Stars take to the pitch for Wearside charity match

Julio Arca, Michael Ganley and Richy Duggan.
Julio Arca, Michael Ganley and Richy Duggan.
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A team packed with ex Black Cats stars took to the pitch today for good causes.

Hundreds of spectators went along to the match which saw former Sunderland AFC player, including Julio Arca, Alex Rae, Gary Bennett, Martin Smith, Jamie Lawrence and David Rush all lacing up their boots for the game at Ryhope CW’s ground.

England international Trevor Sinclair, ex-Aston Villa midfielder Mark Draper and Sky Sports’ Peter Graves and Keith Downey also took part.

The event was not just a chance for former team-mates to catch up, it’s main aim was to raise cash for The Niall Quinn Children’s Centre, at Sunderland Royal Hospital, and Hendon’s St Ignatius Church.

The former professionals were up against a team from St Ignatius Church, who, after forming last year, have taking the church league by storm coming top of the league and winning the cup.

Sunderland AFC memorabilia collector Michael Ganley, who is behind plans to create a museum to house SAFC-related items in the city, was one of the organisers of the match, along with Richy Duggan, who plays Ignatius Aidan’s.

Julio Arca, who is currently embarking on a coaching career, said any chance he can get to play and help raise money for charity, he is happy to do.

He said: “I still love the game and I still love playing.”

Michael, who lives in Ashbrooke, said it was a great coup to get so many players along to for the professional team and he was thrilled that more than 600 people turned out to watch the match.

He said: “It was a really fantastic turnout and we are hoping to make it an annual event.”

All the money raised will go to the children’s centre and towards the cost of fixing the roof at St Ignatius’ Church, which is in an urgent state of repair.

Michael said everyone was really generous, and all the church players got sponsored to play, and he hopes to have raised several thousand pounds.