We reckoned that by leaving early, avoiding the masses and keeping a low profile we could get down and back without hitch and get back to Forest Hall with all manner of tales to exaggerate to our friends, however none of the following is exaggeration.
Our early arrival at the central (10am) was deemed good planning, except when we got there, there was nigh on three to four hundred with the same idea, except these were not going to keep a low profile, some seriously big lads
In those days the police were not so wise, so getting on the train and getting off at Seaburn was quite easy, in fact I would go as far as to say the police were not visible until much later.
Off the train at Seaburn we decided to cling onto the coat tails of the “big” lads.
Now the walk from Seaburn station to Roker Park takes about 20 minutes, but if you imagine a mob of around 400 Newcastle fans running freely amok, it is exactly how it was, aggressive chanting, some mischief, plenty laughter…..and a little bit of shop lifting.
This culminated by grouping under the main stand at Roker Park, singing and chanting loudly, suddenly from a side street an equally big and aggressive mob appeared, and for a fleeting moment or two I had visions of the biggest football battle in history about to take place, however after a few seconds stand off and posturing it was very apparent that these were also “big” lads from Newcastle who had caught an even earlier train and had been up to the same mischief.
We (well not really me) had the run of Roker Park, without a Mackem in sight, to see such numbers who were all “up for it” is the stuff of 70s legends.
It was now 11 am and it was decided that it was pub time, obviously too many for one pub, but we again clung on to the coat tails of the huge group who headed for the Blue Bell back toward the station
On the way a few Sunderland fans had started to appear, however they were quickly ran into the side streets and into hiding, some scarfs were pinched for burning later, a common ritual in those days.
The management at the Blue Bell were powerless to do anything but accept the hordes and serve them quickly, the car park and pub were a mass of “up for it big lads” . Bandits were tipped and emptied, windows put out, regulars ejected, those with colours on despatched through windows.
The Police were now in attendance but their remit was to simply contain, however there was more and more Sunderland fans in the area now, and most if not all were chased away or those that loitered simply given a hiding, the police watched on but the numbers were too great.
Fast forward to 1.30 and a train full of Newcastle fans came in, and it was hugely entertaining as the Police attempted to escort them passed us and to the ground, most saw us and the escort simply crumbled, utter chaos ensued as more Sunderland fans were dispatched to all quarters as all control was lost. The police were both incompetent and helpless, There was some quite severe violence going on, something I had not seen close up, and there was only 1 winner.
A then shambolic sequence of events took place as the police reinforcements slowly came into place and attempted to escort us all to the ground, the escort chose its own route, deliberately passing right past the queuing Sunderland fans at the Fulwell End, these queuing fans promptly dispersed to all directions. For a few minutes I actually thought we were going to try and go into the Fulwell End but our tickets were for the Roker End…….that would have to wait until 1985
I can’t condone football violence but as a 14 year old I was in awe, as cars were trampled on, windows with Sunderland colours on houses and cars were smashed, with no resistance, it really was that simple, back of the main stand again and no red and white anywhere near, club officials quickly closed and locked all doors, simply hoping we would pass quickly
Near the Roker End it became apparent that another pub close to the ground had taken a black and white hiding, think it is the New Derby, but it may have had a different name then.
Anyway into the ground, and after an early Peter Withe goal we conceded and a tame match finished 1 – 1, as mentioned previously scarves were burnt on the terraces.
An attempt by the police to keep the gates locked was futile as Newcastle fans burst out the ground in all directions, there was a bit of resistance this time but generally we ran amok again, the sued streets were a mass of one sided fights
All the police could do was steer the violence and looting toward the station, we had 9000 fans in the Roker End that day, and most seemed intent on mischief.
As for me, well not one of the bravest, but at one point I was in a group that chased a group of Sunderland fans away from the ground, however I was (ahem) nursing a sore leg from a recent school football match, so I did limp somewhat behind the chasing group protesting about the pain, suddenly we turned a corner and I found myself in a group of 6 facing about 50 or 60 angry Sunderland fans, some of whom had just been chased by us.
They sniffed a chance of blood and came after us, at which point my recent injury made a remarkable recovery as I overtook most…..to this day I never lived it down! However we turned into the road ( sheer luck) where the main body of Newcastle fans were, and waited and watched as the next mayhem occurred, again very one sided
Much more happened as we eventually made our way back to Seaburn station, and we somehow got on a train back to Newcastle, with 100s of tales for our friends.
I could detail event after event but I would need a book and I simply don’t have the time, but it’s all a clear memory.
For the return game in February I expected the reverse, hordes of Sunderland fans running amok in NE1, but it never happened, and to this day it never has!
That was the day of the infamous 4-1 home loss and the even more infamous battle of Bath Lane, I did not witness the events of Bath Lane and would love to read a TRUE eye witness account.
Like I say I don’t condone football violence, but this was the 70s and as an awe struck 14 year old it was an adventure to outdo all adventures.
As for this Sunday, I missed out on a ticket, but stub-hub have ” home” tickets available for face value, so why not?
I’m am knocking on 50 now and I should be able to keep a lid on things when we score, well I done it many times before, but I do ask our lot not to lower their standards and as such resist pelting those poor Sunderland fans below, as I will be sat down there too!
Enjoy the day, and remember we are God’s chosen few and they are just………Mackems!