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Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe has been named the North East Football Writers’ Player of the Year for 2016 and has dedicated the award to the fans.

The coveted award went to the Black Cats’ most influential player – whose 19 goals this calendar year helped maintain the Wearsiders Premier League status last season and will hope to do again this campaign.

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The 34-year-old was recognised alongside Jordan Pickford – who received the Young Player of the Year trophy.

Double delight for the Sunderland stars was inevitable after their stellar performances during 2016.

“I feel very much at home in the North East, so to win this award is a real honour”, Defoe told the Sunderland Echo.

“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.”

The little Englishman reached the very exclusive 150 Premier League goals tally whilst in a red and white shirt, and has shown no sign of curbing his impact in England’s top flight.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, Pickford has been recognised once again for his superb performances this campaign.

The 22-year-old began his year on loan at Preston North End but was soon spottrd by then Black Cats manager Sam Allardyce as a real talent and brought back to the Stadium of Light.

The England U-21 goalkeeper was given his chance in the first X1 after fellow shot-stopper Vito Mannone suffered an elbow injury, and he has never looked back.

A string of fine performances has seen Gareth Southgate call on the Washington-born custodian on two occasions so far during his tenure as England boss.

“To play for the club you support is every player’s dream and I am living mine every day” said Pickford.

“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.”