Tributes have today been paid to a “passionate and dedicated” Sunderland fan who has died.
Keith Charlton, from Boldon, passed away earlier this week.
A familiar face to many Black Cats supporters at home and away matches, Keith was also a steward at games as well as volunteer with the Fans Museum project, which showcases football memorabilia.
Sunderland AFC’s head of communications Louise Wanless said: “We have been shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Keith’s passing.
“He was such a familiar face to staff, players and Sunderland supporters - as a fan, a member of the Boldon supporters branch and also a matchday steward at the Stadium of Light.
“We have lost a passionate and dedicated member of our Sunderland family at a tragically young age and our thoughts and prayers are with Keith’s family and those closest to him at such a difficult time.”
The Boldon Branch of the Sunderland Supporters Association posted on Twitter: “We are heartbroken at the loss of Keith Charlton our first branch secretary and branch member since 1995.
“Keith lived and breathed @SunderlandAFC and none of us can imagine him not being around.
“He’ll be in heaven now getting autographs off Stokoe and Porterfield.”
SAFC star Lynden Gooch, said to be Keith’s favourite player, has posted a tribute to him on social media.
The USA international midfielder wrote: “Such sad news.
“A great man who always welcomed me at the Stadium of Light before every home game to shake my hand and wish me all the best.
The Fans Museum tweeted: “Devastated to announce the loss of a true devoted friend and fan.
“Keith will never ever be forgotten, and for many reasons why.”
The museum’s founder Michael Ganley said: “Keith was someone who I had met many times at games over the years, and when I told him I was going to start doing roadshows, he was the first to ask to get involved.
“From a man who has suffered through illness over the years, he never showed it and certainly didn’t let it hamper anything football-related.
“Seeing Keith engage with our fans was always with extreme passion and that’s what encapsulates Keith.
“Football was his life and everyone knew that.
“We are all truly devastated by what has happened and we can reassure everyone we will be making sure Keith’s name and character will live on.”
Meanwhile the Caer Urfa Supporters Branch tweeted: “The Caer Urfa Branch are saddened to hear the loss of Keith Charlton.
“Keith was a familiar face at both home and away games and dedicated his life to @safc either following the lads or working for the club.
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time. RIP Keith.”