Going back to the future

Sunderland's move to a new 40,000-seat ground in August is a going- home - of sorts. Not that any Rokerites are sufficiently long in the tooth to recognise it as such, writes Simon Turnbull.

The shell of the as yet un-named pounds 15m stadium stands on the site of the old Monkwearmouth Colliery, just a few hundred yards from the home Sunderland occupied for 12 years before Roker Park opened in 1898.

It was at the Newcastle Road ground that Tom Watson assembled his celebrated "team of all the talents," winning three championships in five years before moving to Liverpool as secretary-manager and pre-dating Herbert Chapman as the first man to guide two different clubs to First Division titles.

The Monkwearmouth site was Sunderland's second choice. Their original plan was to build a pounds 120m leisure complex out of the city, near the A19, for multi-purpose use.

Roker Park has been multi-functional in its time. The 1924 All Blacks, the team of "invincibles" which featured George Nepia, the Maori who was rugby union's first great counter-attacking full-back, beat Durham 43- 7 there. And Billy Graham packed the ground in 1984 - the first evangelical figure to do so since Bob Stokoe.

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