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A fitting memento of a fine Sunderland season: The 1999 Champions Flag!

Lockdown has given many of us time to rediscover classic games on YouTube and rummage through our old Sunderland merch, like the Division One celebration flag given out in 1999. Have you still got yours?

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Sunderland v Birmingham City Photo by Adam Davy/EMPICS via Getty Images

There’s a video on YouTube which evokes emotion for all Sunderland fans who are old enough to remember.

The sheer scale of our emphatic promotion season of 1998/99 is encapsulated in the three-minute highlight reel of Sunderland v Birmingham.

We’d already wrapped up the league title by some distance by the time City rolled into town on May 9th – so technically there was nothing to play for.

But in reality everything was at stake. Victory over the Blues would set a record breaking haul of 105 points. Every man, woman and child wanted to be part of a day which turned to be the perfect promotion party, culminating with the presentation of the famous old Football League trophy.

Sunderland Team & trophy Photo by Paul Barker - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

There were even rumours of season ticket holders being offered hundreds of pounds to give up their seat for the day, such was the demand.

The atmosphere was electric, sparked by balloons and a display of fireworks before kick off, before we went out and won 2-1, courtesy of our superb strikeforce, Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn.

There was however, another souvenir for Sunderland fans that day in addition to the official matchday programme. On arrival at the stadium, fans found in every seat a glossy red flag with a white Sunderland crest, and the words ‘Thank you for your support, Nationwide Division One Champions’.

Now these flags aren’t obvious to spot when you look at footage of the teams taking to the field, but waving arms are clearly aloft in a mass of red and white.

I don’t know how many people still have their flag, but clearly over 40,000 of them, made with glossy card, were produced. Like many other 16-year-olds probably did, I used my flag to complement the collection of Sunderland posters in my bedroom.

Jospeh’s souvenir flag from Sunderland’s 1999 Division One Championship winning season rediscovered during lockdown

These cherished mementos were filed away as adulthood beckoned, and it wasn’t until I got married and moved in with wife Jayne in 2017 that the flag resurfaced.

Rummaging through a file of posters, there it was in excellent condition, given the carnival it was created for and the passing of two decades since.

There was no sign of the flag pole, a thin white plastic effort from what I remember, but the flag fit perfectly in a frame and it now has pride of place on the wall. It looks much better in the flesh than it does in the photo - my camera skills can certainly not do it justice.

Seeing it every day takes me back to those great times. I’d love to know what others did with their flags from that memorable day - and whether they still have them.

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