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
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 email@example.com 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