Legendary Sunderland AFC groundsman and 'Premier Passions' star Tommy Porter dies aged 88

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A former Sunderland AFC groundsman who shot to fame on a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the club has died at the age of 88.

Tommy Porter joined the club in the mid 1990s when the team was still playing at Roker Park, although he had been a Sunderland fanatic for many years before then.

Pallion-born Tommy also looked after the pitch during the first two seasons at the Stadium of Light, before leaving the club in 1999.

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In 1998 the BBC broadcast Premier Passions, a six-part series filmed at the club during the emotionally charged 1996-97 relegation season, which was also the last season played at Roker Park.

Tommy Porter, seen here with an award he won in 2003, has passed away aged 88.Tommy Porter, seen here with an award he won in 2003, has passed away aged 88.
Tommy Porter, seen here with an award he won in 2003, has passed away aged 88.

Along with then manager Peter Reid, whose less than polite half-time team talks are well remembered, Tommy became the star of the show.

After leaving SAFC he continued working until well into his 70s. He became groundsman at New Ferens Park in Belmont, where Sunderland’s reserves played. But he finally packed in when a plastic pitch was installed. It was grass or nothing for Tommy.

His love of the club and dedication to his job shone through to television audiences and he would be recognised by the public when he was on holiday.

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Before becoming a full-time groundsman, he worked for decades as a shipwright in the shipyards of the Wear before being made redundant in 1989.

Tommy died in Sunderland Royal Hospital on Sunday, February 6 after suffering a heart attack three days earlier.

A great family man. He leaves behind his wife Jo and their three children, Tania, Richard and Andrew. He also had seven grandchildren and was a great-grandfather too.

Tommy made the Echo when his son Richie was born in 1963. When he heard that Jo had gone into Labour he got on his bike, literally. Unfortunately he pedalled through a red light and was stopped by a policeman.

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The officer did not believe Tommy who, never one to recoil from an argument, responded with some honestly held opinions. He was fined £5 but reached the hospital in time – where he fainted during the birth.

Richard said: “He was all about family. As soon as he heard that my mam was giving birth, nothing was going to stop him from being there.”

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