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Meet The Branches: The newly-formed Whitby & District Branch of Sunderland fans - join them!

Did you know that a branch of Sunderland supporters recently formed in the Whitby area? Here to give us the lowdown on their group is Jon Stokoe, a massive Lads fan who also writes for the Lincolnshire Echo.

SAFC Whitby

RR: You’re a fairly new branch - how did the branch form and come to life?

JS: It’s something I have thought about for years. I usually end up organising far too much stuff so eventually put this to the top of my list. I guess the fun and games of last season and running into Stewart Donald a few times encouraged me to eventually get my finger out.

JS: It’s something I have thought about for years. I usually end up organising far too much stuff so eventually put this to the top of my list.

I guess the fun and games of last season and running into Stewart Donald a few times encouraged me to eventually get my finger out.

RR: How many members do you have?

JS: Members-wise, we’re still in the process of setting up.

We do have a Messenger group with around 50 people included and the club has told me that there are 86 customers within our area. We have dozens of fans in and around Whitby with more along the coast towards Scarborough.

RR: How regularly do you get to games?

JS: I personally get to all the home games with the missus Michala and my kids Luke and Daisy as we all have season tickets and aim to get to away matches when we can, though I’m not sure how successful that will be for the four of us next season with Ticketmaster taking over!

I’ve been going since the Roker Park days with my mate Paul who also lives in Whitby and friend Ann who lives up the Esk Valley.

It’s my Uncle James’ fault I have this red and white affliction which I have successfully passed down to my poor family - he lives in the Isle of Man and often comes over for games, having had a season ticket in the past.

Soccer - Old Football Grounds - Sunderland - Roker Park Photo by Stephen Pond - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

RR: Do you have any funny stories from over the years?

JS: There are plenty, some repeatable, some not. Most recently I organised everyone to get to the first trip to Wembley and sorted hotels and tickets. It was handy to find out there were two Premier Inns at Wembley... when trying to check into the wrong one, much to the amusement of all concerned.

Trainers disappearing over fences onto railway lines, friends face-planting while walking to the match, making friends with policemen away at Bolton, betting on Sunderland to win 4-1 every match, claiming ‘The Messiah’ Bob as my grandad amid accusations of being a ‘glory-hunter’ during a booze-fuelled beerathon in Worcester, planning to go to games when there wasn’t one, not planning on going to a game when there was one... there really are plenty more stories of ridiculous stupidity.

RR: With the club becoming far more inclusive, how important is it to you to feel a part of what is going on?

JS: I think the arrival of Stewart Donald and team have reinvigorated the club and we feel more involved than ever before thanks to the work of The Red and White Army and club staff including Chris Waters, Nicola Linsley, James Wallace and Rachel Divers.

We’re also lucky to have Roker Report, A Love Supreme and Wise Men Say as they have all keep us entertained with excellent podcasts, fanzines, blogs etc etc.

We all know being in the Premier League is where we must but the fact the club is debt-free and we have a chance to start again is good. The club has had problems behind the scenes for a number of years but a huge part of our current situation is down to that clown David Moyes.

Short has to shoulder blame too... but he put a hell of a lot of money into the club. So while Donald et al don’t have the wealth Short did - yet - I think the club is in a far better place, financially, than it has ever been.

What I don’t understand is why so many have given Donald stick.

The fact he has now come off Twitter is a shame as we have never had a link to the boardroom as strong as this for as long as I can remember.

We all know about about the club than we have ever done. Unfortunately, our club has a small percentage of daft fans who will moan and complain about anything and everything. But on the whole, I think it is an exciting time to be a Sunderland AFC fan - albeit in League 1. Let’s face it, the only way is up.

RR: What are your hopes for your branch in the future?

JS: I hope we can reach that ‘100 members mark’. So many of us go up in separate cars so I guess the aim would be to all jump on a bus. I have toyed with the idea of chartering a boat from Whitby to Sunderland too although I’m not sure some of the others are quite as keen.

I hope to kick off the branch with a special launch night at a mate’s cafe in town and hope to persuade a few special SAFC guests to come along - on the promise of fish and chips and beer of course.

Then we’ll look at regular meet-ups at different places. The ultimate would be to arrange a weekend event in Whitby one summer and invite a load of other branches to come along for some ‘drinking in moderation’.

And then annoy my friends (and Newcastle fans) who own the famous fish and chip eaterie The Magpie Cafe by having dozens and dozens of red and white shirts popping in for a fish and chip supper... to soak up the aforementioned ‘drinking in moderation’ beers! Before having a load more.

We want to get a few Whitby & District flags sorted too.

RR: How can fans in your area get involved with your branch?

JS: They can message us via our WhitbySAFC Facebook page or Twitter account. They’re also welcome to message me on Facebook, and at @jonstokoe on Twitter or email me at jonstokoe74@gmail.com.