the Stadium of Light.
The Chairman and Manager
In June 2006, Niall Quinn became Chairman of Sunderland, instigating a deal between the Drumaville Consortium of wealthy Irish businessmen and the football club. He initially decided to adopt the position of manager as well but after a short and largely unsuccessful spell in charge, Quinn decided to appoint a new manager. Quinn has been a favourite with the Sunderland fans ever since his move to the club in 1996. He was the first player to score a goal at the Stadium of Light and he scored a total of 91 goals for the club in 203 appearances.
The former Manchester United legend, Roy Keane, signed a three-year deal with Sunderland in the summer of 2006. When he took over from Quinn, the club were in the relegation zone and seemed unable to play consistently good football. Furthermore, many fans were concerned that Sunderland would be too much of a challenge for a young manager in his first job, particularly since Keane and Quinn had publicly fallen out during their international playing days. However, Keane won his first two games in charge, against Derby County and Leeds United, and by early 2007, they had climbed out of the relegation zone and in to the top half of the league.
Keane’s immediate impact upon Sunderland was recognised as he was awarded the Manager of the Month award in February and March. Remarkably, Roy Keane managed to lead Sunderland to a Championship title during his first season in charge. Sunderland endured a tough time during much of last season’s Premier League campaign but Keane’s leadership skills ensured that they fought off relegation. Furthermore, many famous footballing names, including Dwight Yorke and Liam Miller, have been attracted to Sunderland since Roy Keane’s arrival at the club.