Pool players visit childrens hospice

Blackpool FC players brought presents to children at Brian House Children's Hospice, Bispham.
Blackpool FC players brought presents to children at Brian House Children's Hospice, Bispham.
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Blackpool FC players swapped their tangerine shirts for Santa hats as they spread some Christmas cheer at Brian House.

The entire Seasiders squad took a break from their busy training schedules to pay its annual visit to the Bispham children’s hospice.

Assistant manager Steve Thompson and wife Viv with Lily-Mae Dawson.

Assistant manager Steve Thompson and wife Viv with Lily-Mae Dawson.

And the team didn’t go empty handed, and took bundles of Blackpool FC goodies including scarves, calendars and footballs to some of the Fylde coast’s poorliest children.

Young patients, parents and staff beamed with delight as they posed for photographs and collected autographs from their favourite players.

And striker Billy Clarke even dressed up in a Santa suit to add an extra magical sparkle to the visit.

Young patient Antony McCracken, nine, said: “The players are really nice, I can’t believe they are here.

Billy Clarke and Connor Lynch.

Billy Clarke and Connor Lynch.

“My favourite player is Ian Evatt and it was a brilliant surprise to meet him.”

Young parent Stephen Jackson, 18, whose 11-month-old son Finley has a rare genetic disorder was able to get the tot’s own Blackpool FC shirt signed by players.

He said: “It’s brilliant the players give up their time to visit families in Brian House.

“I’m a massive fan and it’s great to get them to sign Finley’s shirt.”

The team have paid an annual visit to the hospice for the last five years and many players took the opportunity to tour the centre and see the facilities.

And the significance of the work of the hospice was not lost on the players.

Central defender Ian Evatt said: “I always find it very humbling when we come here.

“My wife is expecting twins and seeing these children really puts things in perspective.

“I’ve been coming five years and it is upsetting to hear kids we met last year didn’t make it to this year.

“But I’m really happy the club is able to do their bit to make them happy at Christmas.”

Goalkeeper Matt Gilks added: “It is brilliant to come here and put a smile on the kids’ faces.

“It makes you realise how lucky we all are to have our health and it is a real inspiration to play well.”

Assistant manager Steve Thompson has a family connection with the unit as his wife Viv works there.

He said: “This is the fifth year I have visited at Christmas, but the club works hard to support the charity all year.

“It is great to see the children smile as well as their brothers, sisters and family.

“It shows the players they shouldn’t have a care in the world compared to what local families face.”