TWO dedicated Black Cats fans are camping out to be the first to get their hands on next season’s Sunderland AFC shirt.
Old school friends Lee Crabtree and David Jackson set up camp outside the club shop at the Stadium of Light on Monday morning – even though the new home strip is not for sale until tomorrow.
The three-night camp-out has become an annual homage for the pair.
“This is our tradition to show how loyal we are to Sunderland football club,” said David, 22.
“We’re going to do it year after year after year.
“I’ve heard no one does this at Newcastle for their home strip, so it shows Sunderland has the most loyal fans. Even if we can’t beat them on points, this shows we can beat them on loyalty.”
He added: “I really like the new shirt. I think it’s a return to the 2001 strip. It looks good.”
Lee, 24, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, said he had no problems camping out and the friends found their tent – pitched on hard surfacing – a fine temporary home.
“It’s not really that uncomfortable. You get used to it,” he said. “We don’t get any trouble either.
“You’d think we would, but everyone who comes past is very friendly.”
The friends met at Bamburgh School in South Shields. Lee is from Harton, David from Whiteleas.
They used to hold season tickets, but are both unemployed and say they can no longer afford them.
“We watch the games on TV and this is how we show our loyalty,” said David.
“Some years we’ve done the home and away strip launches, but this year we’re just doing the home one.
“We want to give other Sunderland fans the chance to be first for the away strip.”
The friends said people passing by offered to bring them food and drink, but they also had supplies with them.
They use the disabled toilets at the stadium and say the security guards and club shop staff look after them.
Lee said: “No one else really starts to queue until Wednesday night, then there are quite a few people here.”
David added: “It’s just immense when everyone’s here, it’s a great atmosphere.”