Magical day for Danielle

DANIELLE Mullenger is today hoping she will prove a lucky charm for her football idol Marcus Stewart.For as the former Ipswich star striker looks forward to a FA Cup semi final clash against Tranmere or Millwall, on April 4, the eight-year-old is still in Black Cat heaven reliving her part in Sunderland's cup run.

DANIELLE Mullenger is today hoping she will prove a lucky charm for her football idol Marcus Stewart.

For as the former Ipswich star striker looks forward to a FA Cup semi final clash against Tranmere or Millwall, on April 4, the eight-year-old is still in Black Cat heaven reliving her part in Sunderland's cup run.

The Shotley County Primary pupil's dad, Frank, said Danielle was overwhelmed the day she led the Sunderland team out in a last 16 replay at Birmingham City in front of 28,000 fans.

He said: "Danielle was over the moon. She described it as the best day of her life. Marcus Stewart was her favourite player when he was at Ipswich. She used to get his signature and began following Sunderland when he went there."

Mr Mullenger said the family wrote to Ipswich Town to see if she could be the mascot for the Sunderland game at Portman Road on April 12, but it was not possible. A letter to Sunderland followed but all their mascots were already booked.

However when the extra FA Cup game came along because of the replay at Birmingham, little Danielle, of Erwarton, got the surprise of her life when the club came calling.

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On the evening of the match Danielle could hardly believe her luck.

Mr Mullenger said: "She was so shocked. Mick McCarthy (Sunderland's manager) invited all of us into the dressing room before the game. Danielle had her photos taken with every player and her shirt signed by the players and Mick McCarthy and then she went out with them before the game."

The long trip to Birmingham for a proved worthwhile as Sunderland won 2-0 in extra time, even though it was well past Danielle's bedtime by the time the final whistle blew.

Mr Mullinger said: "Danielle managed to stay awake the whole of the game but she fell asleep in the car as we were driving back home."

Danielle said: "By the time we got near the dressing room door my heart was beating really fast. Then I saw my best player in Sunderland, Marcus Stewart he looked at me and gave me a great big smile. I got him to sign my shirt and my dad took a picture.

I felt very privileged to meet everyone. The team was fantastic. I felt great with my kit on and the football boots on.

"Then I met the Birmingham mascot Bean Brummie who is a big six foot dog in a Birmingham kit.

"We played football on the pitch and then we ran over to the Sunderland supporters and they went mad they were clapping, whistling, shouting and waving at me I felt like a real star.

"Then Marcus Stewart came out and took my hand and we ran out on the pitch. I felt very honoured to be part of it."

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