Premier League clubs have reiterated their commitment to supporting their local communities this Christmas.
A traditional part of this festive support are club visits to local hospitals, during which players and managers deliver presents and meet patients and staff who cannot be at home during this time.
And although these visits are not possible in person because of the coronavirus pandemic, clubs are using virtual calls to lifting the spirits of those in hospitals virtually.
Liverpool players including Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Alisson brought some festive cheer by hosting a special online visit.
“It’s a shame that we are unable to visit the hospital again this year, but we still had so much fun meeting the youngsters and their families virtually,” captain Jordan Henderson told the club’s official website.
“This visit is something that is really important to all the lads and one that we look forward to every year.
“On behalf of the players and the club, I’d like to extend my thanks to all the staff at the hospital for the truly remarkable work they do day in, day out and especially in the current circumstances. They really are amazing.”
The club and its LFC Red Neighbours team also welcomed 600 local people to enjoy a three-course Christmas lunch served as part of its Operation Christmas Magic programme to help bring communities together this festive season.
Across the city, Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin made a surprise call to 13-year-old Toffees fan Dylan, who is recovering at home after recently undergoing a nine-hour emergency operation to deal with a brain aneurysm, which has left him needing rehabilitation to assist with his mobility, speech and eyesight.
Instead of a scheduled call with physios at Alder Hey, Dylan was instead faced with his Everton hero, as part of the club’s True Blue Crimbo campaign to reward deserving youngsters who have endured a tough year.
Dylan’s surprise call
Manchester United players got into the festive spirit by wrapping presents and recording festive messages for the patients and staff at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, The Christie and Francis House Children’s Hospice.
“It’s been a really difficult year, so just to know that people are thinking of us, not just for the families but for the staff here too, is really important,” Francis House Children’s Hospice chief executive David Ireland told the club’s official website.
“It’s not been an easy time; everyone is working under a lot of anxiety and stress, but these gifts give us that little bit of pleasure and a lift just when we need it, right before Christmas.”
🗣️ “It’s so important that we support young people at this special time of year.” – @Cristiano
Our men’s and women’s teams came together to wrap presents and send #Christmas messages to children in three local hospitals 🎁❤️
— Manchester United Foundation (@MU_Foundation) December 24, 2021
This support is part of Manchester United Foundation’s Santa’s Red Helpers campaign, which offers opportunities for young people, as well as supporting local communities and families over the winter period.
Aston Villa head coach Steven Gerrard was also on hand to make a surprise call, as he chatted with Villa fan Jai Rai-Aheer.
The seven-year-old will be spending Christmas in hospital as he undergoes treatment having been diagnosed with Leukaemia in May.
Seven-year-old Jai Rai-Aheer was diagnosed with leukaemia in May 2021 and will be spending Christmas at @Bham_Childrens.
Steven Gerrard had a little surprise for him… 💜 pic.twitter.com/7ML3QAzsgM
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) December 22, 2021
Tottenham Hotspur stars Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier had calls at four hospitals, North Middlesex University Hospital, The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone and Whittington Hospital in Islington, with patients and staff receiving festive deliveries from the club.
“The festive season can often be a challenging time for our patients and their families, so this welcome surprise helped to lift their spirits and put a warm smile on their faces,” Kelly Parker, paediatrics matron at The Princess Alexandra Hospital, told the club’s official website.
“We cannot thank Spurs enough for their generous gifts – it means the world to our patients, their loved ones and our hard-working team. Thank you for thinking of us.”
Despite in-person player visits not being possible this year, Arsenal made sure toys and club goodies were still delivered to young people at the Whittington, the Royal Free, Homerton and Barnet hospitals.
The club were also able to host a Christmas grotto at the Arsenal in the Community Hub for deserving children from four local primary schools which involved a stadium tour and a football session on the pitch.
There are also plans for a Christmas Day dinner at The Hub for young people from Islington who have recently left the care system.
This year our staff have been spreading festive cheer at local schools and hospitals
Thanks for all your hard work, guys! ✊
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 23, 2021