Families enjoy FanFest event at Sunderland's Stadium of Light
A family fun day hit the back of the net with young football fans on Wearside.
Sunderland AFC’s FanFest took place at the Stadium of Light, with scores of families attending to watch the first-team train, meet the players and take part in activities.
Supporter Roy Hammonds was at the event with his grandsons Aaron Strasenburgh, 11, and Zach Lavery, six.
Roy said: “It was great to be there and the children really enjoyed watching the players train.
“It’s not very often that they do these events and open training sessions, so it was a great opportunity to get out with the young ones when they were on their half-term holiday.
“This is the sort of thing that has been lacking over the last few years.
“The club needs the fans behind them, so it was a great opportunity to do that.
“If the young people feel like they’re part of the club, they will hopefully become fans and it will be passed on even to other generations.”
Outside and inside the stadium, there were activities for all the family, ranging from face painting to tennis and football challenges.
FanFest also featured a fan village, which included activities from sponsors Adidas, Ultilita, Mercedes-Benz, Everyone Active and other partners such as the Foundation of Light, Northumbria Police, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue.
Football freestyler Jamie MacDonald also entertained the crowd with his skills.
Helen Beckett attended the event with her children Andrew, 12, Lewis, eight, and George, two.
She said: “The children had a really good time.
“They particularly enjoyed seeing the police dogs and horses, as well as the officers.
“They’re football mad so this was the perfect day for them.”
Little Lacey Anderson-Waters, six, was particularly excited by her visit to the Stadium of Light.
Mum Travey said: “Lacey had never been to the stadium before so it was a very exciting day for her.
“She really enjoyed watching the team train and it was a great day out for her.”
Simon Wallace, 39, went to the event with his dad Matthew and children Cameron, 11, and Elizabeth, seven.
He said: “It was a good day and the children enjoyed it, which was the main thing.
“It was nice to be able to see the training up close, and it’s important to have that connection with the fans.”
James Bateson, aged six, said: “I loved it and think it should happen more often.
“My favourite part was seeing all the players and getting inside the stadium.”
Sunderland AFC manager Simon Grayson is hoping the team can take inspiration from the support of the fans to turn around their poor start to the season.
He said: “It was a good opportunity for everybody to come along and see the lads train, and a bit of what goes on behind the scenes, before meeting the players.
“Interaction between supporters and players is vital.
“It was a nice opportunity for the kids to see their heroes.
“This is a fantastic football club, and although we’re disappointed with the results so far this season, we’re all in this together.”