Football champions Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Gary Bennett awarded Freedom of Sunderland

Footballing stars Gary Bennett and Steph Houghton received their awards at a ceremony in Sunderland. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Three Sunderland football heroes have been officially awarded the city's highest honour.

Lioness Steph Houghton and Sunderland AFC legend Gary Bennett were given the Freedom of Sunderland in a ceremony on Wearside on Wednesday 8 March.

Queen of the Jungle Jill Scott was also bestowed the honour by Sunderland City Council, but was unable to attend the event.

The I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! winner was a member of the winning Euro 2022 Lionesses squad which delighted the nation last summer.

She recently returned to the North East to open a community football pitch as part of the Lionesses Euros legacy, and will be the first female captain for England at this year's Soccer Aid.

Steph Houghton and Gary Bennett said it is a huge honour:

Former England captain Steph Houghton led the squad in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup and has won over 100 caps for England.

She was at the ceremony to receive the honour alongside Gary Bennett, the Sunderland AFC star who played more than 350 games for the team.

The defender went on to become a stalwart of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign and received an MBE last year for his services to tackling racism in football.

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