Grant Leadbitter helped Sunderland reach this season’s League One play-off final just one day after his mother died.
The 33-year-old midfielder played the full 90 minutes of the Black Cats’ 0-0 semi-final second leg draw with Portsmouth on Thursday evening after his mother, Susan, lost her battle with cancer on Wednesday.
He spoke of his anguish in an Instagram post on Friday morning as he thanked fans for their condolences.
Leadbitter wrote: “Last couple of days have been tough, not just myself but my 2 sisters too. To lose my mam on Wednesday was horrible, but I know now she is at peace now after tough battle of cancer. She now rests alongside my Dad.
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“Life throws you curve balls and we all have to keep fighting. I wanted to play last night because my mam and dad would be disappointed if I didn’t. Thanks for your support and kind messages. Lastly, the job is far from done, we have one more tough game to go.”
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Academy graduate Leadbitter’s father Brian died in 2008 at the age of just 50, and his ashes were buried under the pitch at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland will play Charlton at Wembley for a place in the Championship, with the Addicks booking their place in the play-off final with Friday’s penalty shootout defeat of Doncaster.