‘I was gobsmacked’: Sunderland fan George Henderson extremely thankful for club's support and kind Grant Leadbitter shirt gesture
‘I was gobsmacked’ says Sunderland fan George Henderson when asked about a surprise parcel which arrived at his front door.
The nine-year-old from Cheshire comes from a family of Black Cats’ supporters and was over the moon when Lee Johnson’s side reached the Papa John’s Trophy final, with Sunderland facing Tranmere Rovers on Sunday at Wembley.
A video of George and his dad Paul celebrating Grant Leadbitter’s winning penalty against Lincoln in the semi-final circulated on social media, as the elated youngster jumped for joy.
But while many praised George’s passion and support for his beloved team, the video unfortunately attracted some negative responses. Sunderland Football Club were made aware of the comments and were quick to act.
As well as receiving a glowing letter to condemn the criticism and say a big thank you for the support, George’s parcel also contained a signed Leadbitter shirt, the same shirt the midfielder wore against Lincoln, from Academy Manager Lewis Dickman.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the shirt,” says George, who will be wearing the shirt for this weekend’s final against Tranmere Rovers at Wembley.
"I can’t thank Grant Leadbitter and Lewis Dickman enough for the shirt, it’s really made my year.
"Grant Leadbitter is one of my favourite Sunderland players and just because it was signed as well that really put the icing on the cake.”
George lives with his dad Paul and mum Joanna who are also extremely thankful for all the kindness.
"He’s just 100 per cent Sunderland confidently,” Joanna explains.
"His dad is a Sunderland supporter and his dad too so it’s in George’s blood and it’s come out very passionate.
“He’s out in the garden, playing imaginary games, he follows them all, he has made Mackem Attack cards, he’s just completely a true Sunderland supporter."
George’s enthusiasm has been recognised by fellow Sunderland fans on social media, with many enjoying the youngster’s upbeat videos.
"The Twitter family that he has acquired have taken to him and all look out for him,” Joanna adds.
“As a result of that video and a little bit of negativity, the Twitter family, SAFC family didn’t want to see anything like that so they all kind of protected him.
“Shaun Middleton from SAFC FansReact had raised the fact he was a bit upset with some of the comments and Joanne Youngson from the SAFC Branch Liaison Council started off a campaign - an anti-bullying campaign.
"The Foundation of Light got involved and as a result Lewis Dickman saw what was going on and they are totally against bullying.”
George, who plays in goal for his local side Barnton FC, also received a message of support on Twitter from defender Bailey Wright to say thank you for cheering on the team.
And while there won’t be any fans at Wembley this weekend, George still has confidence in the Black Cats.
"I’m going 2-1 to Sunderland,” he predicts. “We’ve lost at Wembley a lot of times and it would be the first trophy I’ve seen Sunderland lift.
"I’m never going to lose the faith.”