Double celebration for Sunderland AFC legend Gary Bennett as he receives MBE from King Charles

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Sunderland AFC legend Gary Bennett has received the Royal seal of approval.

Gary – who made almost 450 appearances for the Black Cats in 11 years at Roker Park – was at Windsor Castle today, Tuesday, November 29, to receive the MBE from King Charles for services to anti-racism in football.

The former defender turned radio pundit was awarded the medal in the New Year's Honour list.

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Gary joined the Show Racism the Red Card campaign while still playing for Sunderland: “It was an idea that came from the North East – actually from a Newcastle supporter – and at the start only half a dozen people were involved,” he said.

"Now we have offices in England, Wales, Scotland, and we’re known all over Europe. Half a million people took part in Wear Red Day this year.

“And Sunderland is a very different place too. It’s a diverse and welcoming city now. But racism is still a problem everywhere, and we’ve got to continue to educate ourselves and others.”

Other recipients at today’s investiture included tennis sensation Emma Raducanu, artist Isaac Julien and former Test cricketer Hugh Morris.

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And the ceremony was just the start of an exciting week for the 60-year-old Radio Newcastle stalwart.

Gary Bennett with his MBE.Gary Bennett with his MBE.
Gary Bennett with his MBE.

Every year the University of Sunderland confers Honorary Awards to distinguished people in recognition of their outstanding achievements – and Gary will be back at the Stadium of Light on Thursday to collect an Honorary Degree in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a footballer, coach and anti-racism advocate.

Gary Bennett made more than 600 appearances in the football league for Manchester City, Cardiff City, Carlisle United, Scarborough, Darlington, Worksop Town, and Sunderland in a playing career from 1979 to 2002.

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Only the second black player to join the club, after Roly Gregoire, Gary made 443 appearances for Sunderland between 1984 and 1995, including the 1985 League Cup Final and the 1992 FA Cup Final.

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A proud momentA proud moment
A proud moment

Since then, he has worked as a coach and manager, and for the last 18 years he has worked with the University, providing help and advice to their men and women’s student football teams.

Hundreds of students will be graduating at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week as the University’s winter Academic Awards take place.