After the agonizing play off final defeat in 1998, Sunderland were crowned Division One Champions in 1999 with a record haul of 105 points after losing just 3 times all season. “It was a terrific…Read More
After the agonizing play off final defeat in 1998, Sunderland were crowned Division One Champions in 1999 with a record haul of 105 points after losing just 3 times all season.
“It was a terrific season, which saw us promoted to the Premiership and crowned as Champions, said Bob.
“We made a great start to the season with a 24-match unbeaten run and finished an incredible season with a record number of points. Being crowned Champions was the icing on the cake.”
It was also a season when Sunderland set records off the pitch as well as on. “When I inherited Lawrie McMenemy, on his last game against Sheffield United the attendance for the game was down to just 8000” said Bob.
“By the 1999/2000 season, we boasted an average attendance of over 40,000 which was more than double the average at Roker Park for the previous decade.”
“All our marketing and community efforts were focused on growing the supporter base, extending the brand footprint and enhancing the image and reputation of Sunderland AFC as a family and community focussed club. The Foundation of Light was an integral part of the strategy.
“We promoted a strong ethos of social inclusion and championed affordable and accessible football. The Foundation took this philosophy and spirit out into the community through its wide-ranging community programmes.
“After just 2 years the Stadium of Light had more than 30,000 season ticket holders as compared to less than 5,000 at Roker Park. A fifth of the season ticket holders were female, the highest proportion in the top flight.
“We also boasted the youngest average age in the Premier League and out attendances were the 3rd highest in the country.”
Support for reserve team matches at the Stadium of Light broke records and raised eyebrows across Europe. The visits of the second strings of Manchester United and Liverpool attracted crowds of 20,583 and 33,517, who roared on the home side to 2-0 and 1-0 victories and ultimately another championship trophy.
“We were the envy of many clubs because we built the club back up to have record crowds’ week in, week out for both the first and reserve team. Nobody else in football had taken crowds from that low level and increased them by 40,000.
“I can remember the team had to arrive three hours before kick-off to get through the huge crowds that were waiting for them, the buzz at that time was electric.
“It was a massive achievement for the club, however, I don’t think we ever really got credit for how hard we worked to grow the club and make it stronger.”