BEST OF WEARSIDE: Sunderland hero Gary Bennett in the running

Gary Bennett and SAFC Chief Executive, Steve Walton announce the fixtures for Sunderland AFC 2009/10.
Gary Bennett and SAFC Chief Executive, Steve Walton announce the fixtures for Sunderland AFC 2009/10.
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SUNDERLAND football hero Gary Bennett – who has led the fight against racism for nearly two decades – has told of his shock after he was nominated for a community honour.

Gary has been one of the leading figures in the Show Racism the Red Card movement since 1996.

That, alongside his achievements with the Black Cats and in the community in the city, has put him in contention for a Best of Wearside local hero and role model award.

The former defender, who made more than 400 appearances during 11 years at the club, said: “I am surprised to be nominated and it is a bit of a shock really. I just try to give something back to the city. I am overwhelmed to be recognised for that.”

Gary, now 52, was one of the first players to become involved with the Show Racism the Red Card campaign in 1996.

Since then, he has been a leading light in educating young people against racism.

But he was quick to praise others and said: “Sunderland City Council has played a major part in that it was the first council to welcome Show Racism the Red card into schools to educate children and young people, and all councils have followed suit.”

Gary joins an ever-growing list of impressive contenders for this year’s awards and we want even more. The awards, which are held in association with Gentoo, will culminate in a grand finale at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday, November 19.

For now, though, we want you to get in touch with your very own nominations before the closing date in early November.

Whatever the story, we know there are heroes galore out there who are worthy of awards. We want you to tell us all about them.

All you need to do to nominate your own favourite is complete the nomination form here.
It’s down to you to make it a really difficult selection process for the judges.