The SAFC Museum '“ a community project which continues to make a difference
It's a community project which has touched thousands of people, on Wearside and beyond.
But there’s much more to the SAFC Museum than meets the eye.
For behind the match-worn shirts from down the decades, medals from some of the club’s greatest glories and memorabilia which bring joyful memories flooding back for supporters, are touching and engaging stories.
The Echo has thrown its support behind the museum in a uinique partnership for the city.
The organisation was founded by Sunderland supporter Michael Ganley, 45, who gave up a full-time and well-paid job in the security industry to get it off the ground – with no funding.
Armed with nothing more than Black Cats memorabilia and a passion for all things red and white, he set off into the unknown with a desire to create something special.
He has done just that.
Fresh from a four-month stint at Sunderland Library and Arts Centre in Fawcett Street, the museum is now looking for a permanent home.
On display there would be all of the items Michael has collected over the years – a collection which continues to grow by the day.
He owns hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of memorabilia, but has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Michael said: “Everything I have is mine personally and items which I’ve purchased, or had donated to the museum.
“I’ll never stop buying – I buy something every week.
“Every day, I look forward to the postman delivering something else.”
Michael is convinced that no other collectors in the world are emulating what he is doing.
Far from the items he has painstakingly collected over the years being beyond reach, Michael allows visitors to not just touch them, but try them on, in the case of his large collection of match-worn shirts.
He added: “I firmly believe that this is something nobody else in the world is doing.
“I allow people to see the items and try them on.
“For some people, that gives them a chance to make their dreams come true.
“They can try on the shirts, for example Fabio Borini’s from the League Cup final of 2014, or Ian Porterfield’s from the 1973 FA Cup final.
“It’s quite unique, and to see the joy it gives people is a great thrill.”
It’s more than just a museum.
A team of volunteers – some of whom have learning difficulties or disabilities – help him along the way, and much work is also done in the community.
Pieces from the collection have been showcased at dementia and Alzheimer’s events in recent months, and Michael feels the possibilities are huge.
He added: “Match programmes from down the years are especially good for education, and for the elderly, people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“I’m proud and honoured at the work we do with different groups in the community.
“We’ve also done a great deal of charity work and nothing gives me greater pleasure than making a difference in this way.
“We can work with people’s memories and take them back to some of the best moments in their lives.”
Michael has been involved in over 180 events over the last two years, but the dad to Renee, 10, does face financial challenges.
Earning no full-time wage for the last two years would take its toll on anyone.
But he is “driven” by an overwhelming desire to make a difference.
He said: “I turned down a considerable salary for the last two years. This is better than money.
“I didn’t tell anyone that I had left my job. Eventually, people asked, ‘Are you not working now?’ and when I said that I was concentrating on this full-time, they were shocked.
“There are a lot of costs involved, as well as the price of buying the items, but I’m driven by the passion I have for this.
“Not many people would leave their job with a good salary, and start something like this without funding.”
Michael still fondly remembers his first game at Roker Park, which was a 2-0 win over West Ham United at Roker Park which sealed promotion in 1980.
But it is not his love for just Sunderland the football club which is motivating the project.
He added: “The city as well as the club has had a lot of downs over the last 30-odd years.
“Football has the ability to unite people, though, and it often does here.
“I’m a fan of Sunderland the city as well as the club. It’s a passion for me.
“If I can do something which helps the people of the city and can unite them, I’ll do it.”
It’s that passion which will drive him to continue to make a difference in the community.