For­get Rot­ter­dam – Roker was the place to be for keen Hans

WAS THIS FAN THE KEENEST THAT SUN­DER­LAND HAD? HE SWAPPED HIS LIFE OVER IN HOL­LAND FOR A FLAT THAT WAS CLOSE TO ROKER PARK SO HE COULD BE CLOSER TO HIS BELOVED SUN­DER­LAND AFC

Sunderland Echo - - Nostalgia - CHRIS CORD­NER LOOKS BACK

Has there ever been a more pas­sion­ate Sun­der­land fan than Hans de Roon? Back in 1994, he swapped his na­tive Hol­land for life on Wear­side so that he could be nearer to his beloved Roker Park. We re­minded read­ers of Hans’ story in a re­cent Retro Echo fea­ture. But we thought we would share more of his story and ask the ques­tion ‘do you know of fans who have gone to even greater lengths to sup­port the lads.’ It all started in 1956 when Hans first saw Sun­der­land when they played in Rot­ter­dam. He fol­lowed them ever since and made 18 vis­its since in the pe­riod from 1956 to 1994. But what was it that he loved about the Black Cats? He said back in 1994: “In some ways, Dutch foot­ball is bet­ter but I miss the pas­sion and that is what there is in the North East.” Hans was a res­i­dent of Rot­ter­dam while he worked as a clerk in lo­cal gov­ern­ment. But his re­tire­ment in the 1990s meant he could ful­fill his dream of com­ing to Sun­der­land. He was also a for­mer chair­man of The Con­ti­nen­tals which was a so­ci­ety for Dutch fans who were in­ter­ested in English league soc­cer. They would reg­u­larly come over and take in as many English games as they pos­si­bly could. Hans said in 1994: “I am now re­tired and I have all the free­dom to do what I want. It is a chance to ex­press my feel­ings for Sun­der­land and I could not wish for a bet­ter ad­dress.” Hans was 50 at the time and on one visit, he brought the son of a girl­friend who ended up be­ing the match mas­cot for a Sun­der­land game against Manch­ester United. For eight sea­sons, he re­cived the Sports Echo to keep tabs on his favourite club and he kept in touch with all of the news sur­round­ing Sun­der­land’s po­ten­tial move to a new sta­dium. But Hans had his own view on that is­sue and said: “Deep in my heart, I hope they can stay at Roker Park. It must be in­ti­mate.” The super-keen fan was also a mem­ber of the Ge­orge Formby Ap­pre­ci­a­tion So­ci­ety and he had been in­volved in that or­gan­i­sa­tion for more than 25 years. On his lat­est visit in 1994, he was plan­ning to catch up with other ukelele fa­nat­ics in Bri­tain. A spokesman for Sun­der­land Foot­ball Club said at the time: “We al­ways look af­ter him and make him wel­come.

He is pretty close to the club and the North East and has a lot of friends in the Sup­pirters As­so­ci­a­tion.” The club was plan­ning to lay on VIP treat­ment for Hans for the home match against Wat­ford on Novem­ber 19, 1994. He would have got to see a team which in­cluded Alec Cham­ber­lain in goal, Ku­bicki, Ord, Melville and Ball, Ow­ers, Atkin­son, Sn­odin, Smith, Phil Gray and Don Good­man. Sadly, it was not a day to re­mem­ber for the Black Cats as they were stung by the Hor­nets. And to make mat­ters worse, Wat­ford went ahead with the quick­est goal of the day when skipper Andy He­sen­thaler net­ted af­ter just 37 sec­onds. The match even­tu­ally fin­ished 3-1 to Wat­ford in front of a 15,063-strong crowd. At the time, Sun­der­land were strug­gling in the lower reaches of Di­vi­sion One. The same day, Bruce Forsyth’s Gen­er­a­tion Game was a hit on BBC1 and so was Dad’s Army. Over on BBC 2, The Phil Sil­vers Show, and Have I Got News For You were pulling in the view­ers. At­trac­tions on Tyne Tees in­cluded Gla­di­a­tors, Blind Date, Knight Rider and Bay­watch. And on Chan­nel 4, how about Gazetta Foot­ball Italia or Brook­side. What are your mem­o­ries of Sun­der­land in 1994 and do you know of a fan who was just as com­mit­ted as Hans. Is here some­one who went the ex­tra mile to sup­port the Black Cats? We would love to hear from you on this, or any other nos­tal­gia topic - whether it is your favourite cin­ema, club, restau­rant or pub from times gone by. Get in touch by email­ing chris.cord­ner@jpress.co.uk Tell us more!

“It’s a chance to ex­press my feel­ings for Sun­der­land” HANS DE ROON “I miss the pas­sion. That’s what there is in the North-East” HANS DE ROON

Roker Park in the 1990s.

Hans de Roon who moved from Rot­ter­dam to Roker to be nearer his beloved club.

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