OUR students enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to welcome their Sunderland heroes onto the Stadium of Light pitch last weekend. 

The group from Thornbeck College, Aycliffe School and Thornhill Park School were thrilled to be official flag-bearers for the match against Cardiff, forming a guard of honour in front of more than 41,500 cheering fans.

They also got to high-five the Sunderland players and watch the match from prime West Stand seats.

And even though Sunderland went down to a 1-0 defeat, the students said it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

[Pictures by Alan Hewson Photography]

Connor, 20, from Thornbeck College in Newton Aycliffe, said: “To walk out onto the pitch and to shake hands with the players was unbelievable. It’s been an amazing opportunity and a great day.”

His friend Marcus, also from Thornbeck, added: “We had the best day ever. It was absolutely epic.”

Brooke, 13, a staunch SAFC supporter from Thornhill Park School in Sunderland, said it was a “dream come true” for her.

It was the same for 18-year-old Keaton, who goes to Aycliffe School and who has been attending Sunderland matches since he was two. His mum Claire said: “He’s been wanting to do something like this since he was tiny, but never got the chance. He has been so excited about it and has had a brilliant day.”

The opportunity was organised by AK Teaching recruitment agency, which partners with SAFC to select flag-bearers for home matches.