Tributes to SAFC fan who was 'Sunderland through and through' and behind hundreds of supporters association away days
Tributes have been paid to a much-loved Sunderland AFC fanatic who arranged for thousands of his fellow supporters to travel to hundreds of matches over decades.
Ray Heslop lived in Albany, but passed away at Sunderland Royal Hospital on June 6 after an 18-month battle with stomach cancer. He was 82.
The retired electronics buyer had supported his team from the age of eight. He had been a member of the SAFC Supporters Association since the 1973 FA Cup final and his involvement grew.
He became the association’s transport officer, an unpaid role he had carried out since the days of Roker Park.
When the club moved from Roker to the Stadium of Light in 1997, Ray and the association moved headquarters from Roker Avenue to Monk Street beside the new ground, where he was a familiar face to many.
Ray was a season ticket holder for many years and had bought one for the 2021-22 season. The last match he attended was Sunderland’s home leg of the play-offs against Lincoln City on May 22.
His wife June said: “I know he was well thought about. The Stadium of Light was his church and his second home was Sunderland Football Club.
"He was happy to do anything – as long as it didn’t clash with a Sunderland match.
“The messages sent to the Supporters Association show that he was well liked and flowers have been left at the shop.”
An SAFC Tweet said: “We are very sorry to hear of Ray's passing – Sunderland through and through. Our thoughts are with Ray's family and friends.”
Many well wishers have also taken to social media to express their sympathy and gratitude to Ray, for all he had done for his fellow supporters throughout the decades.
As well as June, Ray leaves behind a daughter Sharron and grandsons Sean and Matthew. His family say he made sure that his offspring too are “Sunderland daft”, even though they live on Teesside.
Details of Ray’s funeral are yet to be announced. However, the family say that any donations should be made to the Bradley Lowery Foundation. A fundraiser has been set up in Ray’s memory with money also going to the foundation, with details yet to be released.