Young Bolton Wanderers supporter Ben Griffin received the surprise of his life on Thursday afternoon when goalkeeper Mark Howard turned up on his doorstep.
The 11-year-old from Little Lever was mauled by two dogs nearby to his home on Dove Bank Road whilst playing football with his father on August 11, with him suffering injuries to his face and side as a result.
He was admitted to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital for major reconstruction surgery, and is still dealing with the effects of the incident.
Now recuperating at home however after recently being discharged, Ben – a season ticket holder at Macron Stadium and a budding goalkeeper – was left stunned to find Wanderers’ No.33 standing in his doorway.
An excited Ben, alongside his brother Sam, invited Mark up to his Bolton Wanderers themed bedroom where he showed off his merchandise and programme collection, alongside quizzing the Whites keeper and asking him goalkeeping advice.
Mark himself even arrived with gifts for the youngster including a pair of his own signed goalkeeping gloves and a Wanderers football, much to Ben’s delight.
Speaking following the visit, the shot-stopper said, “It’s been amazing, coming down here and meeting Ben and his family. It’s great to see how well he’s recovering too and you can see just how much football and Bolton Wanderers means to him.
“It feels so nice to just put a smile on his face and answer his questions – he could give some of the reporters a run for their money with how good they were!
“You could see from the moment I walked in the door that he was just amazed that I was there and for me, to see how much what I do on a weekly basis is appreciated by fans, it’s a great feeling.
“Especially for youngsters such as Ben, you are a role model and we always love to give something back where we can.
“The bravery Ben has shown though is just incredible and meeting him is something I’ll never forget.”
Ben’s mother Maria echoed Mark’s sentiments, adding, “It means so much for Mark to come down and visit Ben, it really does. The fact that he’s taken the time just to come and spend an hour with my little boy, it means the world.
“I know that Ben will never, ever forget this experience and it’s cheered him up so much.
“Since the accident, he’s been so quiet but in the hour that Mark was with him, he spoke more in that time than he has in the past three weeks! It was lovely to see him come out of his shell and be Ben again though.
“He was asking Mark for tips and was just so eager to learn from him, while Mark himself was just so lovely – we will honestly never forget this.”