A NORTH-East footballer who stunned football by declaring he “belonged to Jesus” is to tell how he was “saved in Sunderland”, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Sunderland AFC full back Kieran Richardson, whose attitude to fans while at Manchester United saw him dubbed Lord Snooty, says finding God changed his life.

The 27-year-old first went public in his Christian faith in December, when he celebrated scoring in the Premier League at Wolverhampton Wanderers by revealing a vest saying “I belong to Jesus”.

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The display shocked fans, more used to seeing their heroes squander their huge pay packets on drink, drugs and “wags” – wives and girlfriends – than devote themselves to Bible study and prayer.

The London-born, privately-educated England international has not spoken of his faith publicly since. However, he and his family, including his partner, Natalie Suliman, joined Good Word Ministries, near Durham City, last year and Richardson is gearing up to tell his life story at a church event next month.

Richardson is refusing to give away too much in advance, encouraging people to attend on the night.

However, he said: “I’ve been a born again Christian for four years. I was saved in Sunderland. It’s changed my life for the better – through Jesus’ death.

“People need to know if they feel they can’t talk to anyone, the church is here for them. The main thing is having a relationship with God.”

Didi Dolopei, pastor of Good Word Ministries, Durham, said: “Kieran and his family feel privileged and blessed given their personal backgrounds.

“They’ve decided to use this privilege for the advantage of others by telling their stories and coming alongside as many as are willing, to bring encouragement and hope.

“They have great passion to see young people do well and to aspire for a good future. We hope to touch the lives of many within the Durham communities. I’m sure Kieran has a challenging story of hope for his listeners.”

Richardson began his professional career at West Ham United, but signed for Manchester United in 2001 before making an appearance for the Hammers.

He played 41 times for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, scoring twice. But it was during a 2005 loan spell at West Bromwich Albion that he proved his talent, helping the club avoid relegation and winning a place on England’s end-of-season trip to the US, where he scored twice on his international debut.

He was romantically linked to a number of celebrities, but has been in a relationship with Ms Suliman for several years. His former lap dancer cousin, Charley Uchea, appeared on Channel 4’s Big Brother reality TV show in 2007.

Former teammate Roy Keane brought him to Sunderland in July 2007 for £5.5m.

A left winger-turned-left back, he has since made more than 130 appearances for the Black Cats and is now the club’s longest serving player.

Richardson will speak at A Life-Changing Event, at Good Word Ministries, Durham Business Centre, Langley Moor, near Durham City, on Friday, May 4, at 7pm. He will tell his story, pose for photographs and hand out 30 autographed footballs.

There will also be music from Nadia Suliman.

Entry is free and all are welcome. For more information, call 0191-378-0633 or visit goodwordchristiancentre.org.uk