With the #SunderlandTogether initiative finishing today, we caught up with Peter Richardson. the lad whose idea it all was, for a catch up…
For those who somehow don’t know, can you give us a brief explanation of the initiative, how it came together and how much it raised…
When we reached the final I wanted to make it feel like it meant something more than just another game in lockdown. As someone who has always kept all his tickets I thought it would be great to get another Wembley ticket. Then I thought if the club sold tickets for a tenner they could give all the profit to charity. I posted it on social media and on a message board and people seemed to love the idea. The next day someone contacted me from RAWA and said the Foundation of Light and some supporters’ groups were going to run with it. The next couple of weeks were mad and absolutely amazing. It actually finishes today, the current total including gift aid is over £173,000. Also, Tranmere launched one a few days after us and theirs is over £50,000 so in total over £223,000 has been raised.
You were one of the only Sunderland fans to see us win at Wembley against Tranmere, how did it come about and how many other times had you seen us lose at Wembley?
I was sat at home about to teach a lesson and my phone rung. It was Chris Waters, the supporter’s liaison officer from the club. He said the club had seen what was happening and wanted to invite me as a special guest to the final as a thank you for coming up with the idea. Honestly though, right until the moment I was sat in the ground I thought it was a wind up. I honestly couldn’t believe I was going to be in there. To this day I really don’t know how and why it all happened. I had seen us lose four times at Wembley so was pretty sure I was a curse. I couldn’t get a ticket in 92 and was too young before that.
How was the experience. Did you have much craic with club staff? Did you get to meet KLD. Were you surprised to see SD there?
This is emotional, one day I’ll write a book about the whole thing. It was easily the best sporting day of my life. I worry nothing will top it. All the staff from the club were class, genuine people who wanted to talk to us and ask about the #SunderlandTogether initiative. I wasn’t surprised to see Stewart Donald or Charlie Methven there, purely because the days before the final I got the list of people going. Stewart was genuinely great on the day. He had a joke about how I’d cost him £4500 by launching the initiative. KLD, MLD and their partners were lovely. They didn’t arrive until about 2.40pm but came and introduced themselves and spoke for a minute or two. At half time we all stood quite close too, listening to KLD and MLD talk about the game they absolutely know their stuff, it was very refreshing to hear. As for the game and being in the stadium it was just unreal really. I couldn’t sit down from about 30 minutes onwards, luckily I was sat in the back row of the Royal Box so no stewards could complain. When we scored the emotion was so raw. I couldn’t stop imagining the scenes in the stand to my left had it been full, I also started thinking about the scenes going on in Sunderland fans houses all over the world, yet I was here, stood on my own socially distancing in a virtually empty Wembley stadium. I couldn’t resist a few outbursts of ‘Get in’ and ‘HAWAY’ but think I did pretty well considering. For the rest of the game it was just about not conceding. When the final whistle went emotions took over again. What would it have been like if it was full? How long would we have all stayed in the ground? We’ve had way too much Wembley heartache so this would have been sweet, whatever cup competition it was. I think the way fans have got behind the #SunderlandTogether initiative also heightened the emotion, winning at the end of it all just made it feel complete. Someone pointed out afterwards that more people have walked on the moon than there were Sunderland fans in Wembley on the day. Just insane.
Have you had a surge in people following you on social media?
I’ve had quite a few more people follow me on Twitter yeah, I think seeing pictures and videos from inside the ground just appeals to people. Especially our fans. If you want to see more go and follow me!! @rejectedbook
Are you confident that we’ll go up this season?
That’s a good question, I’m normally the most pessimistic person when it comes to the lads but I really do think something special is being built. I haven’t enjoyed watching games this much in a long, long, time so I’m going to say yes… Please don’t let me down.