Footy favourites swapped the pitch for wards and scored the hearts of patients and staff this Christmas.
Walsall Football Club Head Coach Michael Flynn, Assistant Head Coach Wayne Hatswell, First Team Coach Mat Sadler, Goalkeeper Coach Dan Watson, the entire Walsall squad and Club Mascot Swifty visited Walsall Manor Hospital earlier this week.
This was their first squad visit to the hospital since 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions over the past two years.
Michael Flynn, Head Coach, said: “We’re a community club and coming out and seeing our local communities is really important for us.
“It’s great to have a positive impact, especially at times like this when people aren’t very well but hopefully it will put a smile on their faces and they’ll leave here with some nice memories. We want them to know they’re worth thinking of over the Christmas period.”
The players split into two groups to visit elderly inpatients (Wards 1,2,9,10) and Children’s Ward.
The group that visited the elderly wards took time to have conversations with patients while handing out some chocolate treats.
Left back Liam Gordan said: “It’s my first time visiting the wards at Walsall Manor Hospital and it’s been a fantastic day. It’s such a privilege to be able to do something nice for patients who are ill or needing treatment over the Christmas period.”
Hayden White, defender, added: “After the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s great to be able to meet with fans and local people. It must be incredibly difficult to be in hospital at this time, but the families have been so upbeat and the staff so welcoming.
“Thank you to the Trust’s Well Wishers charity for organising this to take place.”
The other group went on to Ward 21 Paediatric Assessment Unit to spread some Christmas cheer and hand out toys to children.
Toys were provided thanks to donations from supporters as part of Walsall Football Club Supporters Trust’s annual Christmas Toy Appeal as well as a large donation from its Principal Partners Poundland.
Xzavien Gillespie-Henry was one of the many young patients delighted to see the players as they went about their visit. The eight-year-old was admitted to hospital following a bump on his head, and with his congenital heart condition – diagnosed at birth – extra caution was being taken to ensure he was ok.
Mum Sherise said: “It’s a lovely surprise for him, because as you can imagine it can sometimes be boring for a little boy in hospital. This has really cheered him up.”
Walsall FC blood runs in his family, as his uncle is Rico Henry – a left-back for Premier League club Brentford and former Walsall player (2014-2016).
Xzavien proudly showed off his new toy car, dinosaur robot and chocolate treats, saying a big ‘thank you’ to the team as they waved goodbye.
Georgie Westley, Fundraising Manager said: “It was great to finally have the team back in after a two year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It creates a real buzz for the children and staff on our Children’s Ward and our elderly patients and we can’t thank the players, managers and not forgetting Swifty enough for coming along and making the afternoon a special one. And of course, a big round of applause to Walsall FC Supporters Club for all the wonderful toys and gifts they donated and also the businesses that supported the club with toys.”