A brave disabled boy has been crowned Football Fan of the Year after he learned how to walk – and took his first steps in front of more than 15,000 supporters.
Eight-year-old Oskar Pycroft, who has cerebral palsy, united two rival teams with an appeal to raise £50,000 for an operation to enable him to walk.
Fans from Bristol City and Bristol Rovers put aside their differences to jointly raise £57,000 for the procedure, to strengthen the muscles in Oskar’s legs.
After undergoing surgery at Bristol Children’s Hospital, the youngster vowed to walk onto the pitch at his beloved City’s ground when he had recovered enough strength.
And in January, more than 15,000 fans cheered him on as he took his first steps in front of a packed stadium at Ashton Gate as Bristol City hosted Preston in the Championship.
On Sunday evening, little Oskar, who never misses a match, was recognised for his bravery with the ultimate accolade – as he was named Capital One Supporter of the Year.
He received the award at a ceremony in Manchester in front of over 600 guests from clubs, sponsors and the football industry.
On collecting his trophy, Oskar, who wore a grey suit and a bow tie in Bristol City’s red, said: “It’s a really good moment for me, I never thought I would win this.
“It’s just been a really tough time for me and I just want to say thank you to everyone that’s helped me.”
Oskar has been wheelchair-bound since he was a toddler and needed selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery to reduce the spasticity in his legs.
When he was six years old doctors decided he didn’t meet the strict NHS criteria and his family was told they would have to go private instead.
Last season, he led players out in his wheelchair but in May 2014, the Darren Wright Foundation began fundraising for a £50,000 operation to help him fulfil his true dream.
They set up a JustGiving page and almost 1,000 football fans, family members and friends made donations.
The charity also organised events and arranged collections at both Bristol City and Bristol Rovers matches, raising thousands.
Just a year after the appeal began, Oskar’s family was presented with a cheque for £57,347.62 – enough to cover the medical bill and change the little boy’s life.
The inspirational youngster learned how to walk again and took his first steps earlier this year in front of a roaring crowd who gave him a standing ovation.
He was nominated for the Football Fan of the Year award in a shortlist announced on Saturday evening and invited to the gala ceremony on Sunday.
There, he beat off stiff competition from Colchester United fan Tommy Leggett and Pat Custard, who supports Yeovil Town to be crowned the overall winner.
Shaun Harvey, Chief Executive of The Football League, said: “It is important to acknowledge outstanding performances, both on and off the pitch.
“We’re delighted to recognise this special group of nominees who have shown exceptional levels of talent, dedication and achievement.
“Congratulations to everyone who was nominated and particularly our winners, all of whom are deserving of their accolade.”