When former Chairman Sir Bob Murray revealed the ambitious plans to relocate Sunderland AFC from Roker Park to a 49,000-seater stadium in 1992, Black Cats fans – who dubbed the prospect ‘The Wembley of the North’ - were understandably enthralled.
The proposed stadium would dwarf Old Trafford and play a key role as England hosted the European Championships in 1996. But those plans soon fell into disarray with the objection of car producer Nissan, whose strong opposition to such a venue being constructed adjacent to their factory forced the club to regroup and reconsider its plans.
Three years later, the former Wearmouth Colliery was identified as a potential site and, under the watchful eye of Prince Andrew, the stadium was opened in the summer of 1997 with a capacity of 42,000, following significant planning adjustments and an estimated £16m financial outlay.
Subsequent building work has increased the capacity to a figure just shy of 49,000 and came at a further £7m cost, though it is believed the stadium’s design allows for further expansion work to take its capacity to 66,000. The ground’s current size makes it the largest in the Championship and the eighth largest in the country. This has resulted in the England national team playing three fixtures at the venue, as well as attracting global music stars such as Oasis, Take That, Coldplay, Beyoncé and Rihanna.
This will be the first time in history that Brentford have contested a fixture at the Stadium of Light and just the third meeting between the two sides since 1993, the last being the thrilling 3-3 draw at Griffin Park back in October.
The Club has been given 2,671 tickets for the fixture and these are priced as follows: Adults: £25, Seniors: £19, Young Person (16-21): £16 and, with The Black Cats designating this is a ‘Kids for a Quid’ game, under-16s will gain entry for just £1.
DID YOU KNOW?
Sir Bob Murray revealed that the Stadium of Light was named both in the hope that it would become a beacon of light for the future of the club, as well as being a nod to the region’s rich mining history with the symbolism of miners emerging to the surface.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Exit the A1 at Junction 62, the Durham/Sunderland exit, and take the A690 towards Sunderland. After about eight miles you will reach a roundabout, at which turn left onto the A19, signposted for the Tyne Tunnel. Stay in the left-hand lane and take the second slip road towards Sunderland (signposted Stadium of Light, A1231 Sunderland). This takes you on to a bridge crossing over the River Wear. Turn right on to the A1231 following the signs for Sunderland. Go straight over four roundabouts into Sunderland. Then go through two sets of traffic lights and you will see the stadium on your right, about a mile after the traffic lights.
There is limited parking available so the club’s official website suggest the following pay-and-display car parks, all of which are within a 10-15 minute walk of the ground: St. Mary’s (SR1 3AH), Sunniside (SR1 1UL) and The Bridges (SR1 3PZ). There are also club-affiliated Park-and-Ride and Park-and- Walk schemes available. The first option runs from the Sunderland Enterprise Park on Wessington Way, with buses regularly running both before and after the game, while the latter operates from two sites at the University of Sunderland - City Campus on the A183, Chester Road (SR1 3SD) and St. Peter’s (SR6 0AN).
A British Airways flight from London to Newcastle takes a little over an hour, though prices aren’t particularly attractive at this late stage. Alternatively, supporters can take the train from Kings Cross to Sunderland. There is limited availability on advance tickets that cost in the region of £100 for adults and £50 for children. In all other cases from London, however, a super off-peak return for the three-and-a-half to four-hour journey will set you back £137.40 for adults and £68.70 for children.
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:
In light of its success at major tournaments across the globe, the club submitted plans to create a large Fan Zone on the exterior of the stadium in 2015.
The plan came to fruition at the beginning of the 2015/16 season and the new area has become hugely popular with both home and away fans alike, with food and refreshments aplenty, as well as live music from local bands and many activities for children. A match ticket is the sole requirement for entry to the zone, which opens three hours before kick-off and remains open for an hour post-match.
Two pubs within five minutes’ walking distance that come highly recommended for away fans are The Albion on Victor Street and the Colliery Tavern opposite the ground, though the latter is generally regarded as a ‘home pub’. The William Jameson – a Wetherspoons on Fawcett Street – is also a good bet for travelling support, but if you like your beverage with a view, there’s always the seafront. Just a 15-20-minute brisk walk away, the Harbour View and the Wolsey both offer a welcome contrast to the conventional pre-match landscape.