Every football club needs a George Foster.
For 46 years, that is to say six years longer than the period that has elapsed since Sunderland last won serious silverware, George has been chairman of the Sunderland AFC Supporters’ Association. You can tell the era from which he comes from the correct use of the apostrophe in the association’s title; even secondary headteachers don’t bother with such things these days.
Now George’s magnificent labour of love has been rewarded. For the Wear-Tyne derby last Sunday, the Premier League sponsors Barclays gave him a surprise honour: the Barclays Community Hero award and 40 tickets for friends, relatives and colleagues. It is fitting that the third part of the reward was one the bank could not provide, a 2-1 home victory.
George, 84, received his award at the Monk Street offices of the association where he puts in voluntary work five days a week.
Jimmy Montgomery, Marco Gabbiadini and Nick Sharkey were there for the presentation. At the Stadium of Light, Monty and Kevin Ball made speeches during the pre-match four-course meal for George and his ensemble.
You can watch a full-length video, from Sky Tyne and Wear, at this Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/BarclaysFootball. Scroll down a little and there it’s there on the left with a stream of great comments paying tribute to the man.
I have chosen one, from Sheila and Jason Webster, that sums up the feelings of those who know of George and his work:
It’s nowt more than you deserve George. You’re a credit to the whole of Sunderland, not just the football club. You so deserve this accolade for all the sterling work you do. and it’s a pleasure that I’ve enjoyed spending time with you … huge hugs George – fantastic photos, fantastic day, fantastic result.
George said: “I couldn’t believe it when I walked into the office. I’m so honoured so many people from the Sunderland community – friends, family and Sunderland players – came to wish me well.
“I love being a Sunderland fan and working for the association is just an added bonus.”
George’s reputation makes him a local legend. Steve Bruce invited him for coffee when he took over as manager; Kevin Ball describes his as a classic example of real football support and passion.
I have met George only a couple of times, on each occasion after wandering into his offices. But I am fully aware of the tireless enthusiasm he has applied to his role and am delighted to join all those celebrating his thoroughly deserved recognition.
* The Sky Tyne and Wear article on the event can be found at http://tyneandwear.sky.com/sunderland/video/87565/an-unsung-hero-sunderland-superfan-george-foster-honoured-by