'He's a gentleman': How Maddison hosted Norwich family after big match
PUBLISHED: 07:22 15 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 15 December 2019
The family of Sophie Taylor were special guests of Leicester City FC and midfielder James Maddison he faced his former club Norwich City for the first time.
Sophie died in January this year after fighting cancer, during which time the five-year-old and the England international developed a close bond.
That relationship has lived on through Sophie's sister Evie, mother Kirsty and father Alex, who says that the footballer is 'like family'.
As Maddison, 23, prepared to face the Canaries for the first time since his £24m move to Leicester, he invited Sophie's family to watch the game and meet up in the players' lounge afterwards.
The Taylors travelled with a group of close friends and their children to the King Power Stadium, including Zach, who is a similar age to Sophie and was good friends with her.
Mr Taylor, 32, said: "The club were lovely - they invited me, Kirsty, Evie and my dad and brother into the players' lounge to meet James' family and waited for him to come after he was done with all his interviews. We joined him for a catch-up and, being the true gentleman he is, after hearing we had travelled with a group he invited everyone else in as well. It was nice to have a bit of social time with him.
"Zach used his pocket money to get a Leicester shirt with 'Maddison 10' on the back with Sophie's name on as well. He was over the moon to be able to meet James and get a picture with him.
"Not only were me and my family treated well but he also embraced our friends as well. I think that made their Christmas for them."
Mr Taylor said that experiences like this had helped the family to cope with the devastating loss of their young daughter.
"We always say whenever we get invited to do something like this it's such a privilege and unique experience. Without a doubt, we wouldn't have been able to get through these past 11 months the way that we have without the positive experiences we've been able to have with James and with both Norwich and Leicester.
"Having James looking out for us and wanting us to be part of his life as much as we want him to be a part of ours - I don't really know how to describe it, it's a privilege. There's just a mutual love and bond that has been created. It's like family.
"It keeps Sophie alive for us, in a really positive way, because she brought us all together. We value our relationship with him very highly."
The game finished level after a Teemu Pukki strike was cancelled out by an own goal from Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Mr Taylor said: "Both clubs have been great to us - there's no way we could pick sides because of what both clubs have done for the family. It was a result that suited the family and it would certainly have suited Sophie. She'd have been happy with that.
"The scoreline was very fitting - she was mascot once for Norwich and once for Leicester, and of course it finished 1-1. The only thing she would probably have said after the game is it was a shame that James didn't score. She was very diplomatic and she liked things to be fair so she'd have been happy that both sides got a point.
"I'm sure she'll have been somewhere watching the game, and she probably had a hand in the scoreline."
The entire day was emotional and special for the family, but one moment in particular sticks out as particularly moving.
"During the game there was a clear section of fans who clearly had arranged to clap for Sophie in the tenth minute. The whole stadium didn't join in but they obviously weren't aware and there was no announcement in the stadium, but that gave us a real warmth.
"I've enjoyed the day, but it doesn't go without wishing that Sophie was here to enjoy it too. That's always the hardest part of these things. We've all enjoyed it in the Sophie spirit - she'd have been smiling and cheering, asking questions and enjoying the occasion."