Roker Park was the former home ground for Sunderland AFC from 1897 to 1997, with the Club moving to the Stadium of Light. The ground has provided the backdrop for Sunderland’s rich footballing history.
Roker Park was built within three months and consisted of wooden stands and turf, which had been shipped over from Ireland. This turf lasted 38 years which is quite something, and testament to the ground staff who maintained it over the years. To assist with drainage the pitch sloped about one foot from the centre.
The ground underwent a number of improvements, which included floodlights and alterations to the Clock Stand to allow for seats and a roof to be fitted over the Fulwell End.
With the majority of the ground being standing room only the capacity was reduced after the Hillsborough disaster. When new rules came in stating that all grounds had to be seating chairman Bob Murray started to look out for a new site.
Roker Park played a part in England’s 1966 World Cup campaign, hosting four games including, a quarter-final between the Soviet Union and Hungary.
The last match to be played at Roker Park was against Everton, which Sunderland won 3-0. The ground was also the first and last time it would appear in the Premier League, as the 1996-97 season saw Sunderland relegated.
A special ceremonial match against Liverpool commemorated the closing of the ground. Sunderland midfielder John Mullin scored the final goal in a 1-0 Sunderland victory.
There has been many famous victories at Roker Park which fans will be proud of, including a 2-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, which was their only European appearance to date. Other notable wins include a 7-1 drubbing of Arsenal and a 5-1 thrashing of Liverpool.
Roker Park also saw Sunderland recorded their biggest win in 1908, when they beat rivals Newcastle United 9-1. The ground has also entertained some of the Club’s finest players including Niall Quinn and Brian Clough.
The following year Roker Park was demolished to make way for a housing estate. As a tribute, the surrounding streets were named after the ground. Promotion Close, Clockstand Close, Goalmouth Close, Midfield Drive, Turnstile Mews and Roker Park Close were all included.
Roker Park hosted over 1,800 league games with Sunderland being unbeaten in 1,445 of those. It will fondly be remembered by many fans and players for the noise of the crowd during matches, which became known as the ‘Roker Roar’.