Jermain Defoe has backed Sunderland's next generation to fire the club back to the Premier League in a heart-warming farewell to the Black Cats.
Defoe scored 37 goals in 93 appearances for Sunderland over two-and-a-half seasons at the Stadium of Light, playing a key role in preserving their top-flight place in 2015 and 2016.
However, despite netting 15 league goals last season, it was not enough to stop Sunderland slipping into the Championship.
The 34-year-old completed a move to Bournemouth on Thursday - a club he played for on loan earlier in his career - and penned a thank you letter to his previous employers, while backing them to return to the Premier League.
"I'd like to thank all the Sunderland fans for their support and everyone else involved with the football club," he said. "I had an amazing time with so many great memories.
To the Sunderland fans. You have been amazing... pic.twitter.com/9bhwfj0nEm-- Jermain Defoe (@IAmJermainDefoe) June 29, 2017
"I am going to miss so many people at the club, from the canteen staff and the chef to the laundry girls and the cleaners who always made the boys smile no matter what.
"I feel blessed to have played for such a great football club with some of the best fans I have ever come across.
"The highlight of my time has to be walking out with Bradley [Lowery] against Everton and that volley against Newcastle - a goal people still come up and talk to me about!!
"I want to wish everyone at Sunderland the best for the future. There's some talented players there and some great youngsters pushing through, so I can't wait to see you back in the Premier League.
"I'm looking forward to my new challenge and can't wait to get started at AFC Bournemouth."