Sunderland AFC stars past and present have paid tribute to young Bradley Lowery, who has died after a brave battle with neuroblastoma.
The six-year-old proved to be an inspiration when his story was brought to worldwide attention after being mascot for the Black Cats’ game against Everton last September.
He went on to have touching friendships with a number of players, including striker Jermain Defoe and goalkeeper Vito Mannone, both of whom attended his birthday party in May.
Mannone is among those to have led the tributes to Bradley online – and said that the youngster will inspire him every time he steps onto the pitch.
He posted on Instagram: “I wished this day would never come.
“My heart is broken and I have no words, but I want to remember your incredible smile and I am honoured that I met you and had the chance to spend fantastic moments with you little Bradley and your family.
It is like losing one of my family and from today I will have someone more to make proud any time I step onto a football pitchVito Mannone
“It is like losing one of my family and from today I will have someone more to make proud any time I step onto a football pitch.
“I am sure God has a place for you up there where you can spend amazing moments playing football without suffering any more.
“My prayers go to all the family and people connected to @bradleysfight.
“I will miss you forever kiddo. RIP.”
Other Black Cats players have also paid tribute.
Left-back Bryan Oviedo added on Twitter: “You always gave us a beautiful smile and we will remember you forever. See you soon, little hero. #OneBradleyLowery”
Youngster Rees Greenwood wrote: “RIP little man, thoughts with his family.”
Former Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford tweeted: “Rest in peace Bradley Lowery, such an inspiration to us all. #theresonlyone”
Former manager Peter Reid added: “goodnight GODBLESS Bradley.”
Ex-Black Cats defender Wes Brown wrote: “Rip bradley my thoughts are with you and your family! A sad day but what a brave lad you were.”
Former Sunderland left-back Michael Gray added: “Such sad news to hear we have lost a true fighter till the very end.. #NeverForgotten #bradleylowery”
Ex-midfielder Don Hutchison posted: “Angels only choose the best ones to go to heaven with them. @Bradleysfight we all love you mate X”
Former player Darren Holloway said: “Very saddened to hear little Bradley has lost his fight. RIP Little Fella #SAFCFamily #Brave”
Bury FC, who are playing against Sunderland in a friendly tonight, said there would be a minute’s applause for the youngster ahead of kick-off.