David Moyes highlights importance of Sunderland stars staying in touch with fans during Nissan tour
Black Cats stars swapped the training field for the production line on a visit to Nissan's Sunderland plant today.
Jermain Defoe, Duncan Watmore, Vito Minnone, Seb Larrson and Paddy McNair were among those who joined members of the club's backroom staff on a tour of the site before posing for pictures and signing autographs with workers.
Manager David Moyes said it was a chance for the club's players and fans to connect: "It is important to show them how much we value our supporters and the workers in this area," he said.
"The success Nissan has had means it is a big part of this area and it is important that we are in touch with the people and let them know we know how well they are doing."
It was good for new members of the squad to have an insight into the people who were paying to watch them week in and week out, he said.
"It is important when you are building a team that the new members get a chance to see what out supporters do, how hard they work and the kind of work they do.
"This factory is a big part of this region - it is a very successful place that we should be proud of."
Club legend Kevin Ball was part of the club party that last visited the plant 24 years ago and was delighted to be back: "It was amazing," he said. "The changes are absolutely massive.
"The banter we have had going round has been fantastic. The football club is so much a part of people's lives. Even if they are not Sunderland fans, they still want to have a crack on with you.
"I think it is so important that we get into the community - this is who we are, what we are about and where we're from."
The teamwork required to make the plant a success was a good example to the players, with every person knowing their role and responsibility: "You need to concentrate and get it right," said Kevin.
"If you don't get it right, it goes wrong further down the line. They understand the importance of of making sure their part in the team is right.
Sunderland fans Chris Riddle and Dan Glennon were delighted to have got the chance to come face-to-face with their heroes.
"It is just great for them to make an effort to get in touch with the community," said 30-year-old Chris, a season ticket holder from Fulwell.
"Given where they are in the league, it shows heart that they are prepared to come out like this."
"The whole thing has been well done," said Dan, originally from Blackpool but now a dedicated Sunderland fan.