Sunderland Echo - - Front page - By Richard Men­n­ear­n­[email protected]­me­ Twit­ter: @RichMen­n­ear

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 bought 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.

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 dona- tion 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.

“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.”

O’Nien added: “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.

Sun­der­land play­ers have do­nated tick­ets for the game against Brad­ford on Box­ing Day.

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