Sunderland players and executive director Charlie Methven visit fire-hit Blandford Street in show of support for businesses

Sunderland AFC players and management have shown support for traders in the city's Blandford Street after it was hit by a devastating fire last week.

A huge blaze broke out at the Peacocks store on the evening of Wednesday, January 23, gutting the shop.

Sunderland AFC's executive director Charlie Methven and players Jack Baldwin and Grant Leadbitter meet traders from the city centre's Blandford Street.

Sunderland AFC's executive director Charlie Methven and players Jack Baldwin and Grant Leadbitter meet traders from the city centre's Blandford Street.

Fire crews battled through the night to put out the inferno, not thought to be suspicious, which has left the Peacocks store destroyed and a section of the street cordoned off until further notice.

The store is set to be demolished in the near future.

Blandford Street fire: Investigators still unable to get inside burnt-out Peacocks store as probe continues into Sunderland city centre blaze

Black Cats executive director Charlie Methven was joined by first team players Jack Baldwin and Grant Leadbitter, who has re-signed for the club following almost a decade at North East rivals Middlesbrough, to back the city's Shop Sunderland campaign as part of a visit to the street.

SAFC's Grant Leadbitter with Mandy Brown from furniture store Harrison Brown.

SAFC's Grant Leadbitter with Mandy Brown from furniture store Harrison Brown.

Mr Methven said: "We're here to show that the Sunderland shopping community is very much open for business right now.

Blandford Street fire: Shocking pictures show damage caused by huge blaze in Sunderland city centre

"There was a major fire on the street just last week and unfortunately some people might think that the rest of the street is totally closed off, which is absolutely not the case.

"January and February is a tough time of year for all traders, so we're encouraging people to come along and have a look around the shops in this area."

Damage to the Peacocks store in Blandford Street, Sunderland city centre.

Damage to the Peacocks store in Blandford Street, Sunderland city centre.

Central defender Jack said: "It's a close-knit business community and hopefully they will all work together after what happened to pull through things.

"From our point of view as players we'll just try to keep on winning games and get us into the Championship where we'd play bigger teams and it will have a positive effect on city businesses.

"Everyone at the club is trying to do their bit to give the city an uplift after the last couple of seasons here."

Mandy Brown, of furniture store Harrison and Brown, which is just off Blandford Street, said: "We're concerned about what will happen when the Peacocks store is pulled down, but we'll just have to wait and see.

From left, Charlie Methven, Jack Baldwin and Grant Leadbitter with Louise Whale or Barber and Whale.

From left, Charlie Methven, Jack Baldwin and Grant Leadbitter with Louise Whale or Barber and Whale.

"Since the fire happened a lot of people have come together to support others.

"And I think it's fantastic from the football club to give us their backing. They've taken time out from what they'd normally be doing and we really appreciate it.

"We didn't expect this kind of support and it means a lot.

"There's no good time for a fire to happen, but hopefully all of the businesses can get through things."

SAFC executive director Charlie Methven with Louise Whale.

SAFC executive director Charlie Methven with Louise Whale.