A lifelong Sunderland fan will make his final pilgrimage to the Stadium of Light this weekend.
Eighty-year-old Eric Moran passed away last week. A funeral service will be held on Saturday in Washington, before the cortege passes the Stadium on its way to Sunderland Crematorium ahead of the home clash with Southend.
I don’t know how long he had had a season ticket. Forever, really, for as long as there have been season tickets.Jane Moran
Daughter Jane, 54, will accompany her dad to the ground as she has done ever since she was a child.
Eric was diagnosed with cancer in September 2017 - and insisted on renewing his and Jane’s season tickets for the current campaign despite knowing he would not be able to attend games.
“We did renew on the day we were relegated,” said Jane. “He always said he supported Sunderland, not the league they were in.
“He knew he would not be going back. He knew he would not get through another season.
“He renewed them because he wanted me to keep going. He knew I would stop going without him, so he renewed to get me to go back and keep on going.
“I have only been to one game this season, but I will go back. I promised him that I would.
“He said: ‘You must go back to the match,pet.’”
Eric was visited by Sunderland AFC chairman Stewart Donald and director Juan Sartori at home in Washington shortly before he passed away, after they spotted a Tweet by Jane about but going back to games on her own.
“I tweeted saying I hadn’t been but was going to bite the bullet and go. Stewart picked up on it and replied, offering to visit,” she said. “Dad was just chuffed to bits. There was no publicity or anything.
“My mum Anne was quite anxious that they were going to use it as a PR opportunity but they just rocked up in a people carrier on their own and came into the house.
“They were lovely.”
Eric started taking Jane and sister Helen to the match when they were young and the pair continued to be regulars after Helen passed away in 2005.
“I think he went to his first match when he was eight,” said Jane.
“I don’t know how long he had had a season ticket. Forever, really, for as long as there have been season tickets.
“We actually had them for the clock stand paddock, that’s how long ago it was.
“He was too young for the 1937 cup final and I would always say that over all these years, he’d seen them win as much as I have.
“That we have both seen them win the same amount of trophies speak volumes.
“My mum has always loved the fact that dad and his girls went to the match together.”
Eric was the first head teacher at a Washington primary school, and held the post for 20 years.
“He was head at St John Boste RC Primary School,” said Jane.
“He was there for 20 years - he opened it in 1974 and retired in 1994.”
A funeral service will be held at Our Lady Immaculate Church in Washington Village at 9.30am on Saturday, before Jane accompanies her dad on his final trip to the Stadium of Light ahead of the private cremation.
The family is requesting donations to St Benedict’s Hospice and the Foundation of Light - “As a head teacher, he thought a great deal of the work they do with young people,” said Jane.
She is determined to keep her vow to her dad and return to the stadium, even though she knows it will be tough: “It will be a day of mixed feelings,” she said.
“I will be upset, obviously, but proud that I have done what he wanted me to do.”
A Sunderland AFC club spokeswoman said: “Everyone at the club was deeply saddened to have lost such a loyal and passionate member of our Sunderland family.
“Eric was a life-long supporter and he will be greatly missed.
“Our thoughts naturally are with his family at such a sad time”.