Nottingham Forest’s FA Cup hero Eric Lichaj was rewarded for his two-goal salvo against Arsenal by picking up a pet from a breeder – who turned out to be a Derby County fan.
After the American defender’s outstanding brace helped to knock out the holders 4-2 in Sunday’s third-round clash, he revealed in a television interview that wife Kathryn would only allow him to buy a dog this season if he netted a hat-trick.
"My wife told me that if I score a hat-trick this year I get a dog, so I was trying to get the penalty..." 😂— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 7, 2018
Eric Lichaj scored what's sure to be one of the goals of the tournament, but you can't help but feel heartbroken for him with this revelation 😭😂 pic.twitter.com/z4ACTMRG3c
A campaign was then launched on social media – under the hashtag #GetEricADog - to persuade Kathryn that a furry friend would be an ideal addition to the family.
She relented, and the couple visited Bilsthorpe-based seller Mr Richard Bates on Tuesday to buy the 14-week-old French Bulldog – who, to mark the famous victory against the 13-times winners, has been named Gunner.
Kathryn said: “Around three years ago I said: ‘This is the deal: you can have a dog if you score a hat-trick’. I thought that would never happen, and we had a joke that he’d only ever score one goal a season.
“Since Sunday he has really cranked it up (wanting a dog) – he has done my head in with it.
“We went to the breeder, who lives down a little cul-de-sac, and he was lovely.
“And Gunner is blooming lovely, he’s going to be spoilt rotten. Our children love him.
“I knew Eric was not a typical footballer even when we first got together - we sat down for dinner one night and he just pulled out a dog book.
“He told me that when he was younger he had a dog in the house so he threw in all of this stuff early on in our relationship.”
'Eric does a lot for the community'
Mr Bates said he exchanged some friendly banter with Eric despite supporting the Reds’ fiercest rivals.
“He said that they were always great games when Forest play Derby,” said Mr Bates.
“Eric told me he’d wanted a dog for a long time, and Kathryn was happy as well once they were there. She was holding the dog.
“It’s the first litter our French Bulldog has had – three boys and two girls. It might be a few years before I do it again though, as it does take quite a lot of time and effort.”
Among the 27,182 supporters at the City Ground was Mr Matt Ridyard, secretary of the Nottingham Forest Supporters Association, Newark branch.
Lichaj was the branch’s player of the season for the last campaign.
He said: “Eric does quite a lot for the community, he’s always polite and Kathryn says hello to everyone. They’re a nice couple.
“He always wears his heart on his sleeve when he plays for Forest and he’s a player I think we should keep.
“I didn’t see the interview on TV after the game but it was plastered all over social media. The campaign has obviously worked.”
Lichaj’s future at the club remains uncertain. He is out of contract at the end of the season.