JERMAIN Defoe dedicated his first Premier League goal for Cherries to the memory of Bradley Lowery.

During his time at Sunderland, the England striker struck up a close friendship with football mascot Bradley, who died in July from a rare form of cancer, aged six.

And the Cherries frontman, who fired home the decisive strike in the 2-1 win over Brighton on Friday, insisted memories of his time with the youngster were “still in my heart”.

The 34-year-old told the Daily Echo: “I did say when I scored my first goal back, I wanted to dedicate it to little Bradley, even though he is probably looking down on me thinking ‘you’re playing for the wrong team!’

“I am just delighted that I managed to get the winner and, of course, I’d like to dedicate the goal to Brads. Hopefully, he is looking down and is proud.”

Defoe has also agreed to be made patron of the charity foundation set up in Bradley’s name, as revealed last week by parents Gemma and Carl.

The striker added: “The family, Gemma and Carl, they came to my house a couple of weeks ago before the Manchester City game and were with me and my family for the weekend, which was really nice.

“I speak to them all the time and they are a special family. Not just Gemma and Carl but nan, grandad and the whole family.

“I feel blessed to have had that relationship with Brads. I just felt like every time I saw him he was happy.

“In my heart, that will remain with me for the rest of my life. They were special moments but, of course, I miss him.

“Before games, especially towards the end, he was always walking out with me. At times, I think about him when I am walking out, which is almost normal because it’s still fresh in my memory.

“All the memories are still in my heart and in my head. I remember every moment.”

Defoe's strike was his first for Cherries since he scored in a 3-3 draw against Reading in May 2001 during a loan spell at Dean Court.

Quizzed on how his latest goal had compared to those 16 years previously, the frontman replied: “It was the same buzz and it was special.

"To score the winner and to win the game in such an important game, I was delighted.

“I am just happy for the team because it had been difficult. We have worked so hard.

“When Surs (Andrew Surman) scored and it was 1-1, I just had this feeling like ‘I’m going to get the winner’.

“I have always been confident that if I get the chances I will score.

“In this team, we create so many chances and there is so much quality in the dressing room, it was just a matter of time.

“I am delighted for the team and the dressing room."