Black Cats stars of the past did the honours as a new community space for teenagers on Wearside was officially opened.
Former Sunderland AFC captain Gary Bennett invited several ex-players along to the launch to see the transformation by St Aidan’s Team Sports of the formerly derelict Herrington Bowls Club clubhouse.
And he’s hoping that the new facility will be a magnet for youngsters looking for something creative to do outside of school hours.
Gary, who was joined by 1973 FA Cup-winning stars Dick Malone and Micky Horswill, as well as fan favourites Keiron Brady and Julio Arca, told the Echo: “The teenage years can be difficult ones and many young people find they are struggling to find things to do outside of school.
“So about 10 years ago now, St Aidan’s Team Sport was set up, with me providing football coaching in the school holidays and other volunteers trying to put on other activities.
“It has just grown and grown since then from an original 50 children to having more than 200 kids on the books today.
Opening the centre is a significant moment for us.Former Sunderland AFC captain Gary Bennett
“Now the creation of this new centre for the community is going to take it to a whole new level.”
The centre was previously the Herrington Bowling Clubhouse next to Herrington Workingmen’s Club. But since the bowling club’s demise, the building had fallen into disrepair.
Now Team Sport has breathed new life into it with a new kitchen, carpeting throughout and complete refurbishment.
Gary, who is now a matchday summariser with BBC Radio Newcastle, added: “We are now providing interests for up to 70 and 80 kids a day.
“As well as the football, we are also offering a whole range of other interests, like photography, tennis, arts and crafts and fishing.”
The pavilion centre was leased to Team Sports by New Herrington Workingmen’s Club in June, and since then a host of local businesses and voluntary groups have worked to refurbish the centre and its surrounding grounds.
Most of the work was done by Northumbrian Rehabilitation Centre’s Community Payback Team, which contributed £8,500 in labour costs free of charge.