The story of the stunning new banners on display in Sunderland's Roker End
It’s fast becoming a staple of the matchday experience.
As the music build towards The Prodigy, The Roker End becomes a sea of colour and activity.
It’s a supporter-led initative, money raised to produce an exceptional flag display that pays tribute to the club’s rich history.
Iconic badges, iconic kits, iconic players, nods to the industrial past of the city, it’s all covered.
Saturday’s win over MK Dons featured the latest set of banners, designed by supporters and funded by them, too.
Inspired by Sunderland’s mining heritage, they pay tribute to five generations of club legends.
“There are a number of flag displays at grounds up and down the country and many of them look to Europe for inspiration from the various ultra groups,” Dave Rose, Vice Chair of the Red & White Army, explains.
“We're always looking to grow the display to help the atmosphere at kick off but we're also very keen to make ours feel unique to us, something that means something to Sunderland fans rather than copying others.
“To the best of our knowledge these miner style banners are unique in football and we hope they capture something of the soul of the club.
“The creation of the miners style banners was an idea that took shape early on in the whole process as we looked to reflect our heritage, not just the history of the club but also the city and surrounding areas,” he adds.
“The stadium is built on the site of Wearmouth Colliery of course, so the banners display a bit of club history, entwined in our industrial heritage.
“We've chosen a few moments in time that we feel supporters of varying ages will identify with. We have five banners and chronologically they begin with Raich Carter lifting the FA Cup in '37 and then of course the famous win in '73.
“We then move through the 80s and 90s with Marco in the iconic blue away shirt, then Quinn and Phillips, heralding a new dawn after the opening of the SoL and then bringing us to more recent times we have Bradley Lowery and Defoe - which we thought was a fitting way to capture the community spirit at the heart of our club.”
Improving the matchday experience has been a key aim of the Red & White Army.
Renaming the South Stand the Roker End was one part of the drive to give the Stadium of Light a more unique identity, followed by the creation of a ‘captain’s mural’ to celebrate a number of iconic figures from the club’s past.
The flags were printed on the banks of the Wear by W.H Forster printers.
They sum up the Red & White Army project. By the fans, for the fans.
“All of the recent developments around identity has come from supporters - the captains mural, the naming of the Roker End and the huge display of flags, and the depiction of the lattice work, are all the result of sparks of inspiration from fans,” Rose says.
“They've been made a reality by a host of volunteer supporters.
“This all originally spawned from a RAWA match-day experience survey back in the summer of 2018. Thanks to the committed members we've managed to achieve quite a lot in a fairly short space of time.
“We've raised about £14K for the flag and artwork project, worked with supporters on ideas and then sourced printers and designers and that sort of stuff. It really is a credit to the many Sunderland fans who have given up their time and in many cases offered particular skills to bring concepts to life. And that's before we mention the many hardy souls who give up their pre-match beers to help get all the flags set up before kick-off - they're all as fit as a fiddle now from running up and down the stands.”
Supporters interested in helping out on matchdays can get in touch with the Red & White Army.
The group also meets regularly with officials on all matters related to the cub.