STEWART DONALD has paid tribute to Sunderland’s supporters for standing by the club during difficult times after announcing season ticket renewal plans for next season.

Donald officially put the club up for sale after the December victory at Doncaster Rovers, when he went public with his intention to move on.

But the Sunderland owner, who was frustrated with the criticism of him during a period of struggle in League One before the Christmas period, has not been able to strike a deal in the time that has elapsed since.

He has not been on Wearside since the visit of Ipswich Town earlier this month but he has been hugely impressed by the way Phil Parkinson has successfully turned things around at the Stadium of Light.

And after launching the new season ticket campaign ahead of Sunday’s televised promotion tussle with Coventry City at St Andrew’s, Donald has paid tribute to the supporters who have stayed with the team in their thousands – and urged them to come back next season.

“Our fans have been tremendous since I came to the club,” said Donald, speaking to “We have over 24,000 season card holders this season and to have such amazing support, both home and away, makes us the envy of so many clubs.

“I would like to personally thank everyone for the backing they have given Phil and the players in recent months.

“We’ve got some real momentum behind us at present, which bodes well for a strong and positive finish to the season, with promotion being our aim.

“I hope as many supporters as possible can commit to renewing their seats for next season and be part of things moving forward.”

Donald is still willing to listen to offers for the club but he is hoping Parkinson can fulfil the club’s promotion aim at the second attempt this season.

Even with the possibility of Championship football next season, Sunderland have promised existing season ticket holders they will pay no more next season providing they renew by the early bird deadline of April 16.

Sunderland head to second-placed Coventry when a victory there could see them climb into the automatic promotion places for the first time this season.

The Black Cats have lost just one of their last 13 matches to reignite hopes of a return to the second tier and they are playing with a confidence and belief that they can get a positive result in every game.

The spirit they showed to earn a late point against Fleetwood in midweek has maintained their lofty position in the top six and they will have Joel Lynch available for selection if Parkinson wants to call him against the Sky Blues.

Lynch played an hour on his return to action in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Carlisle United and that was his first appearance since he was knocked unconscious in a collision with goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin in the 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth on February 1.