Walsall FC players and supporters spread some Christmas cheer by delivering presents to young patients at the Manor Hospital.
Loan stars George Miller and Kieran Phillips were joined by club mascot Swifty (John Heighway), Walsall Supporters Trust Vice Chairman Bob Thomas and Secretary Ray Dale in handing over eight large boxes full of toys and goodies.
The gifts were unpacked by Assistant Play Specialist on Ward 21 Emma Lester and Student Nurse Aysha Nazmin to distribute to youngsters who will spend Christmas in hospital thanks to today’s donation drop off which was arranged through Walsall Healthcare’s Well Wishers charity.
The toys were donated by Saddlers fans via the club’s annual toy appeal at Saturday’s 3-0 win against Colchester, plus the Supporters Trust, club sponsor Poundland and Tesco Willenhall.
In addition a cash collection of £100 was split equally between the Manor’s Paediatric ward and the Black Country Food Bank.
Ray, 67, from Wednesfield and a Walsall supporter for 61 years, said: “It was amazing really – we didn’t expect this many toys.
“The club has done this for many years and is very proud to do so. Before Covid-19, the players used to go round the wards distributing gifts but unfortunately that can’t be done, and last year we could only make a donation, so at least we could hand items over this time.”
Bob added: “I feel sorry for the children that they are in hospital over Christmas and hopefully the gifts will help cheer them up.”
Emma said: “It was lovely of the players and Supporters Trust representatives to come and donate the toys.
“It’s a pity they can’t deliver them in person but I know they will go down a storm with the children at what is a challenging time for them and their families.”
George, 23, who is loan from Championship club Barnsley, said: “I think it’s nice just to give back. There will be children in hospital over the Christmas period, and with them being in hospital and Covid-19, they’re not going to be able to spend their time as they would like to.
“That’s a shame, but hopefully with us bringing a few presents along, that will give them a bit of a boost, which I think is well needed at this time.
“I’m in my 20s and I still get excited about Christmas! So everyone should be at home enjoying themselves, so anything we as players and the club can do, we will.
“I’ve spent time in hospital with broken bones but luckily nothing too serious, and luckily, not at Christmas.
“Other people will be in here with much more serious things but you don’t want to be in hospital at any time, but especially at this time of year.”
Kieran, 21, who is on loan from Championship club Huddersfield Town, added: “I’ve had my fair share of injuries but never been hospitalised with anything serious, which I feel very lucky about.
“Some of the people here won’t be spending time with their families at Christmas and that is awful, so I’m glad we can give them something back.
“I know when I was younger it was the best time of year for me – I used to look forward to it all year round – so to spend it in hospital won’t be nice.”