Sunderland’s first win of the Premier League season will be even more memorable for fanatical Black Cats supporter Leah Pratt after she was handed star man Victor Anichebe’s jersey.
Football-mad Leah, 13, had travelled all the way from County Durham to Bournemouth in the hope that David Moyes’ team would finally record three points.
And they did thanks to a stoic performance in which the Lads came from a goal down to win 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium.
But the teenager was even more stunned after Anichebe, who scored Sunderland’s first goal and won a penalty in the close match, handed over his mud-stained shirt following the final whistle.
Leah’s dad Michael, 42, said: “Leah always wants to get to the ground early to watch the players warming up.
“She shouts for Jermain Defoe quite a lot and before the start of the game he actually came over and gave her his blue training top, which she was over the moon with.
“Then, when it looked like we were going to win the match she went down the front of the stand.
“Everyone was going berserk at full-time, but Anichebe made a bee-line for Leah and handed over his shirt saying ‘this is for you little lady’.
“Leah was in tears she was so happy and it was on Match of the Day too.”
After getting the shirt, Leah had her picture taken with Michael’s uncle Kevin Simpson, who stands alongside Leah at games and is unable to sing after having his voicebox removed due to suffering from throat cancer.
Also in the group who set off in the early hours of Saturday from the North East another of Michael’s uncles, Gary Murphy, and Gary’s son Declan.
The surprises didn’t stop there however.
“To top it all off, Anichebe gave us the match ball as well so Leah’s managed to get his shirt, Defoe’s training top and the ball from the game too,” said Michael, who works as a sales director in Leeds.
“We took photos of Leah with all of the things she’d been given before driving home.
“It was just an unbelievable day.”
Michael now hopes that his team can use the result on the South Coast as a springboard to get themselves out of the relegation places.
“For the first time this season they seemed to have real fight about them and it was good to see.
“He went with two up front for once and it was a bit like when Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips were playing for us.
“We’ve got Hull City up next at home and that’s a huge game, so fingers crossed we can win and drag them into trouble.”