SANTA’S SQUAD IS RIGHT ON­SIDE

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Sam El­liott

THE EFL’s Elves dug deep into their own pock­ets to spread sea­sonal joy around the coun­try’s chil­dren’s wards as Christ­mas came for some who needed cheer­ing up.

Play­ers and man­age­ment took time out this week to raise some smiles when they dished out gifts and good­ies for poorly girls and boys who may not be home in time for the big day.

Wor­thing Hospi­tal’s Bluefin Ward wel­comed Brighton & Hove Al­bion’s Premier League-chas­ing play­ers and boss Chris Hughton – not for­get­ting the club’s mas­cot, Sammy the Seag­ull.

Al­bion goal­keeper David Stock­dale put his safe hands to even bet­ter use as he made sure none of the chil­dren went with­out.

He believes it’s part of a foot­baller’s job to en­sure young fans get a spe­cial af­ter­noon with their favourites.

He said: “It’s very im­por­tant be­cause those in chil­dren’s wards may not go home for Christ­mas. Ev­ery­thing we can do, we must.

Squeezed

“For us to make a visit and give them some presents is a mas­sive thing to these kids and their par­ents. It also shows the sup­port we’ve got in the com­mu­nity and we all need to give some­thing back. “Above ev­ery­thing, it is nice

to put some smiles on their lit­tle faces.” Brighton, who went top onTues­day night for 24 hours af­ter they squeezed past Black­burn Rovers at Ewood Park, were not the only club to go along and say hello. AFC Wim­ble­don play­ers opened their wal­lets be­fore de­scend­ing on nearby St Ge­orge’s Hospi­tal in South Lon­don. The League One club’s stars paid for the presents they handed out – and even wrapped them them­selves! Dons man­ager Neal Ard­ley said: “Ev­ery sin­gle present was paid for by the play­ers and we gave out more than 100 gifts, but it was just fan­tas­tic to meet so many young foot­ball fans.”

Mans­field Town’s play­ers also chipped in to cheer young­sters in the town’s King’s Mill Hospi­tal with presents and cho­co­late, while Ip­swich went a stage fur­ther.

In­volved

They vis­ited a hospi­tal or a hospice on each day last week. No fewer than six vis­its. Man­ager Mick McCarthy said: “It’s a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence that has be­come some­thing of a foot­ball tra­di­tion. “Our lads are great with the work they do in the com­mu­nity and they all en­joy get­ting in­volved.”

PIC­TURE: Paul Ha­zle­wood

SANTA’S STAFF: Brighton play­ers at Wor­thing Hospi­tal and inset, AFC Wim­ble­don at St Ge­orge’s

NO KIDDIN: Ip­swich and Mans­field play­ers join the fes­tive fun

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