SUNDERLAND have paid a touching tribute to Marton Fulop as the goalkeeper died at the age of 32 after losing his battle with cancer.

The Hungarian international, who played for the Black Cats from 2007 to 2010, had treatment to remove a tumour on his arm in 2013 but died early on Thursday morning, according to reports in Hungary.

Fulop, a signing for Roy Keane from Tottenham Hotspur, made 50 appearances with Sunderland and spent spells on loan at Leicester City, Stoke City and an emergency three-match spell at Manchester City at the end of the 2009-10 season.

The Northern Echo:
Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop is mobbed by supporters at the Stadium of Light after their 2-1 win over Newcastle in 2008

The club’s chief executive Margaret Byrne said: “We are devastated to hear of Marton’s passing. He was a genuinely lovely man, liked and respected by everyone at the club during his four years with us.

“It is desperately sad when we lose a member of our Sunderland family but to lose one so young and in such circumstances is simply heart-breaking.

“The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the club are with Marton’s family and friends at this terribly sad time.”

He was an able understudy to Craig Gordon at the Stadium of Light, memorably keeping a clean sheet in 2009 in Sunderland’s 0-0 draw at Arsenal.

Gordon, who now plays for Celtic after his career at Sunderland was brought to an end by injury, said: “Marton was a very humble guy, a genuinely nice man, who I was lucky enough to play alongside. Even though we were both competing for the number one shirt, he always supported me when I was playing and we were good friends.

The Northern Echo:
Marton Fulop, second left, visits Durham University Hopsital's Treetops Ward and signs patient Sophie Cleasby's cast

“I had kept in touch with him and followed his career and am deeply, deeply saddened to hear the news today. My thoughts are with his family.”

Fulop went on to play for Ipswich Town under Keane, with a short spell at West Bromwich Albion in 2012 followed by a stint at Greek side Asteras Tripoli.

Cancer treatment followed but as recently as last year, the goalkeeper, who made 24 appearances for the Hungarian national team, announced he was ready to make a return to competitive football.

Hungary play Norway on Thursday evening in Oslo and will wear black armbands as a mark of respect, while flags at the Stadium of Light and the club’s Academy of Light training base are flying at half-mast.