Jermain Defoe dedicates player of year award to Sunderland fans

Jermain Defoe: Brilliant 2016. Picture by FRANK REID

Jermain Defoe: Brilliant 2016. Picture by FRANK REID

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Jermain Defoe dedicated his North East Football Writers’ Player of the Year award to Sunderland’s fans and said the club would be “part of me forever”.

Defoe was last night named as the star of 2016 by the region’s football reporters, who handed their Young Player of the Year trophy to Jordan Pickford.

Football is their life and that makes it a great place for any player to play football

JERMAIN DEFOE

The Sunderland double was inevitable, given the brilliance of both men.

Defoe was a unanimous winner of the main prize, with Middlesbrough centre-half Ben Gibson runner-up and Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles in third.

The 34-year-old netted 19 goals in the calendar year, keeping Sunderland in the Premier League last season and hope of avoiding the drop again in 2017.

Defoe said: “I feel very much at home in the North East, so to win this award is a real honour.

“The fans here are very knowledgeable and so passionate – football is their life and that makes it a great place for any player to play football.

“I would like to thank the North East Football Writers for voting for me and the Sunderland fans for their amazing support, they have been behind me from day one and I dedicate this award to them.

“Sunderland is a very special club that I know will be part of me forever.”

Defoe has reached 150 Premier League goals this season and shows no sign of slowing down.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the park, Pickford has hit the headlines again after winning the young player silverware.

The 22-year-old began 2016 at Preston North End though then Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce recognised the talent they had at the Stadium of Light and brought him back.

After an injury to Vito Mannone at the start of the season, Pickford has taken over as David Moyes’s number one and has not looked back.

Pickford has reeled off stunning display after stunning display and the England U21 stopper has twice been called into Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad.

The Washington lad said: “To play for the club you support is every player’s dream and I am living mine every day.

“I would like to say thank you to the Sunderland Academy staff who started me on my journey, to the backroom staff and everyone at the club who has helped me in my career so far and to my family – without their support and encouragement I wouldn’t have the fantastic opportunities that I have today.”

The two players will be presented with their awards at the Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham on Sunday, February 12.

Other presentations on the night will include Women’s player of the year Stephanie Houghton, the Man City and England skipper, from South Hetton.

The night, which raises funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, will also feature a tribute to ex-NEFWA chairman Bob Cass, who died recently after a battle against cancer.