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Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League

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On This Day (14 Dec 2016): Bradley Lowery captures the hearts of the footballing world

We may have lost to Chelsea, but the score seemed unimportant as the world stood still and took notice of Sunderland’s little ray of light, Bradley Lowery.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

There are so many times in football when it feels like the most important thing in the world.

A defeat feels like the walls are about to cave in all around you, like nothing in your life comes close to being as meaningful as the three points you desperately want your team to achieve.

In other moments, you get a kick in the teeth or a reawakening about how trivial it is in the bigger scheme of things.

Sunderland’s 2016-17 season was an outright disaster from start to finish. Many people - including myself - have written many words depicting or describing an absurdly poor season under manager David Moyes.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

His words after defeat in our first home game ultimately summed up the kind of season we would have. When asked if he felt Sunderland would be involved in another year of fighting for survival, the manager responded,

I think that will be the case, yes.

In the eyes of many Sunderland fans, Moyes had thrown in the towel before he had even thrown a punch.

He turned out to be correct with the team struggling in every area of the field with Jermain Defoe’s goals keeping Sunderland within touching distance of the rest for longer than they really deserved.

By the time this game came around, the season was looking as bleak as Moyes predicted. A defeat to a rejuvinated Chelsea side was anticipated and predicted, with Cesc Fabregas’ goal claiming the three points.

What wasn’t expected was the beginning of a wonderful relationship between young Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery and the club - especially Jermain Defoe, who was his idol.

Young Bradley was unfortunately diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as neuroblastoma, and his family alongside the club were trying their best to raise funds to get the treatment needed for him.

On this evening, Lowery’s friendship with Defoe was born.

The young Sunderland fan lived the dream of many (including myself) in meeting the squad of players, playing out on the pitch and scoring in front of his fans - where the Chelsea players showed magnificent decency towards him.

His beaming smile, heartwarming positivity and enthusiastic manner enthralled him to fans all over the world from this point onwards - with his legacy living on through the Bradley Lowery Foundation.

For the match itself, Chelsea dominated possession and the majority of the chances with. They played like a team with title ambitions which was expected after such a dreadful 2015-16 campaign.

Their talisman Diego Costa impressed on the pitch where he bullied John O’Shea for ninety minutes - though Lamine Kone showed some stellar strength against him - and off the pitch where he showed exemplary empathy and decency in how treated Bradley.

Fabregas’ goal came just before half time. The Spaniard steered into the far corner from the edge of the box just as Moyes’ men thought they had done enough to gain a draw.

We kept Chelsea at bay for large portions of the game, though it would be a stretch to suggest we deserved much more given our limited attacking chances.

Only late on did the team push for an equaliser and they did come very close - we could have snatched a point in injury time but Thibaut Courtois superbly denied Patrick van Aanholt.

The game was won by Chelsea but the real winner was a young boy who lived the dream and showed us all how important it is to stay humble and have some perspective.

Seven years on, these principles are just as relevant as in 2016. The spirit of Bradley Lowery continues to live on and we should be proud to have had such a courageous young boy in the Sunderland community.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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