South Shields club stalwart Stephen Ramsey is to see his incredible service honoured tonight when a Sunderland AFC XI visits Mariners Park for his testimonial.
Ramsey has spent more than 10 years at the club, making 311 appearances and scoring 85 times.
The testimonial is a massive honour for me and I’m so thankful that the club thinks enough of me to have organised itStephen Ramsey
As well as being part of some of the best moments in the Mariners’ history over the last two years, he also saw some of the worst, including a two-year spell in Peterlee which saw crowd figures plummet.
The striker’s loyalty always remained fierce, though, and that commitment will be recognised tonight.
Ramsey has not yet recovered from the broken leg he suffered in Shields’ victory at Sunderland RCA in March, so will not be able to play a full part in proceedings tonight.
He will, though, lead the team out with children Lilly, nine, Daisy, five, and Alfie, three, with many of his family in attendance.
Ramsey said: “The testimonial is a massive honour for me and I’m so thankful that the club thinks enough of me to have organised it.
“I wish I was playing obviously, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“It means a massive amount to me.”
One of Ramsey’s long-standing team-mates is Barrie Smith, who has spent eight years alongside the striker at Shields.
He is hoping supporters turn out in big numbers to support the team – and Ramsey.
He said: “I’m sure it’s going to be a really, really special occasion for Ramma.
“I hope the fans turn out in big numbers for him, because he really deserves it. I’m sure they will.
“Ramma has been a pleasure to play alongside over the last eight years.
“Not only has he been a great player for us over the years and very loyal to the club, but he’s also a great lad.
“He’s so easy going and no one would have a bad word to say about him, and he wouldn’t have a bad word to say about anyone either
“He’s a genuine top, top lad. I’ve loved spending the last eight years in the same team as him.”
Sunderland are expected to send members of their Under-23s team to Mariners Park for tonight’s friendly, which is Shields’ penultimate game of their pre-season schedule.
Kick-off is at 7.30pm, with admission costing £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
It’s pay at the gate.