Sunderland will head to the home of English football in just over two weeks time to face Tranmere Rovers in the final of the Papa John's Trophy.

It's a bittersweet moment for Black Cats fans who will be unable to attend the final. Their opposition had approached the FA to try and postpone the fixture until fans were allowed back into the Stadium, but they were rebuffed.

It means we won't see a repeat of the memorable scenes when thousands of Sunderland fans descended on Trafalgar square two years ago when the Wearsiders reached two Wembley finals.

Lifelong fan Peter Richardson came up with the idea for supporters to buy a virtual ticket for the final, with the proceeds helping a range of charities and helpful causes across the region.

The idea was then picked up by supporters’ groups Red and White Army, the Senior Supporters Association and Sunderland AFC Branch Liaison Council.

They've since teamed up with the club and their official charity, the Foundation of Light, to create special commemorative tickets, with all proceeds from the ticket sales being donated to local charities.

The money will be divided between the Foundation, the Salvation Army, Sunderland Foodbank and Washington Mind as part of the #SunderlandTogether campaign.

The campaign helps provide support during the pandemic and helps with a number of other challenges including rising food poverty, increased social isolation among older people, poor mental health and rising unemployment.

Sunderland fans show their support
Sunderland fans show their support

At the time of writing the crowdfunder has raised £34,966 with former Sunderland owner and chairman Stewart Donald donating £3,000 this morning.

Anyone wishing to donate to the funder can do so by clicking the link here.

Fans can purchase keepsakes from as little as £5 for an e-ticket and can also buy a printed memento for £10.

Businesses from around the region can also participate by purchasing a Red and White hospitality package for £100, which includes 10 printed commemorative tickets for staff or clients.

Everyone who donates to the cause will be entered into a draw to win signed Sunderland AFC merchandise and other exciting prizes.

Tranmere Rovers are also running an initiative to raise money for charities in the Wirral.

This morning Nicola Palios, the vice-chairman of the club, called on Newcastle fans (firmly tongue in cheek) to help Rovers try to catch up to Sunderland's fundraiser.

It's not the first time Sunderland fans have come together to raise money for charities, last year #SunderlandTogether raised £15,000.

Black Cats fans also donated more than three tonnes of food and toys to the Sunderland Foodbank and the Salvation Army at Christmas.