BLACK Cats boss Gus Poyet lit up Sunderland last night.
The Uruguayan was guest of honour at the city’s Christmas lights switch-on and joined Mayor of Sunderland, Coun Bob Heron, to throw the switch.
Thousands of people turned up at the civic centre for the formal start of the city’s Christmas countdown.
The former Chelsea man was over the moon with the response he received from the Wearside public.
It hasn’t taken him long to realise the best way to guarantee a warm welcome on Wearside is to start producing the results on the field.
“It was very nice – of course, when you win football games, it always helps,” he joked.
“I think the people here have been very nice to me. They have made me feel welcome.”
He promised the fans he would fight for Sunderland’s Premier League survival.
“They are desperate for us to help the club to get out of this relegation battle, and I can promise you we are doing everything possible for that.”
Chris Alexander, of event organiser Sunderland Live, said the big switch-on had attracted about 15,000 people.
“We knew it was going to be very popular, obviously – the Christmas lights switch-on is a major occasion in the calendar as far as Sunderland is concerned – but when you’ve got the head coach of the football club and they have had some great results recently, clearly people wanted to come along and say hello to Gus Poyet.”
There was plenty to keep the crowds entertained.
Choirs from East Herrington Primary School and Red House Academy performed a mixture of Christmas classics and favourite pop songs. Rock ‘n’ roll came courtesy of The Revolutionaires and even a video message from Santa, all the way from the North Pole.
The lights switch-on was preceded by the traditional hand-over of the city’s Christmas tree from the people of Stavanger, in Norway, and was followed by a spectacular fireworks display over Mowbray Park.
The park is set to play a major role in the city’s festive preparations.
As well as the white lights which transform its trees, the park will again host the stunning Lightweight, a four-metre high illuminated interactive sphere on December 14 and 20, while Santa’s reindeer will be taking a break from their preparations for the big night from December 20 to 23.
Santa himself has set up shop in Market Square, where you can have a peek at his workshop and see him getting ready for Christmas Eve.
Building on the success of last year’s street entertainment programme, colourful characters will be out and about every Thursday and Saturday.