Football returns to Sunderland’s former home after 130 years

small community: (back from left) Ashbrooke club historian Keith Gregson, team manager Richard Mulvaney and club secretary Peter Fenwick. Front, from left: players Dean Robson and Jordan Ridley.
small community: (back from left) Ashbrooke club historian Keith Gregson, team manager Richard Mulvaney and club secretary Peter Fenwick. Front, from left: players Dean Robson and Jordan Ridley.
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FOOTBALL has returned to one of the Black Cats’ former homes more than a century after the team moved out.

The fledgling Sunderland Association Football Club spent two years based at the Ashbrooke Sports Club in the early 1880s.

small community:  The new football team at Ashbrooke has been accepted as a fully-fledged section of the club

small community: The new football team at Ashbrooke has been accepted as a fully-fledged section of the club

The club has never had another football section since the Black Cats left – but now all that has changed.

The club committee has voted to accept its first association football section in more than 130 years.

Richard Mulvaney is the manager of the new team and said the idea to form a side had initially come from his brother-in-law Chris Hunter.

“He is a captain in the Coldstream Guards and wanted us to put a team together, so we approached the club about using the facilities and it has progressed from there,” said Richard.

Since the 1880s they had never had a football section until we were voted in two weeks ago.

Richard Mulvaney

“The club has been unbelievably helpful and secretary Peter Fenwick has been very welcoming.”

Richard, 37, has been delighted with how quickly the team spirit has gelled.

“We recruited through friends of friends and one of the other teams folded at the end of last year, so we got a few from that. I thought it would take a few months to become established, but we have become a small community.

“Jordan Ridley, who was at Sunderland as a kid, is our top scorer.

“He hit another four at the weekend which brings his season total to 52 goals in all competitions.”

After initially just using the facilities at Ashbrooke, the football team has now been accepted as a fully-fledged section of the club, the first time since the departure of SAFC that the club has had a full football section.

“The big development is that we are now formally members of the club,” said Richard.

“They have not had a football team since Sunderland left.”

Rugby was the dominant sport south of the river in the 19th Century and the decison was taken not to set up anoher football team.

“There was a committee meeting about starting a rival soccer team when Sunderand left,” said Richard.

“But they decided instead to concentrate on their six core sports, so since the 1880s they had never had a football section until we were voted in two weeks ago.”

Now the team is looking for help to raise funds for next season. A race night will be held at the club on Friday, April 17, and there are also sponsorship opportunities available.

Anyone who is interested can contact Richard Mulvaney on 07717 313 142.