Christmas came early for hundreds of Wearside school children as they got the chance to watch their footballing heroes being put through their paces.
SAFC boss David Moyes took his team to the Hetton Centre for a special open training session in front of invited pupils.
Children from primary and secondary schools in the area were given a first-hand insight into how the club prepares for a big game before the likes of Jermain Defoe, Victor Anichebe and Jordan Pickford signed photographs and posed for pictures.
“It is important for us to be able to get out to see fans at events such as this today,” said the manager.
“Sunderland is a club that is at the heart of its local community and we want to do everything we can to continue to strengthen the bond between the club and its supporters.”
Jermain Defoe, who rifled home his 250th goal in English league football in Saturday’s 2-1 win over champions Leicester City, added: “It was brilliant being able to train in front of the children and they made us feel so welcome.
It was brilliant being able to train in front of the children and they made us feel so welcome.Jermain Defoe
“Their enthusiasm is infectious and when you see the kind of support this club has, it drives you on want to bring them success.”
After the David Moyes also made a special presentation to Paul Foster, headteacher at St Michael’s Primary School and a life-long Sunderland fan, who will be retiring at Christmas.
Paul, whose past charges include Sunderland Under-23s star Ethan Robson, had brought 20 year six pupils down to the training session.
“I think it is a great idea, bringing the player out into the community,” he said.#
“These players are heroes to the children and it is great that they are engaging with them.”
Ten-year-old Ella McNeil and Leah Granton, 11, were among Paul’s pupils: “I have been really excited,” said Leah, while Ella said: “It is fantastic.”