Tributes paid to unsung Sunderland AFC hero who devoted decades to helping disabled fans

Tributes have been paid to a lifelong Sunderland AFC fan who devoted decades to helping disabled supporters see the lads in red and white on matchdays.

Sunday, 31st January 2021, 12:13 pm

Eddie Oyston sadly died aged 88 on January 8, having devoted more than 20 years of his life to the SAFC supporters disabled branch.

Eddie and wife Freda, 82, from Durham, gave up their time to organise home and away trips that would accommodate Sunderland supporters with disabilities.

From arranging transport and booking hotels to sorting parking permits, Eddie went above and beyond to make sure fans could attend matches.

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Sunderland AFC fan Eddie Oyston with wife Freda.

Nothing was too much trouble for the dad-of-two. Eddie was even known to drive fans to games in his own car – with his efforts endearing him to hundreds of fans over the years.

Daughter Elizabeth Smith, 51, said: “My dad and Freda were in their sixties when they started with the disabled branch.

"He just felt that there was nothing available for people in wheelchairs or people with poor mobility.

"He just wanted to provide a service for people, who otherwise would not be able to get to the matches at home or away.”

Elizabeth Smith as a child with dad Eddie Oyston.

Eddie, who is also dad to Philip Oyston, 43, also became good friends with the Sunderland AFC players of the early 90s, including Gary Bennett and Don Goodman, having spent a number of years working for the club driving players to and from the ground.

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Don Goodman and other players continued to keep in touch with Eddie right up until he passed away.

Elizabeth said: “He befriended some of the players in the early 90s and would take them to and from the ground to training if they didn’t have a car.

Eddie Oyston with wife Freda, daughter Elizabeth Smith and her partner Scott, son Philip Oyston, his wife Lisa and Eddie's grandchildren Hannah and Amy.

"He also used to run the manager Denis Smith about.

"He kept in touch with players including Anton Rogan, Gary Owers and Kevin Ball over the years and they would phone him.

"Over the years Don Goodman came to see Eddie and Freda and he was over the moon to see him.

"It made him happy that they were still in contact.”

As well as his love for Sunderland, Eddie was also a devoted family man and has three granddaughters – in addition to his extended family through his marriage to Freda.

The pair had been together for around 30 years.

Eddie was also well known through his former taxi business B&E Cabs, named after his late first wife Betty, which he ran during the 80s.

Elizabeth said: “Sunderland AFC was such a big part of his life. It was his number one passion.

"He had a heart of gold and if anyone needed any help he would do his best to help them.

"He loved to meet people and was very sociable.

"He loved his family and grandchildren and loved seeing everyone happy.

"I’m very proud of him.”

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