Former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has been honoured by the North East Football Writers’ Association for his special friendship with inspirational Bradley Lowery.
Defoe collected the North East Personality of the Year award at an event held last night at Ramside Hall Hotel in recognition of the friendship developed with the Blackhall youngster.
Their friendship captured the hearts of the nation and helped raise awareness of neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer which affects less than 100 children in the UK each year.
Bradley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at just 18 months old and last year his mum, Gemma, shared the devastating news the cancer was terminal.
Bradley passed away in July surrounded by his family and friends.
Throughout the last year of his life, a special friendship developed between the six-year-old and Defoe, who was in turn supported by Sunderland AFC and team-mates including Seb Larsson, Vito Mannone and captain John O’Shea.
Defoe, who now plays for AFC Bournemouth, said: “He only had a short life but maybe it was his calling to raise awareness of the cancer he was suffering from.
“He helped so many people. And he changed so many lives. Including mine.”
The North East Football Writers’ Association Awards night, sponsored by William Hill, celebrates the best of North East football.
The event raised funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which helps find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
Sir Bobby’s widow, Lady Elsie, said: “The special connection between Bradley and Jermain was apparent for everyone to see.
“I’m very proud that Jermain is receiving our award because it recognises his wonderful compassion and his commitment to helping other children with cancer in Bradley’s memory.”
Colin Young, secretary of the North East Football Writers’ Association, added: “The very special friendship between Bradley and Jermain touched the whole country. It started from a joint love of football and Sunderland Football Club and blossomed into a bond which was an inspiration to millions of fans.”
Other award-winners included Newcastle United duo Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie jointly winning the Men’s Player of the Year.
Young Player of the Year went to former Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who now plays for Everton, and Womens’ Player of the Year went to Sunderland Ladies defender Victoria Williams. There was also special presentations to Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez and non-league clubs Blyth Spartans, Spennymoor Town and South Shields.