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Roker Park Stadium (Sunderland AFC, 1898-1997)

Roker Park

Capacity: 22,500
Address: Roker Park Road, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR6 9NB, United Kingdom
Pitch Size: 110 yards in length, 70 yards in width
Club Nickname: The Mackems
Year Ground Opened: 1898 (Closed 1997)


                    
                    

Roker Park was a football stadium in Sunderland, England, which was the home of Sunderland AFC for over 100 years. It was opened in 1898 and was named after the nearby Roker Pier and Lighthouse.

Roker Park was known for its unique features, including a large clock mounted on the main stand, a distinctive red-brick facade, and a large bank of seating constructed from earth and rubble. The pitch at Roker Park was also known for being one of the largest in England, which made it a challenging venue for visiting teams.

Over the years, Roker Park played host to many memorable matches, including the 1937 FA Cup final between Sunderland and Preston North End, which attracted a crowd of over 93,000 spectators. The stadium was also the site of many important international matches, including several England matches during the 1966 World Cup.

What was the capacity at Roker Park?

Sunderland’s old ground had a capacity of around 22,500 spectators.

What happened to Roker Park?

Despite its rich history, Roker Park was eventually replaced by a new stadium, the Stadium of Light, which opened in 1997. The final match at Roker Park was played on May 13, 1997, when Sunderland defeated Everton 3-0. After the match, the stadium was demolished, and the site was redeveloped for housing.

Roker Park was a traditional English football stadium that was constructed from red brick and had a distinctive facade. The stadium had four stands, each of which was covered and seated spectators.

The main stand was the largest and featured a clock that was mounted on the roof. The other stands were smaller and were located behind each goal and along the side of the pitch.

The pitch itself was one of the largest in England and was surrounded by a large bank of seating that was constructed from earth and rubble. Roker Park was a classic football stadium that was known for its unique features and intimidating atmosphere.

Sunderland 5-0 Newcastle United (1936)

It was the first time that Sunderland had beaten Newcastle United by such a large margin in over 30 years. The victory helped Sunderland on their way to winning the FA Cup that year.

Sunderland 4-1 Manchester United (1964)

This Boxing Day match featured a hat-trick from Sunderland striker Brian Clough. Clough’s performance helped Sunderland secure a comfortable victory over Manchester United, one of the top teams in the league at the time.

Sunderland 1-0 Leeds United (1973)

The second leg of the FA Cup final was played at Roker Park. Sunderland had lost the first leg 1-0, but they managed to win the second leg thanks to a goal from Ian Porterfield. The victory gave Sunderland their first major trophy in over 40 years.

Sunderland 4-1 Chelsea (1992)

The final game of the 1991-92 league season was a must-win for Sunderland if they wanted to avoid relegation. Sunderland managed to secure a comfortable victory over Chelsea, thanks to goals from John Byrne, Gordon Armstrong, and two from Eric Gates. The victory helped Sunderland to avoid relegation, and it remains one of the most memorable games in the club’s history.

Roker Park was the first stadium in England to have an underground heating system installed, which allowed matches to be played even in the coldest winter months.

The stadium was also the site of a famous boxing match in 1933, when local hero Len Harvey defeated Jock McAvoy to become the British light heavyweight champion.

Roker Park was the first stadium in England to have a dedicated police control room, which was used to monitor crowd safety and security during matches.

The stadium was also the site of a number of unusual events, such as the time when a circus was held on the pitch during a break in the football season.

Roker Park was known for its unique atmosphere, created by the passionate and vocal Sunderland fans. The stadium was especially famous for the “Roker Roar,” the nickname for the deafening noise created by the fans during matches.

Highest Ever Attendance: 75,118 v Derby County (FA Cup) March 8, 1933 (Round Six Replay)

Lowest Ever Attendance: 1,447 v Walsall (League Cup) September 25, 1991 (On Record)

Highest Scoring Match: 8-1 v Newport County in Division Three North on September 14, 1935

Top Goal Scorer: Bobby Gurney, 228 goals in total

First Hat-Trick: George Holley, September 14, 1907 v Woolwich Arsenal

The Main Stand was designed in 1929 by Archibald Leitch, which cost £25,000. Included in the stand was a criss-cross lattice steelwork balcony, a design that Leitch was well-known for during his architectural career.

The new stand increased the capacity to 60,000 during the 1930s, however it placed heavy financial constraints on the club.

In 1936, the Clock Stand was rebuilt, which was triggered by Sunderland’s League Championship in 1936. The new stand was a 114m (375ft) structure, which consisted of two covered tiers, increasing the capacity of the ground by around 6,000.

It was designed by J.W. White of Sunderland, who worked for the same company as Leitch at a cost of £18,000. Before Sunderland’s first game of the season against Derby County on September 2, 1936, the Clock Stand was opened by Lady Raine, the wife of Sunderland chairman Sir Walter Raine.

Located on the north side of the stadium, Fulwell End was located behind the goal where Sunderland fans were placed. When the atmosphere was raucous at Roker Park, commentators and fans would often cite the “Roker Roar” as critical.

Developments to the stand occurred in 1964 and 1966. The terrace was roofed over in 1964 and in 1966 temporary seats and hospitality blocks were put in place as Roker Park was a host venue for the 1966 World Cup.

The Roker End was on the opposite end of the ground. In 1912, the first major reconstruction project took place as Roker End was concreted to hold 17,000 fans, which boosted the capacity to 50,000.

However, in 1982, large parts of Roker End were demolished due to increased safety regulations at stadiums, which led to a significant reduction to the stadium’s capacity.

In tribute to the Roker the south stand at Sunderland’s current stadium, the Stadium of Light, was renamed the Roker End on December 13, 2018.

On the site of Roker Park now is a housing estate, which holds 130 houses. The last season at the ground was the 1996/97 season. Following the final game, the demolition of the stadium began.

As a tribute to the old stadium, many of the street names reference parts of the old Roker Park. Street names on the housing estate include Promotion Close, Clockstand Close, Goalmouth close, Midfield Drive, Turnstile Mews and Roker Park Close.

Roker Park once attracted a crowd of 75,118 for Sunderland’s FA Cup replay with Derby County. However, the stadium began to decline in the 1980s due to a lack of investment in the ground. As a result, Roker Park began to lack the modern safety requirements for a stadium.

After the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, the terrace capacity of the ground was reduced and a year later, the Taylor Report insisted that all English clubs need to have all-seater stadiums, which in the case of Roker Park, would significantly reduce the capacity once more.

Due to this, the chairman Bob Murray, looked for a new stadium to fulfil these requirements. In 1997, a deal was finalised so that Sunderland could move to their current stadium, the Stadium of Light. By 1997, Roker Park’s capacity was 22,500.

The last league match that took place at Roker Park was a 3-0 Sunderland win against Everton on May 4, 1997 in the Premier League.

However, the last ever game to be played at Roker Park was a post-season friendly against Liverpool on May 13, 1997. John Mullin scored the only goal of the game.

 

Updated 14th February 2024
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