Kyril Louis-Dreyfus' lovely gesture that surprised young Sunderland fan George Henderson
In Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ first interview as Sunderland chairman, the 24-year-old spoke about having a structured engagement with the club’s supporters. It was a positive first impression, yet the Black Cats owner has been going the extra mile when it comes to interacting with fans, as nine-year-old George Henderson found out.
After Louis-Dreyfus’ arrival on Wearside, George sent a welcome letter to the Frenchman which included information about the Black Cats’ 1973 FA Cup triumph and legendary goalkeeper Jim Montgomory.
A few weeks months later, George, who lives with his dad Paul and mum Joanna, received a surprise reply, which he soon discovered had been handwritten by Louis-Dreyfus himself.
"I was mind blown, I couldn’t believe it,” says George. “When I saw the last bit of the letter which said from Kyril Louis-Drefus, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. At that point I actually thought I was dreaming.”
George plays as a goalkeeper for his local team Barnton FC and idolises Montgomory, who was part of that 1973 squad.
"I sent Kyril a letter in February just to welcome him and told him about Monty. He sent one back about two weeks ago,” George adds.
“He said he was extremely touched by the letter and said thank you very much. He said I’m still learning about the history of the football club so thank you for writing to me about the historic trophies.
“He also said I hope that one day maybe you could wear the Sunderland shirt and play for the club. When I read that I was really touched by that.
“The letter ended with ‘take care and Ha’way The Lads’ so I think he’ll be an owner who has faith in the club and a long-term plan.”
George regularly writes handwritten letters to his friends and family, as well as the Sunderland community, including Joanne Youngson from the SAFC Branch Liaison Committe, BBC commentator Nick Barnes and chairman of the SAFC supporter association George Forster.
George’s letter to Louis-Drefus also included a picture of the Stadium of Light entrance, which the youngster says can be placed on the owner’s desk.
“We were just absolutely stunned,” adds Geogre’s mum Joanna when discussing Louis-Drefus’ reply. “It just shows he’s got the heart and soul of this club.
“We have seen that he does write to other people and it’s just a special little touch that he’s replying back.
“He’s looking at individual letters and writing individual replies, George’s was handwritten and he’s taken the time to hand write one back and I just think it’s so endearing.
“He just seems like a genuine, lovely young man.”
George remains hopeful Sunderland can win promotion from League One this season but believes the club is in good hands even if they don’t succeed this term.
"I think we are likely to have the play-offs, even if it’s not over yet,” admits George.
“It would be really nice if we got automatic promotion but if that doesn't happen I’m hoping we can get up through the play-offs.
"Our Wembley hoodoo is over and hopefully we can get to the Championship.”
That would certainly give Sunderland supporters something to smile about, with Louis-Drefus looking to lift the mood through actions both on and off the pitch.