Belfast Telegraph

England v Lithuania: Bradley Lowery to lead out team with 'best friend' Jermain Defoe

Five-year-old Bradley Lowery whose battle with a rare cancer has touched the football world will be thrilled to lead England out at Wembley with his "best friend" Jermain Defoe, his mother said.

Bradley was picked last month to be a mascot for the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, since when his hero Defoe has been brought back into the England squad.

The Sunderland fan, who has neuroblastoma, has struck up a friendship with the striker, with Defoe and other Black Cats stars visiting him in hospital when he was undergoing life-prolonging treatment.

His mother Gemma, from Blackhall, County Durham, told the BBC that Bradley was already excited to be asked to be a mascot for England - a role he has performed several times for Sunderland this season.

Speaking to Adrian Chiles on Radio 5 Live, she said: "To find out Jermain is going to be there as well just totally topped it off for him."

When Bradley was first invited, Mrs Lowery had warned Bradley that Defoe would not be in the England squad, so he would have to walk on to the pitch with another player.

"All of a sudden, we get told that Jermain has been called up," she told the radio show.

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"For him to just be in the dressing room when Bradley goes is going to be absolutely fantastic for him."

Mrs Lowery said Bradley has got used to his relationship with the Sunderland star.

"At the very beginning it was just amazing. It was his dream come true, his hero, Jermain," she said.

"Now he just calls him his best friend - it's just normal for him."

Mrs Lowery said the experiences Bradley is having are "surreal".

"It gives us memories we can obviously carry with us for the rest of our lives as well," she said.

When Bradley was being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, Defoe gave him a cuddle and the young fan fell asleep in his arms.

Bradley was invited to the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year show and a shot he struck in the warm-up during Sunderland's game against Chelsea was picked as Match of the Day's goal of the month.

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