I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Sunderland fan who hasn’t heard the name of Mr George Forster before.
As far as supporters of our great club go, they don’t come greater than George - and at 96 years old, there can’t be many who have seen more than he has.
For many years, George has been involved with the Sunderland AFC Supporters Association - 55 in fact, of which he was chairman for 27 years - a role he continued to carry out almost daily until lockdowns put paid to his ability to get along and do his jobs, eventually retiring at the start of this year.
He’s had plenty of recognition for his services to the club over the years. He was named as the EFL’s Championship Supporter of the Year in 2018, and he was also invited to the 2019 League One playoff final at Wembley as a guest of the club, among other things.
He’s sat with his favourite players, as well as former chairmen in the boardroom, and anyone who has ever come into contact with him has been immediately charmed by his kind smile and storytelling - and he has plenty of those to share, let me tell you!
When I say that George has seen it all, he really has.
When he was ten, Sunderland won their last top flight league championship in 1935/1936. Just a year later, we won the FA Cup for the first time, and of course he was there to see Bobby Kerr lift the famous trophy in 1973.
By my count, there have been a remarkable 54 Sunderland managers (including caretakers) in George’s lifetime - the first being the legendary Bob Kyle, who oversaw our league title win of 1912/1913.
He saw Bob Stokoe’s men not only lift the FA Cup on that famous day at Wembley, but he was there when they won the second division title three years later.
He fondly recalls meetings with some of the more recent managers - namely Peter Reid, Mick McCarthy, and Sam Allardyce - and only last week he was invited along by the club to meet Tony Mowbray for the first time.
George has been a good friend of Roker Report down the years. We’ve had him on our podcasts a few times, and he always gives us a good sing-song before he lets us go - and it was an absolute honour to have been invited to his 96th birthday party this past Sunday.
The other faces in the room that day give you an idea of just how respected he is by everyone associated with the football club - from Kevin Ball, John Cooke, Nick Barnes, Jeff Brown, and the legendary Dean twins from the Jarra branch, many people took time out of their day to see the great man celebrate his ninety-sixth year on this earth.
On the table were cards from fans, friends and ex-players from different countries and eras, all wanting to wish him many happy returns.
Nick Barnes and I sat down with George to record an episode of the Roker Rapport Podcast, and I lost count of the amount of stories he told us. Even at his age, he’s still as sharp as a tack, and can remember things that players and fans said to him many years ago.
Being in his company is just a joy, and having the chance to chat with him again really brightened up my day and reminded me just how brilliant it is to support this club.
George has seen more than I ever will.
From running his office outside Roker Park to moving across near the Stadium of Light; running coaches for thousands of fans over the years and ensuring they all got to the game in one piece, to everyone he’s ever sold a badge, hat, scarf or programme to, to the media personalities, managers, players new and old that he’s charmed with his wit, George has touched the lives of many of us over the years and it’s great to see him doing so well.
He’s a remarkable man, and quite possibly the greatest Sunderland fan there ever has or ever will be.