Sunderland RFC plan to honour former players with £40,000 refurbishment of historic Ashbrooke stand

Sunderland (white shirts) take on Sedgefield in front of the historic Ashbrooke stand earlier this season. Picture by Tim Richardson
Sunderland (white shirts) take on Sedgefield in front of the historic Ashbrooke stand earlier this season. Picture by Tim Richardson
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Sunderland have unveiled ambitious plans to rebuild their main stand at Ashbrooke as a lasting memorial to former players.

Dubbed “The Last Stand”, the plans – estimated at costing up to £40,000 – will see the historic stand completely refurbished as well as a providing a tribute to players, most notably Jamie McLennan, John Drummond and Tommy Harrison, who have all passed away in the last three years.

There are plans for the stand to house a roll call of those players who also lost their lives in conflicts such as World War I and II.

Sunderland RFC chairman Paul Geehan explained: “The idea is that we put the names of these players at the back of the stand, which has been something at the back of our minds, particularly with what has happened in the last three years.

“It’s something that is long overdue. Hopefully it will also give us more profile also when it comes to hosting county finals.

“Everybody in the rugby section is getting involved in it, as it is something we really should do to remember these players.”

The work, due for completion in September, also coincides with work by club historian Keith Gregson on a book capturing the story of the Ashbrooke members who enlisted in WWI as pals and officers.

There are plans to encourage families to contribute to name plaques, while also involving the RFU and potentially veterans charities.

Meanwhile, Sunderland’s first XV enter 2018 aiming to claw their way up the Durham/Northumberland Division Two table after a see-saw start to the season.

The Ashbrooke side host visitors Richmondshire on Saturday (kick off 2:15pm.)

The Wearsiders sit one place above their visitors in 12th place, with four wins, their last a 23-15 victory at Newton Aycliffe on December 2.

Facing an enforced weather lay-off for the last month, Sunderland are aiming to turn the tables on Richmondshire, who notched a 31-17 victory in the reverse fixture in September.

The match will be the first at Ashbrooke in four weeks, with sub-zero temperatures and heavy rainfall scuppering matches at all levels.

A club spokesman said: “It’s good to get back into league action after such a long break and the lads are keen to get return to business – at home – where we have been possibly at our best.”

The team will unveil the backing of new sponsor 4B Precision Engineering Ltd of Pennywell ahead of kick-off.

Chairman Paul Geehan said: “This generous support is vital in supporting the work the club does on the pitch.”