Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats out to Repay Fans' Faith ( Stokes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cats out to Repay Fans' Faith ( Stokes

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

Niall Quinn's attempts to woo the Wearside public back to the Stadium of Light appear to be bearing fruit ( with Sunderland on course for only their second 40,000 attendance of his chairmanship on Saturday.

And a grateful Anthony Stokes has vowed the team will not waste his efforts now promotion to the Premier League is in sight.

Advanced sales for this weekend's visit of Wolverhampton Wanderers have raised hopes of a record Championship crowd for 2006-07 ( with 2,500 tickets sold on Monday alone.

It is more than just the return of former manager Mick McCarthy and ex-players Neill Collins, Gary Breen and Jody Craddock which have caught the interest of Sunderland's fans. Last week's 1-0 win over Cardiff City extended the Black Cats' unbeaten run to 14 league matches and Quinn's largesse afterwards only heightened the feel-good factor.

The Irishman paid for 80 fans stranded at Bristol Airport to be taxied home after being thrown off their Easyjet flight for alleged "drunk and rowdy" behaviour.

Forward Stokes initially thought the stories were a wind-up but is delighted with the positive atmosphere they have contributed to.

"When I read it in the papers I thought it was an April Fool," said the 18-year-old. "I'm sure the fans really appreciate it. It shows the chairman is taking an interest in the fans ( there can't be many around that would have done that. It's great to see they have that type of relationship."

From the moment he headed a takeover of the club in July, increasing attendances has been a priority for Quinn, and was the inspiration behind last month's "roadshow". Stokes thinks the club's support, which peaked with the 40,116 crowd for the Boxing Day visit of Leeds United, has a crucial role to play.

"We need the fans with us," he reasoned. "There are a lot of hard games coming up so we want the fans behind us and this will certainly help. But it is not just that incident which has got the fans going. …

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