Sunderland squad and coaching staff contribute to Gift of Football initiative ahead of Boxing Day clash

Sunderland's first team squad have donated to the initiative.
Sunderland's first team squad have donated to the initiative.
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Sunderland AFC's first team squad and coaching staff have followed in the footsteps of fans and other staff by donating tickets to the Gift of Football initiative.

The initiative was devised by Sunderland fan Simon Baty a week ago and since then more than 1,000 tickets have been purchased and donated back to the Foundation of Light, who have already started spreading the festive cheer throughout the community.

The idea is to help those fans struggling to afford to attend the Boxing Day fixture against Bradford City at the Stadium of Light.

Owner Stewart Donald and directors Charlie Methven and Juan Sartori have also donated tickets.

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Jack Ross said: "Since Stewart has taken ownership of the club the one thing he really deserves credit for is his rebuilding of the relationship between the fans and the club, I think he’s done a remarkably good job with that.

"There has been elements - like the seat change at the Stadium of Light - that have been innovative and creative and really good and this is another example of that.

"I know it came from a fan so Stewart can’t take credit! But to support it and get behind it is terrific.

"I know that not only have Stewart and Charlie been supportive of it, the players and staff have been as well. It’s a reflection of how the club feels right now.

"It’s a genuinely brilliant idea that I fully support, people who wouldn’t ordinarily get to come see us will. It is terrific."

Earlier this week, midfielder Luke O’Nien teamed up with executive director Charlie Methven to visit Hendon’s Hudson Road Primary School to hand out the first batch of tickets.

And after making a donation of their own on Thursday, the players are planning further surprise visits.

George Honeyman, said: “Win, lose or draw, our support has been outstanding this season and as players no single gesture could ever do it justice.

“But while thousands turn up each and every week and enjoy football at the Stadium of Light, we appreciate that many of our supporters are unable to attend games regularly, if at all, so the festive period is the perfect time for us to give something back.

“All of the players have seen the idea growing on social media and it’s been the talk of the dressing room, so we are delighted to be involved and we will be surprising fans throughout the next couple of weeks.”

Read more: Click here for the latest Sunderland AFC injury news

O’Nien added: “It was a special experience to visit the school and not only meet the kids, but also their families.

“They were so surprised when we handed out the tickets and it was an incredibly heart-warming thing to do, but the fans deserve all the credit because they came up with the idea and it was easy for us as players to get involved.

“You don’t see this kind of gesture very often and once again shows why playing for this football club, and it’s fans, is a privilege.

“Boxing Day is going to be a great occasion for the club, and I’m sure we will deliver on the pitch and ensure it’s a day to remember in more ways than one.”

For more information of how to get involved visit the club website.