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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One

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Wanted: Sunderland supporters who can help keep the red flag (and several others) flying high!

The Roker End flag displays prior to kick off are hugely impressive, and fans are being invited to come and lend a hand should they be able to.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It’s matchday again, and after what seems like an age we are back at the Stadium of Light as the Lads take on Sheffield Wednesday. With the team flying and many fans still off work or up in the area visiting family a big crowd is expected – the place should be buzzing therefore and the now traditional flag display behind the goal at the south end of the ground will no doubt be a part of this.

Organised by the Red and White Army Supporters Trust and a great group of volunteers, the flags have undoubtedly added to the atmosphere at games over the last few seasons.

To keep the displays growing though, and to help make them even more spectacular as the team hopefully moves back up through the divisions, a tweet was put out earlier in the week encouraging more fans to get involved.

As somebody who has been helping for three seasons now, I can only echo those calls and confirm that anybody who is interested would be made more than welcome.

I think the main point to make is that putting yourself forward does not mean you are signing your life away or are going to miss out on your usual routines. Getting everything ready before kick-off only takes half an hour roughly and you are then able to leave the ground before coming back for the game. It means you can still get your pre-match beers and bait in, and the beauty of it all is that there is no big commitment – everything is relaxed, and you are not expected to show up every time if that does not suit.

A message usually goes out to volunteers a couple of days before a game just to check who is available, but the plans are always very flexible and there is no problem if you have other things on.

For example, my own personal circumstances mean that I am busy beforehand and so I just help with the clear up afterwards instead. It gives a sense of achievement and it is nice to feel part of something positive – you get to have a bit of crack about how the game went with the others too, so it isn’t a chore in the slightest. If anything, hanging back actually makes life easier for me as by the time we are finished the crowds have dispersed.

Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The operation is all straightforward and doesn’t need to be too regimented. People meet beforehand and are allowed into the ground to put flags out by seats, and because they are kept at the back of the Roker End anyway there isn’t too much work involved. Putting them away is even easier as you don’t need any instruction or to say you are coming beforehand – it is as simple as picking up the ones nearest to you and taking them back to the storage containers, and even just taking care of the flags and rolling back up any that you use would be appreciated.

Seeing the ground empty can be a little surreal but it allows for some great photo opportunities, and when families have assisted in the past I’ve noticed that the younger members enjoyed getting a look ‘behind the scenes’ and watching some of the players strolling about or warming down. The flags are a source of pride to many people and kids in particular seem to love waving them, so get in touch if you want to be involved (the contact details are in the embedded tweet further up the page) and as we move into the second half of the season let’s hope they will provide the backdrop to a successful promotion push.

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