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Looking back at Sunderland’s now defunct former home Roker Park

Next up in our look at former homes of football clubs, it’s Roker Park of Sunderland.

The stadium was home of the Black Cats between 1898 and 1997 before the club moved to the Stadium of Light.

On the 10th of September 1898, the opening game was a friendly against Liverpool which Sunderland won 1–0, Jim Leslie scoring the stadium’s first ever goal.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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My spot at Roker Park. Back inthe brief few years as a kid when everything was good in the world! #safc #fulwellend #rokerpark #firstlove #intheblood #ftm #redandwhite #BloodAndBandages #heartbreak #cursed

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Developments to the ground in 1912 saw The Roker End concreted and by 1913 the capacity had risen to 50,000. Sixteen years laters saw a new Main Stand, designed by Archibald Leitch, built but it very nearly bankrupted the club.

The official capacity of the stadium was 60,000 with some matches having attendances as much as 75,000. March 1933 a record attendance of 75,118 supporters visited an FA Cup tie between Sunderland and Derby County. In 1936 the Clock Stand was rebuilt.

During the Second World War, a bomb landed in the middle of the pitch, which killed a policeman who was walking past the ground.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Roker Park Fulwell end getting seating installed in preperation for the 1966 world cup #football #england #worldcup #sunderland#rokerpark#1966#football grounds

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The ground had improvements made on it for the 1966 World Cup with seats installed at the Clock Stand and a roof added to The Fulwell End. During the World Cup three group matches and a quarter-final were played at the ground.

The 1970s saw more changes around Roker Park, installing sprinklers, upgrading floodlights, re-sheeting the roof were included. However from the 1980s, the stadium started to deteriorate and housing stopped any possibilities of expanding. In its final years, capacity was reduced to just 22,500.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Aerial shot of Roker Park I took in the early 90’s. Had to dig it out when I saw a similar shot on @kubrick71 ‘s Insta account today. Brought back memories. Flew up from a small airfield in Middlesbrough in a Cessna. Half way up to Sunderland I asked the pilot where the glass bottom of the plane was to take the aerial photos. He said “there isn’t one mate, just open the window and I’ll bank round as we fly over Roker Park and you can just lean out of the window!” So for this shot, I was kneeling on the passenger seat (no seatbelt on) with the window clicked up under the wing. I used a medium format film camera (Mamiya RB 6×7) so the quality was spot on. Took loads of shots but this one, with the piers and North Sea in the background really captured how close Roker Park was to the coast. Happy memories of a great old ground. #rokerpark #sunderland #sunderlandafc #football #footballstadium #footballground #safc #northsea #piers #beach #roker #seaburn #rokerend #fulwellend

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Plans for a new stadium were put forward by chairman Bob Murray. In 1996, construction for the Stadium of Light, a few hundred yards away from Roker Park, began.

The 1996/97 season, Sunderland’s first ever Premier League season, was the last at Roker Park. The last competitive match at the ground was a win over Everton.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The stadium of light being built with roker park in the background. What a picture! 🔴⚪️🔴⚪️ #sunderlandafc #stadiumoflight #rokerpark

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Just a year later, work on the Stadium of Light was completed in 1997. Roker Park was demolished and replaced by housing estates.

To commemorate their former home, the streets were named Promotion Close, Clockstand Close, Goalmouth Close, Midfield Drive, Turnstile Mews and Roker Park Close.

 

For more classic photos and many memories of the ground from supporters, click onto the next page.

You can also get your nostalgic football fix by visiting the Fan Banter Store, there is a wide variety of Sunderland vintage shirts and matchday programmes.

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