YORK-born artist Sue Clayton admits that she is overwhelmed with the support from York City fans following the unveiling of 140 portraits of supporters at the LNER Community Stadium last weekend.

The culmination of 18 months of work, the ‘wall of portraits’ has gone down a storm with fans, with many having already purchased the original portraits, or prints, for their family collections.

With 46 of the original 30cm x 30cm portraits sold at a cost of £125, and smaller prints available from £25, the project has so far raised in excess of £1400 for the York City Foundation. 

Not bad for a chance encounter on a Memorial Gardens bench!

“The idea for the project goes back to the end of of April 2021 when we were coming out of lockdown,” Clayton recalled.

“It was a Sunday afternoon and I was sat in the Museum Gardens on a park bench, and I ended up in conversation with a chap who was sat at the other end of the bench.

“He turned out to be Michael Miles, who runs the ‘Y Front’ magazine.

“He was saying about being a York City fan, and what inspired me was his absolute passion for the club.

“The way he spoke, it captured me really.

“We got chatting, and off the cuff, I said ‘I’d quite like to paint a few of you fans’

“He said it was the centenary (of the club), and I thought that there was a project in this for me.”

What came as even more of a surprise to the self-confessed football hater, was the passion that she would develop not only for the project, but for the football club itself.

“At that point I wasn’t even a football fan, in fact I hated football!”, she laughed.

“I was only going to do 10 originally – one for each decade – but we put the call out to fans, and I had loads of photos and things sent in.

“It was just a really wonderful project!

“I got absorbed in the fans’ stories and in the community as a whole, to the point that I’m a season ticket holder now myself.

"I go with my son James, and it’s a great thing that we can do together.

“We’re both there on the terraces each home match, and one thing’s just led to another.”

York Press: A selection of the portraits, showing the diversity of the football fans.A selection of the portraits, showing the diversity of the football fans. (Image: Sue Clayton)

The full collection was first displayed in an exhibition at Cliffe Village Hall last summer, with Clayton describing the support she received as a “magical moment” for her.

“We had the first and only exhibition of them all together at Cliffe on May 28, and Michael mainly organised that,” she explained.

“We just wanted to do a centenary event for the fans, and we put them all up, which with so many, was a bit of a nightmare to be honest!

“I remember being quite worried if people would come as Cliffe is nearer Selby, and quite a way out from York, but it was just amazing.

“We had everything together and it was like a proper community, there were merchandise stalls, there was a massive raffle that Michael had organised for charity, and there was proper football food there.

“The doors opened; ex-players came along, and we looked across the hall and it was all full.

“We just looked at each other, and it was just one of those magical moments, saying ‘we did it’!

“I can’t believe all the people that were there.”

One of those portraits was of lifelong City fan Bruce, who is believed to be the club’s oldest living supporter, and who recently received his framed portrait in person from BBC Radio York commentator David Ward.

“(Bruce) is just so lovely,” Clayton said.

“David Ward was talking to me about it over Christmas, and said to me that he was going up to Gateshead.

“I said that I’d frame (Bruce’s portrait) and to give him it as a thank you.
“Now Bruce has made the effort to contact me personally, which is lovely, and has donated £200.”

York Press: Bruce, believed to be York's oldest living fan, was presented with his portrait by BBC Radio York's David Ward.Bruce, believed to be York's oldest living fan, was presented with his portrait by BBC Radio York's David Ward. (Image: David Ward)


The portraits have been in high demand since they became available for purchase in November, with families keen to keep a memento of a loved one that has passed away, and of certain characters at the club.

Taking between three and six hours to complete, the collection brings together a wide range of mediums, from watercolour, acrylic and oil paints, to charcoal and pen and ink.

There is even one portrait, in tribute to a former ‘half and half’ ticket seller, that has been created using ticket stubs.

“It’s one of these things which just keeps on growing,” Clayton continued.

“It was mad near Christmas, as everyone was coming to me and saying that they wanted their portrait as a Christmas present.

“I released them in late November, so a lot of people were asking for them for Christmas. 

“The first refusal was obviously to people who had sent the pictures in originally, but some people have bought portraits of fans that are no longer with us, saying that they would really appreciate it.

“If the original one had sold, I did also do prints for people as well.

“Especially for families, if the grandparent was no longer with us, the original might go to somebody else but they would have the prints for the family.

“It can be anyone, from a lawyer to the local bin man, who comes and supports every match.

“There was one fan that said to me ‘I come up from Plymouth every match knowing we’re going to lose’ – that got me thinking, who are these fans?

“There was one lady that said that her dad used to let her stand on his knee to see, and now seeing that same lady support her dad up the stairs, it’s come full circle.

“They’re still weekly supporting the club, which is really quite special.

“There’s also a couple of ladies in their wedding dresses, a marriage there, there’s (ex-player) Richard Brodie’s son with his tiny little baby grow.”

The wall of portraits, which has been positioned in its new home next to the Club 100, will be officially unveiled tomrrow, and is set to become a permanent fixture at the LNER Community Stadium, something that she is immensely proud of.

“I’m massively proud,” Clayton enthused. “Not just for me, but I think for all the fans as well.

“It’s a great recognition from the club for all the support that the fans give.

"It’s always great to come from the fans point of view, as without them, football just doesn’t exist.”