South Shields vs Sunderland AFC XI: A preview of Stephen Ramsey’s testimonial
South Shields’ penultimate pre-season friendly takes place on Wednesday as a Sunderland AFC XI makes the short trip to Mariners Park.
Shields’ final home game of the pre-season programme is also Stephen Ramsey’s testimonial, with the striker set to be honoured for his 10 years of service at the club.
Sunderland’s team is expected to mainly feature the club’s Under-23s players, managed by Elliott Dickman.
Kick-off is at 7.30pm, with admission – to be paid at the turnstiles – costing £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.
Unfortunately, Ramsey has not recovered from the broken leg he sustained in March in time to play a full part in his testimonial.
However, he will lead the team out against his boyhood club, joined by his children Lilly, nine, Daisy, five, and Alfie, three.
Ramsey said: “The testimonial is a massive honour for me and I’m so thankful that the club thinks enough of me to have organised it.
“I wish I was playing obviously, but I’m really looking forward to it. It means a massive amount to me.”
Ramsey has made 311 appearances over 10 seasons for the Mariners, scoring 85 times and winning seven trophies along the way.
Barrie Smith has been his team-mate for much of that time, and says no one deserves the honour of a testimonial more than his friend.
Smith said: “I’m sure it’s going to be a really, really special occasion for Ramma, and I hope the fans turn out in big numbers for him.
“He has been a pleasure to play alongside over the last eight years.
“Not only has he been a great lad and very loyal to the club, but he’s also a great player.
“I was devastated for him after what happened at the end of last season, when he was so close to playing at Wembley and would have deserved that.
“He’s also a top lad. He’s so easy going and no one would have a bad word to say about him, and he wouldn’t have a bad word to say about anyone either.
“I’ve loved spending the last eight years in the same team as him.”
The Mariners go into the game unbeaten in pre-season, having drawn with Gateshead, Boldon CA and Blyth Spartans, and beaten FC United of Manchester.
Smith is looking forward to a different kind of test against a youthful Sunderland team.
He added: “They will be a young and talented team.
“They’re all professional footballers and it will be good to test ourselves against them.
“Hopefully we can put in a good performance and keep our positive pre-season going.”
Joint manager Graham Fenton has echoed Smith’s call for supporters to turn out in force to back the club – and particularly Ramsey – on Wednesday.
He said: “Ramma massively deserves it. He’s a tremendous character and lad.
“He has been brilliant for the club, so he deserves his day on Wednesday and hopefully he’ll really enjoy himself, and have a huge crowd to celebrate the occasion with him.”
Fenton is expecting a difficult game against the Black Cats.
He added: “They’ll be technically very good, and gifted on the ball.
“It will be a tough game, but we want to raise our standards.
“We worked hard on Monday night in training, and will try to get to the levels we reached in the second half on Saturday. If we do that, it will be a very good game.”
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Peter Talbot (Stephen Ramsey with son Alfie).