Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has admitted that he struggled to contain his tears during a hospital visit with five-year-old Bradley Lowery.
Bradley, who has terminal cancer, was visited in hospital last week by Jermain Defoe, Vito Mannone, John O’Shea and Sebastian Larsson.
Pictures of the visit were posted on social media by the youngster's grateful family, including one particularly heartrending image of Bradley with Defoe .
Bradley loves @IAmJermainDefoe he didn't want him to leave today and fell asleep cuddling into him #specialbond #bestfriends pic.twitter.com/sn2symKhdv— Bradley Lowery Foundation (@Bradleysfight) February 9, 2017
Defoe spoke about the visit at a dinner in Durham on Sunday evening, where he was being presented with the North East Football Writers' Association player of the year award for 2016.
He said: "As soon as I walked into the room, he jumped up and grabbed me and said: 'get in the bed!' He got the covers on me, he said to his mum: 'could you turn the lights off?' He just wanted a cuddle and to go to sleep.”
Defoe admitted to the Sunderland Echo it was difficult to control his emotions in front of his young fan.
"You can imagine the unbelievable feeling. Obviously, it fills you with tears, but you can't show your emotions as he is only young and you don't want to show him you were upset.
"I have been blessed in life and it is a great feeling to be able to give something back and make someone so happy, a little boy who is having a tough time at the moment.
"Bradley is in my prayers every night. He is an amazing young man and I look forward to seeing him again."