STEVE AZIZ EXCLUSIVE: Sunderland AFC kit man tells of his experiences after 12 years at SAFC



Steve Aziz recently left Sunderland AFC after 12 years of being the club’s kit man. He exclusively tells SportsByte about some of his experiences during his 12 years at SAFC.

From that win at Wembley to a certain Italian manager, he didn’t see eye to eye with. Steve Aziz has – by his own admission experienced the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows.

From the outside looking in Sunderland fans know what a turbulent time 2012-2024 has been but Steve has lived and breathed that time from inside the club.

Graphic created by Callum Jacques

“I’ll always look back with really fond memories” was Steve’s response when asked how he would look back on his 12 years at Sunderland.

Steve spent over a decade at Sunderland in which he had seen 14 Managers / Head Coaches come and go.

Steve said: “I’d come in under Martin O’Neill. He was the first manager that I had and then we had Paolo Di Canio. Some really good characters like Jack Ross. He was a great guy. I mean, Phil Parkinson gets a real tough time, and he was a really decent fella and a good manager to me.”

On results on the pitch tainting what a manger’s image Steve said: “Phil (Parkinson) had a really tough time and I think under different circumstances, if we manage to get that season finished, then he might have been looked back in a better light with the Sunderland fans.

He Continued: “Seeing what Phil’s doing at Wrexham now, I’m really happy for him because he’s a good bloke and that’s sort of shone through on the documentary that they’ve done for the Wrexham team.”

Former Sunderland Head Coach Lee Johnson said: “The kit man is one of the most important roles at the club and requires organisation but most importantly great people skills and Steve not only had respect but could give players and staff confidence too with his personality.”

Johnson continued: “Steve’s role was a major one and there is always something that needs to be done – keeping the players in the right head space is key and knowing Steve was there and able to solve a problem quickly gave them comfort.”

Johnson also spoke about how Steve set ‘A very high standard, he said: “Steve was so organised and prepared and for players their confidence comes from their preparation in training and their equipment. Look good , feel good , play good.”

Despite having high praise for the majority of managers during his time at Sunderland, Steve spoke about the differences he had with one in particular.

He said: “Me and Paolo didn’t really see eye to eye because I’d left another Italian manager at Man City and I think he wasn’t really a people person, Paolo, and it was really tough to sort of get on and work alongside the Italian staff and the English staff. There was sort of maybe a bit of a divide between the two sides of the staff and there was no real music on in the dressing room, not really a good atmosphere around at the time and ultimately, obviously, the lads had got together, and Paolo ended up going.”

Steve started his career at boyhood club Middlesbrough as their kit manager from 2006-2010. He then became assistant kit manager at Manchester City in 2010 but moved on two years later to join Sunderland.

Image from Steve Aziz

When he joined the Black Cats Steve work alongside club legend and former kit man John ‘Cookie’ Cooke.

Steve said: “I learned a lot from John, just a nice bloke and a great fella and to be around him, he was really good to learn from, listen to his experiences in the game and what he’d done and seen, and been through and some real tough times.

“As a kit man, if you’re on your own and do everything, it’s really, really tough. Cookie didn’t really complain about that, he just got on with it. So, to sort of see him do that and not complain probably helped me when I had to do it on my own when we were in League One.”

Any good dressing room needs characters and there was no shortage of characters in the dressing room at Sunderland with Steve naming people such as John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Danny Graham as ‘no-nonsense really good lads.’

He also mentioned the likes of Max Power, Lynden Gooch, Jordan Jones and Charlie Wyke as some of the characters in more recent times at the club.

He said: “There was some really good characters, good people, I still speak to them to this day.”

Image from Steve Aziz

Steve was at the club during the dark days of the double relegation to League One where he saw a lot of friends at the club being made redundant including Cookie who he worked alongside for five years.

Then after 10 years at Sunderland Steve experienced what he described as his best moment whilst on Wearside – Sunderland’s 2022 play-off win at Wembley Stadium.

Steve spoke about his preparations in the lead-up to the final. He said: “We’d obviously previously been to Wembley a couple of times, and I thought we were really lucky that we’d been there before. We sort of knew what to expect. Some teams don’t get the chance in their lifetime to play at Wembley and I think I’ve been with Sunderland four or five times since I’ve been there.”

He continued: “It’s literally the biggest game of your life going and preparing that kit, being the kit manager at the time. It was a really amazing time for me to get it done to be a kit manager, win at Wembley. I think I’ve said it’s the best place to win and it’s the worst place to lose. It’s one of them. If you lose that your worst day in football, the Charlton finals, it was without doubt my worst day in football and then the playoff final against Wycombe was easily one of the best days in football.”

Image from Steve Aziz