Northern League Day fixture: away to Penrith.
Remaining 2010-11 home fixtures: Norton & Stockton Ancients (19/3), Stokesley (22/3), Spennymoor Town (2/4), Ashington (16/4) and Stokesley (23/4).
Confusion is often the natural reaction when searching for the location of Meadow Park, home of Sunderland RCA – especially when neighbours Ryhope CW only play around the corner. It’s certainly easy to miss if you are not acquainted with the area, tucked away behind the new housing estate. Either by coming in off the A19 and following Stockton Road into Ryhope or driving through the old village the unmistakable sight of the towering chimney on the skyline will direct the sight to the floodlights. It’s then just a short trip through the new housing on Beechbrooke to the entrance of RCA’s home ground.
In 1961 some of the 14, 15 and 16 year olds of Ryhope Youth Club started to play football on the ‘store’ field. The youth club leader, Bill Bond, asked the committee if they would like him to arrange a game against another youth club. They were up for it and a handful of games followed. The players played with borrowed strips along with goal posts from the ‘Bluebell’ pub and sawdust from the Ryhope Co-op to mark out the lines. (Sometimes the lines resembled a straight line, but it didn’t matter; they were enjoying themselves.)
A senior team was started in 1963, again by Bill Bond. He had great support from Arthur Crago, Ernie Carlin, Jack Hedley and the youth club committee, which included Terry Brace, Ray Swansbury and Joe Dixon. The club started its life as Ryhope Youth Club playing in the Seaham & District League. Its first ever game was against Seaham UDC at the Seaham CW ground, now home to Seaham Red Star, which resulted in a 3-3 draw.
The fledgling years of RCA’s history saw the club reduced to playing on a school field. After some persuasion, the club convinced the council to lease them some derelict land to build their now home, Meadow Park. Financial help was obtained from both Sunderland and Tyne and Wear Councils and the Sports Council with the club members and community joining in together to carry out the building work.
Currently the only Sunderland based team at this level of the non-league pyramid, after consecutive fourth place finishes in the Northern League Second Division RCA finally achieved promotion in the 2009/10 campaign putting an end to a 22-year absence from the First Division.
Entering the ground through the single turnstile at the top of the car park hard standing is available around the perimeter of the pitch providing unobstructed viewing behind both goals and to the right hand side of play. The Ray Baines Stand, named after one of the club’s life presidents, occupies the left hand side of the pitch along with additional terraced covering at the top goal and the clubhouse and changing rooms at the bottom. The clubhouse bar provides a selection of draft and canned beers, hot food and assorted confectionery and fizzy drinks.
The capacity of Meadow Park is unknown but the clubs record attendance is stated as 1000+ for a game against Newcastle United in the 1980’s. The fixture came about when Newcastle signed Kevin Todd, an RCA player at the time, who went on to make seven appearances for the Tynesiders scoring three times in his two years at the club,where he played alongside Kevin Keegan. After Todd, whose career would include spells at Darlington and Berwick Rangers, had signed, Newcastle agreed to give RCA a friendly as part of the deal attracting the record crowd.
Meadow Park’s postcode is SR2 0NZ for SatNav users. The 60 and 61 buses run frequently from Sunderland Interchange, Stands C and D, and take approximately 10 minutes to reach Ryhope. By looking out the window on the right you can see, beyond the field and playground that stands in the shadow of the houses, Meadow Park’s floodlights which indicate when to exit the bus.
Entrance fee for a Northern League match day fixture at Meadow Park is £4 for adults, £2 concession and free for under 16’s. RCA’s match day programmes are available at the turnstile for £1 and a pint in the clubhouse is a moderately priced £2.
Currently situated mid-table in the STL Northern League First Division RCA are aiming for their highest ever Northern League finish, beating their 10th place finish in the 1984/85 season when the league only consisted of 18 teams.
The club is very grateful to Joe Dixon for providing information about the early years of Sunderland RCA. Joe played for what was then Ryhope Youth Club and subsequently Ryhope Community Association from its first match in 1963 through to the 1978-79 season. Joe has turned from goal scorer to historian and a wealth of detail can be found on this website website about his playing days with RCA and other Sunderland and east Durham clubs.
Many thanks to Liam Dufferwiel from Sunderland RCA, one of the Northern League’s friendliest and most progressive clubs (and almost worth the journey for the corn beef slice alone).