Ha’way the lads! Sunderland is set to get its very own football museum.
The city’s Monkwearmouth Station Museum is all set to become home to a museum dedicated to celebrating the beautiful game this summer.
The Fans Museum is the brainchild of lifelong Sunderland AFC fan Michael Ganley, who has amassed a huge collection of valuable memorabilia over the last 30 years.
Michael’s collection, which includes shirts, tickets, balls, medals and cups, has spent three years on the road visiting various events and charity fundraisers across the region.
His memorabilia, which he first started displaying back in 2014 – the year Sunderland AFC reached the League Cup at Wembley – has been seen by more than 100,000 visitors of all ages.
Now, after a search to find a permanent home for his growing collection, Michael is looking to lease Monkwearmouth Station Museum from Sunderland City Council.
The council confirmed last year that it was looking at alternative options for the museum due to falling visitor numbers and unprecedented cuts, which have seen £250million taken out of its budget since 2010.
Michael said: "We are delighted to be working towards securing Monkwearmouth Station Museum as the permanent home of The Fans Museum.
"The team of volunteers and myself have been working hard for a long time now to build up the reputation of the organisation, and this really is the cherry on top.
"By having a permanent home for our football collection, it will give us real scope to progress and develop the work we are doing with youngsters, and the elderly along with all community groups and the general public.
"To be using a site of such historical value and significance is magnificent news for us, and we think we will inject a new lease of life into the venue, and enhance the City’s 2021 Cultural Bid, as well as encourage more community engagement of all ages.
"We are very much look forward to working alongside Sunderland City Council Museums and Heritage team and other cultural partners over the coming months.
"Myself and the team cannot wait to get started."
The new Fans Museum is also set to have a display for your very own Sunderland Echo, which has covered the highs and lows of the Black Cats down the years.
Managing editor Gavin Foster said: "This is fantastic news for the museum and city.
"The Echo has backed the Fans Museum as a valuable part of the community, and we hope to continue that partnership in the years ahead."
The museum will remain open in its current form until the end of this month, but will then need to close for a couple of months while the collection is decommissioned and relocated and the new exhibits are put in place.
Coun John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture. said: "We’ve spent the last year working with partners to look at all the options for preserving and maintaining the Grade 2-listed building.
"We’re delighted to be talking to Michael about the potential for it becoming a football museum.
"Anyone who knows the city knows how passionate people in Sunderland are about their football, so I think it has the real potential to be a success.
"But we were also impressed with the community links Michael has built up over the years and his plans for working in partnership with the likes of Beamish Museum, the University of Sunderland, the UK City of Culture Bid, the Tall Ships Races, Tyne and Wear Fire brigade and the Prince’s Trust."
Should the football museum go ahead, some of the museum collection will remain on site in the short-term and continue to be managed and cared for by curatorial staff at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, with some smaller items relocating to alternative museum either locally and/or across the region.
It is anticipated the football museum will also work closely with staff at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens to offer visitors continued access to Monkwearmouth Station Museum.