Welsh winger now in the media.
Leighton James played over 50 times in a two-year stint on Wearside after joining from his hometown club Swansea City in 1982.
James arrived at Roker Park on a free transfer and made a huge impact in Alan Durban’s side’s fight for survival.
He scored four times for Sunderland as a winger including two penalties in a 2-1 home victory over Birmingham City in 1984.
“Roker was great to play on...The atmosphere was compact and close knit – the older grounds tend to be like that
- Leighton James
And the former Welsh international says he holds fond memories of his time at Roker Park.
“Roker was great to play on,” James said.
“The atmosphere was compact and close knit – the older grounds tend to be like that.
“The newer grounds are fantastic for viewing and they look cleaner but there is a concrete and steel feel to some of them. Roker had that warm family sentiment.
“That’s not to say the new grounds aren’t good, it’s just an opinion of mine that they can lack the atmosphere.”
James actually scored his first goal at Roker Park for Burnley in an international youth tournament back in 1972 as the Clarets defeated Sunderland.
He would later go on to play in the Home Nations tournament for Wales.
“That was a long time ago [the goal for Burnley at Roker],” he added.
“I remember coming up to stay in Washington and playing in the tournament with some really good teams – Hamburg were there along with some other foreign sides.
“It’s funny actually because I left Roker Park on the Sunday and I played the international home nations tournament a few days later.”
James was talking to safc.com just days after Swansea’s rivals Cardiff City were promoted to the Barclays Premier League.
And, though, he is Swansea through and through he says the Welsh derby is beneficial to the Barclays Premier League in the same way as Sunderland’s rivalry with Newcastle.
“I think it’s a fantastic achievement by Cardiff and now Swansea have set the benchmark for them to follow.
“For the last two seasons Swansea fans have always looked for the fixtures against Manchester United and Arsenal now they’ll look for the Cardiff games.
“It’s similar to the rivalry up in the north-east between Sunderland and Newcastle in the sense that it would be a disaster if one went down as both clubs love the fixture.
“Both sides [Swansea and Cardiff] will be looking to break the 30 season long record of neither beating the other in both league games in a campaign.”
Since retiring from playing in 1989, James took on coaching roles with Bradford, Morecambe and Accrington Stanley before moving into the media side of the game in the late 90s.
“I coached and managed for a while but after some time I’d had enough,” he explained.
“I went into the media side with TV, radio and newspapers and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I’d love to do more but we’re a bit isolated down here in South Wales, but I do local stuff with the South Wales Evening Post and also the BBC.”