Black Cats legend Kevin Phillips is today announced as the first name on the team sheet as an ambassador for the popular SAFC Fans Museum project.
“Super Kev”, who remains Sunderland’s record Post-War goalscorer, has been on Wearside as his new role was unveiled.
The museum, the creation of life-long SAFC fan Michael Ganley, will soon be using Monkwearmouth Station Museum as its permanent base after he agreed a deal with the city council.
Featuring match-worn jerseys by a number of historic players, the exhibition also includes programmes, signed pictures and medals dating back more than a century.
At a previous exhibition of the memorabilia which is part of the museum, Kevin loaned his European Golden Shoe award, which went on display at The Bridges shopping centre.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be announced as an ambassador for the museum.
“It’s a fantastic project which has already seen thousands of people benefit from it and I’m sure it will reach many more football supporters, not just Sunderland fans, in years to come.
“The reaction I get when I come back to Sunderland is always overwhelming and for me to be able to give something back by promoting the work of Michael and the team is something I’m very proud of.
“This club has a fantastic history which I feel privileged to be a part of.”
Founder Michael, of Ashbrooke, said: “We’re looking to have a team of ambassadors and I’m really pleased that Kevin is the first person to say yes.
“It means the world to me that a legendary player such as him is on board.
“He knows what we are doing and he is proud to be able to help us out, which means a lot.”
Kevin was signed by then-Sunderland manager Peter Reid from Watford in 1997, just as the club moved from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light.
He went on to net a huge 130 goals in 235 appearances for the Wearsiders, during which time he also won the European Golden Shoe in the 1999/2000 season.
To this day, Kevin remains the only Englishman to win the honour.
On leaving Sunderland, spells at Southampton, Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City, Blackpool, Crystal Palace and Leicester City followed before he retired from playing in 2014.
He is currently coaching at Championship side Derby County.
“Despite playing for so many clubs, Kevin only does talk-ins in this part of the country because he knows how much the fans appreciate him and what he did,” added Michael.
“Sunderland is deep in his heart and I hope he’ll come back to the club at some point.”
Coun John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “It’s a really positive story and I think it’s brilliant – the fact Kevin has come up to support the launch of the Fans’ Museum – shows the importance, not only to Kevin of Sunderland and the time he spent here, but it’s good support of the museum and of Michael.”