SUNDERLAND supporters have given their approval to a gesture by Black Cats’ stars to refund the 2,500 fans who travelled to the weekend’s dismal 8-0 defeat at Southampton.
After the shameful loss on the South Coast on Saturday, Italian goalkeeper Vito Mannone said he would encourage his team-mates to pay for fans’ tickets as a goodwill gesture.
And yesterday the club confirmed it would give Black Cats supporters the chance of reclaiming a personal refund or having the cost donated to Grace House, a respite centre for poorly children in Sunderland which is set to open in the new year.
At £24 a ticket, the charity is now set for a cash boost worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Club captain John O’Shea, speaking on behalf of the first-team squad, said: “We win and lose as a team, players, staff and fans, however we wanted to acknowledge and thank the supporters who travelled such a long way to give us their backing and despite everything, stayed with us until the final whistle.”
Gus Poyet’s team endured a miserable 90 minutes at St Mary’s, going 3-0 down before half-time, before shipping another five goals in the second 45.
To make matters worse, two of the goals were self-inflicted after defender Santiago Vergini and midfielder Liam Bridcutt both put through their own net.
Editor of fanzine A Love Supreme, Martyn McFadden, today told the Echo: “I think to refund the tickets is a great gesture.
“It was the longest trip our fans will make to an away game this season and it ended up being the club’s biggest defeat in 30 years.
“Some people spent a lot of money getting there and saw their team play very poorly.
“We’ve had people contact us from the Bangkok Post and the New York Times asking us why our fans have taken the defeat in such good humour and it just shows how loyal they are in the face of adversity.”
Veteran supporter George Forster, who is part of Sunderland AFC Supporters’ Association, which is based in Monkwearmouth, agreed with Martyn, saying: “It’s the right gesture. The performance was absolutely terrible, shocking, and it makes it worse when you know a lot of the fans who were there had got up at 4am or 5am and travelled down.
“To refund the fans puts a different slant on it now and it’s great that it’s going to a good cause like Grace House.”
Anyone wishing to claim a refund for their ticket should contact the club before 5pm on Wednesday, November 5.
Supporters are asked to return their match ticket either in person at the Stadium of Light ticket office or by post to: SAFC (Refunds), PO Box 165, Sunderland, SR5 1WF.
Supporters must enclose name and address details, along with their customer number.
After the November 5 deadline, the outstanding money not claimed by supporters will be given to Grace House.
Strong reaction on sunderlandecho.com
FANS took to the Echo website to give their opinions on the news that Sunderland’s players will refund ticket costs from Saturday’s game.
Mister Sitter wrote: “It’s a good gesture. It’s not a solution to the problem.
“Now that the players have set a precedent, the objective has to be to take the action needed so they never need to refund the suffering, travelling fans again, or about 40,000 home fans, starting with the next game.”
Fixerchris wrote: “Nice one SAFC players, now get your heads right for Arsenal ... HAWAY.”
Ototnalang wrote: “How about ticket, the cost of the coach trip, plus meal allowance?”
Writing on the Echo’s Facebook page, Tim Hall, Swalwell, said: “If they play this weekend the way they did last Saturday, then they better keep their wallets out!”
Lonz, posting on the Ready To Go forum, wrote: “A good gesture by the players.
“It should also be backed up by a hearty performance at the weekend.”
Sproates33 argued: “Had to be offered really, not that I agree with it.
“My mindset is that you could afford to go at the time and we got hammered, it’s part and parcel of being a fan.
“We had ultimate highs last year at Old Trafford and Wembley that some clubs haven’t had in their lifetime.
“Take the rough with the smooth and let the money you no longer have make a difference to kids who need it.”
Hettoverwoordnl wrote: “Win or lose, we are fans of football and Sunderland because of their respective narcotic-like highs and lows.”
Oli Wagkz wrote: “People seriously whinging? It’s a good gesture from the club.
“The fans that want a refund get one and the rest goes to a charity.”
Kauto Star said: “Personally I will be taking a refund as it’s coming from the players’ pockets.
“The money pays for my Palace ticket.”
RoyalBassettMackem wrote: “Personally, would rather have heard all the money goes to charity and no refund offered.
“I was there Saturday, and I think this is a great gesture from the players.”