SUNDERLAND football fans must await the midnight chimes tonight to be among the first to sport the team's new strip.

The Stadium of Light store will open its doors just after midnight to give die-hard fans the chance to buy the new-look red and white kit, prior to the first match of the new Coca-Cola Championship season, at Coventry, tomorrow afternoon.

Entertainment will be laid on for supporters queuing outside the store this evening, with a roadshow hosted by Simon Crabtree, the match-day commentator on Sunderland games for Metro Radio.

Fans can also try their football skills with target practice, speed cages and an inflatable five-a-side pitch.

Marketing director Jim Slater said the club was extremely pleased with the level of pre-order sales in advance of the launch of the new home strip, the first produced for Sunderland by Italian sportswear brand Diadora.

He said manager Mick McCarthy and the players were very impressed with the quality and feel of the kit, and early feedback from fans was positive.

"You can really sense the momentum building this week, with hundreds of fans contacting us each day on our mail order hotline, in official SAFC stores and via We are looking forward to a great launch weekend."

The Stadium of Light sports bar will be open from 4pm today and throughout the evening, enabling fans to purchase food and drink as they await the opening of the store doors.