Aston Villa is set to take between 1,500-2,000 supporters up to Sunderland tomorrow night for the Championship fixture at the Stadium of Light.
The Stadium of Light has been the home of Sunderland since 1997 when it replaced their former home, Roker Park. According to the then chairman, Sir Bob Murray, the name was given for two reasons, the first as a tribute for the regions mine workers and in the expectation that the stadium would be the guiding light to the future.
The stadium is composed of two three-tiered stands (North and West side of the pitch) while the other two are two-tiered. Due to the size difference, the ground can look unbalanced but does allow for future development if required. The capacity is an all seated 48,707.
Sunderland has put a stadium guide together, which you can download here.
THE AWAY SUPPORTERS
Away supporters are housed in the Upper Tier of the North stand where around 3,000 fans can be housed for league games. Bigger allocations can be given if demand is required for cup games.
The facilities are as you would expect from a modern built ground but there are a number of stairs to climb to reach the Upper Tier. Although the view is decent, you feel as if you are cut off from the rest of the stadium as you can’t see the other stands too well.
In terms of food, then the club offer Fish & Chips (£5.50), Pies (£3.50), Pasties (£3) and Sausage Rolls (£3). Alcohol is available inside the stadium, dependent on fan behaviour. They offer Carling (£4), Cider, Worthington (£3.80) and various wines (£3.90).
Please be warned that swearing is not accepted in the stadium and fans can be ejected for persistent swearing.
ANY CHANCE OF A BEER?
The club has opened up a fan zone at the Stadium which can be found by the South Stand and is open to both home and away supporters. Live Entertainment and TV screens are available here and entry is free. The zone open’s three hours before kick off and for one hour after the game.
Sunderland fans are genuinely known for their hospitality so there is no real surprise that there are plenty of mixed pubs.
The Sunderland Companions Club and the New Democratic Club are both five minutes walk from the stadium of North Bridge Street. Both get busy very early and have a mixture of fans but alcohol is said to be reasonably priced.
Another place to drink is the Albion Pub on Victor Street, just off Roker Avenue. Once again it is only five minutes away and does have a Chip shop a couple of doors up the road.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Sunderland is pretty straightforward to get too. Exit the A1 at Junction 62 and take the A690 towards Sunderland. After around 7-8 miles you will come to another roundabout, where you turn left onto the A19 towards the Tyne Tunnel.
Take the second slip road on your left where it is signposted towards the Stadium of Light.
A train from Birmingham New Street to Sunderland will take around 4 hours. The stadium is then a 10-15 minute walk away.
There is no parking around the stadium with restrictions in force. Those who choose drive are advised to use car parks at St. Mary’s (SR1 3AH), Sunniside (SR1 1UL) and The Bridges (SR1 3PZ) as all are just a 10 to 15-minute walk from the stadium. Parking charges apply.
Alternatively, supporters can take advantage of SAFC’s ‘Park and Ride’ or ‘Park and Walk’ schemes. The Park and Ride scheme run from the Sunderland Enterprise Park on Wessington Way (A1231), which is easily accessible from the A19 and is clearly signposted ‘Park and Ride’ (SR5 3XG).
If you have Twitter then it is well worth following the official WMP Villa FC account. PC Stuart Bladen usually tweets live updates throughout the day.