A Hampton School pupil has been credited with masterminding Sunderland FC’s dramatic escape from Premier League relegation.
Matthew Turner, 14, in his third year at the independent boys’ school, is an ardent Black Cats supporter and came up with a way of lifting spirits at the Stadium of Light.
When his side looked doomed, following a 5-1 defeat to Tottenham, manager Gus Poyet said Sunderland would require a “miracle” to survive.
So Matthew, keen to lift spirits at his club, created a makeshift banner on an old bed sheet with the message “Miracles Happen Gus”.
The banner caught the attention of his fellow Mackems and was seen as a symbol of hope for the Black Cats across social media and television.
For Matthew, who lives in Richmond, the publicity of the banner - and Sunderland beating the drop - proved the perfect end to a tough season.
He said: “People were taking lots of photos and saying the banner was a lucky mascot.
“I am delighted if it did inspire the players to play better - whatever the reason we broke the curse of going down and I am so pleased.”
Poyet was so impressed with Matthew’s ingenuity, he said on television he would like to take the banner home as a keepsake.
Matthew and his mother were invited to the club to meet Gus Poyet and personally deliver the banner to him.
Matthew said: “Gus seemed really pleased to see us.
“He tore opening the packaging and was thrilled to get the banner.
“I was very happy to give it to him because if anyone deserves to have it, he does, he has done such a marvellous job.
“Gus spent lots of time chatting to me about the season and his plans for the club and for the World Cup.
“We also got to look round the training facilities and his manager's office which was brilliant.”
Sunderland beat the drop with a remarkable turnaround at the death, instead condemning Norwich City, Cardiff City and Fulham to Championship football and fixtures against the mighty Brentford FC.