Meet the former Sunderland season ticket holder aiming to end the cup dreams of his boyhood club
Former Sunderland season ticket holder Ibby Hassan is “relishing the challenge” of seeing his Willington side take on the Black Cats’ Under-23s on Thursday night.
Hassan was a regular in the early days of the club’s move to the Stadium of Light before embarking on a non-league career that saw him represent the likes of Jarrow Roofing and South Shields.
He has now moved into the dugout after getting his managerial career underway at Northern League side Willington.
The Hall Lane outfit currently sit in tenth place in the Division Two and will head into the Durham Challenge Cup Second Round tie against the Black Cats having won six of their last seven games in all competitions.
But despite their improved form Hassan is realistic about the challenge that will face his players when they face Elliott Dickman’s side on Thursday night.
He told The Echo: “From the club’s point of view, for our profile, and the finances, this is as big a game as we could have been given.
“The club has experienced some tough times recently and hasn’t had many days in the sun.
“It’s a big step up for the lads because we are a Northern League Division Two side and their players are all looking to get careers in the Football League.
“But my players can showcase themselves, we can showcase what the club is about and there is no pressure on us to get a result because nobody expects us to win.
“But we are relishing the challenge of taking on some very talented players and seeing what sort of challenge we can give them.”
With Willington averaging attendances of just under 100 across all competitions this season, Hassan is hopeful that their meeting with the Black Cats youngsters will see more supporters coming through the turnstiles at Hall Lane.
And the former Whitby Town defender joked that he is playing his part with a number of his friends and family sent to show their support on Thursday night.
“We are hoping for a bigger crowd than we normally get at Hall Lane because it’s such a big occasion for us as a club.
“We have had a lot of games called off recently, that has limited the crowds we have been getting, and with the tie being the only game on Thursday, we can hopefully get some good numbers through the game.
“I’ll be doing my bit because I think half of the crowd will be my friends and family because they are all Sunderland supporters too.”
Kick-off at Hall Lane (DL15 0QQ) will be at 7.45pm on Thursday and entry is priced at £3 for adults and £1 for under-18s.