Two unsung local heroes with combined experience spanning almost 800 football matches will be back playing an important role at St. James' Park this Saturday when Newcastle United host West Ham United in their first home fixture of the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season.
Newcastle United Foundation's Sue Lawrence and Gail Stewart, who are among the longest serving members of staff at the stadium, will once again be ensuring the Magpies remain on the front foot on the field as part of a role which has seen them supervise 9,000 ball boys and girls since 1995.
The duo will also be welcoming back a familiar face in former Toon striker and current Hammers frontman Andy Carroll, who is amongst an illustrious cast of former St. James' Park ball boys - including Newcastle defender Steven Taylor
- who are now carving out careers as professional footballers.
Sue, a primary school teacher at Emmaville Primary School in Gateshead, began supervising ball boys in October 1995. Her first ever game saw Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United defeat Roy Evans' Liverpool 2-1 on 4th November 1995; a victory which contributed to 11 consecutive home league wins at the start of the 95/96 campaign.
She has now worked at 450 games, including all Newcastle United home games, plus Euro 96 and Olympic Games matches last year - and has seen 16 different Magpies managers come and go.
Gail, a primary school teacher at Broadway East Primary School in Newcastle, first took charge of the ball boys and girls on 14th July 2001 as Sir Bobby Robson's Newcastle United recorded a 1-0 UEFA Intertoto Cup win over Belgian side Lokeren. She has now worked at 336 games.
Sue said: "I absolutely love doing the job. The excitement of meeting the players and being involved in a big club and everything that goes on behind the scenes is fantastic.
"I really enjoy being a part of something exciting, and seeing the thrill that the children get out of being a ball boy or girl, leading the teams out at St James Park.'
Gail said: "This has got to be one of the best jobs in the world, making dreams come true for children who get the opportunity to get up close to their footballing heroes.
"All of the players go out of their way to come and chat to us before a game. When Andy Carroll moved clubs he made a point on his return to St. James' Park to come and say hello. Sue and I always feel a sense of pride when we see them so we're looking forward to seeing Andy again on Saturday."
Ball boys and girls are chosen from hundreds of children who participate in the Newcastle United Foundation's many school and community programmes throughout the year, as well as nominations from local junior football clubs via the Northumberland FA.
To find out more about the Newcastle United Foundation and how it is working with young people and families across the region, please visit www.nufc.co.uk/foundation