Jermain Defoe reveals depth of bond with cancer sufferer Bradley Lowery
(CNN) - It's not unusual for friendships to be formed through football, but the bond forged between a five-year-old boy suffering from a rare form of cancer and a leading soccer star has provided one of the more unusual -- and heartwarming -- talking points of this season.
In September, Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2013, was the club's mascot for the game against Everton at the Stadium of Light in the north east of England. Fans of both clubs chanted Lowery's name in the fifth minute -- a number to match his age -- before a "We're with you, Bradley'" banner was unfurled. But for Lowery, getting the opportunity to meet his hero Jermain Defoe was arguably the most thrilling aspect of the day. And the player felt a similar sentiment.
BBC Sport Pundit selects Sunderland's Jermain Defoe as his Premier League Player of the Year
BBC Sport pundit Dion Dublin has picked Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe as his Premier League player of the year because he is ‘single-handedly keeping Sunderland afloat’.
Despite the Black Cats sitting at the bottom of the Premier League table Defoe has fired in 14 Premier League goals this season.
Even though he is 34-years-old Defoe’s form saw him earn an England recall, scoring the opening goal in last Sunday’s 2-0 win over Lithuania.
Jermain Defoe's England return a 'great story', says Gareth Southgate
Jermain Defoe's return to the England squad is a "great story" according to manager Gareth Southgate after the striker scored in Sunday's 2-0 World Cup qualifier win over Lithuania. The Sunderland forward, 34, made his first England appearance since November 2013 and marked the occasion with the opening goal in the 21st minute.
"I'm pleased for Defoe he got the goal," said Southgate. "The bigger picture for us was his contribution throughout the camp."
England created few clear-cut chances after Defoe's opener, but managed to breach the last line of defence once more in the 66th minute when substitute Jamie Vardy scored with his first touch.
Jermain Defoe rolls back the years to show England what they have missed
There was something very familiar about all this. The sight of a winger bustling to the byline and, even as he pulled the ball back across goal, being absolutely convinced the net would be billowing by the time his momentum had carried him on to the artificial turf ringing the pitch.
Jermain Defoe tends to offer that calibre of reassurance, forever loitering as he does in enemy territory spanning the width of the posts, the six-yard box only ever a dart away, defenders constantly on edge. Cue that trademark celebration, arms stretched wide, as the striker trotted towards the crowd. It was as if he had never been away.
Jermain Defoe selection was another positive example of Gareth Southgate's shrewd judgement
It is perhaps a measure of how far Wayne Rooney has fallen that a striker three years his senior started this encounter for England. Just as it is a measure of how positive a start Gareth Southgate has made that said veteran forward should score after only 20 minutes with what was his third touch of the game.
As difficult as it is to imagine Jermain Defoe still being involved come next year's World Cup, the Sunderland forward represents another positive example of Southgate's so far shrewd judgement.