For more than four decades Sunderland’s iconic matchday publication ‘Red & White’ has been sold under the watchful eye of Tony Wilkinson.
The amiable former Deputy Head Teacher became supervisor of the club’s sales operation in 1989 at Roker Park and took over as Programme Manager four years later, continuing in the role when the club relocated to the Stadium of Light in 1997.
Yet after a life-time’s service Tony, now in his eighties and affectionally nicknamed 'The King', is finally calling time on the position which involved checking the right quantity of programmes had been delivered from producers Ignition Sports Media, allocating them to various locations around the stadium and to matchday sellers, as well as checking the monies received.
Tony, who started working for the club in 1968 as a Catering Supervisor, will be in charge for his last game this weekend as his beloved Black Cats look to make home advantage count in the Championship play-off semi-final first-leg against Luton Town.
Sunderland’s Club Historian, and regular programme contributor, Rob Mason paid tribute on BBC Radio Newcastle to the unsung hero, who has never missed a match at the Stadium of Light.
He said: “Just like a pre-match pint and a half-time pie, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that buying a programme is part of the ritual for many and for lots of people the matchday is just not complete unless they have a programme to read on the way home. Tony is highly respected by all who know him and he has played such an integral role for the club behind the scenes. It won’t be the same without him.”
All at Sunderland and at long-time programme providers Ignition Sports Media would like to thank Tony for his dedication and unparalleled service.