Sunderland’s oldest fan celebrates 103rd birthday

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A war veteran who is believed to be the oldest living Sunderland fan has celebrated his 103rd birthday surrounded by memorabilia from his beloved club.

Ernie Jones visited the Fans Museum with daughters Dorothy Kay and Pauline Peel for the SAFC-inspired celebration today.

Ernie Jones celebrates his 103rd birthday at the Fans Museum with Sister Mary Scholastica, Mayor  Lynda Scanlan Coun John Kelly, Keith  Havelock , Kevin Ball and founder Michael Ganley

Ernie Jones celebrates his 103rd birthday at the Fans Museum with Sister Mary Scholastica, Mayor Lynda Scanlan Coun John Kelly, Keith Havelock , Kevin Ball and founder Michael Ganley

The forces veteran first went to his first match at Roker Park when he was just eight years old and 95 years on he still listens to almost every game the Black Cats play.

Speaking to the Echo, Ernie said: “I remember some exciting games. I think I was maybe about eight when I first went to a game.

“We’ve had some good times and some bad ones.

“There’s nothing better than going to a football match and coming away as a winner.

Ernie Jones celebrates his 103rd birthday at the Fans Museum

Ernie Jones celebrates his 103rd birthday at the Fans Museum

“I remember a semi-final, it must have been in the 1930s, against Derby County, you know how many were in Roker Park – 75,000 and it only held about 55,000.

“And we lost, we lost 1-0. It was heartbreaking.”

Ernie served in the Welsh Fusiliers and is the oldest known supporter of the club.

His daughter, Pauline said: “I was over the moon when Michael asked him here today.

Ernie Jones with Mayor  Lynda Scanlan

Ernie Jones with Mayor Lynda Scanlan

“He met Michael at his 100th birthday and he always keeps in touch and invites him to different things throughout the year.”

While Dorothy added: “He hasn’t been too well recently, he’s more confused, but this seems to have really perked him up.”

Ernie has recently moved into a care home after living in sheltered living accommodation until December.

Founder of the museum Michael Ganley organised the special event which saw prestigious guests such as SAFC legend Kevin Ball and Mayor of Sunderland Coun Lynda Scanlan attend.

Michael said: “He loves the word Sunderland. Football is his heart and he gets his passion now by listening to the radio.”

Kevin Ball added: “The museum itself has come on leaps and bounds every time I come here. I think it’s a fantastic venue to hold this today.

“I think it’s nice for Ernie to be able to relive those memories as well and tell people from his perspective, which I think is great.”

As part of the celebrations, Sister Mary Scholastica blessed the museum.

Michael added: “I’ve put it off previously because I wanted to do it at a bit more of a poignant moment and today with Ernie was that moment. The blessing just tops it off.”