Sunderland AFC boss Chris Coleman and players spread Christmas cheer to young fans on hospital visits

Sunderland boss Chris Coleman meets seven-year-old Abi Smith during a Christmas visit to Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman meets seven-year-old Abi Smith during a Christmas visit to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Chris Coleman thanked families and staff for an ‘amazing welcome’ as he and his Sunderland squad visited children’s wards across the North East.

Coleman, chief executive Martin Bain and club ambassador Kevin Ball handed out presents to children and nursing staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital, University Hospital of North Durham and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle respectively.

Leon Hayland, five, was among young patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital who received a visit from the Black Cats' squad.

Leon Hayland, five, was among young patients at Sunderland Royal Hospital who received a visit from the Black Cats' squad.

The Black Cats boss described the experience as ‘humbling’ for him and his players.

He said: "I think it is a bit of reality for us. We’ve been to three hospital hospitals today, in Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle, and the welcome they’ve given us is amazing. It has been humbling to be honest and I have to thank all the families and the staff, they’ve been great."

As well as his playing staff Coleman was joined by assistant Kit Symons, donning festive jumpers and Santa hats as they met children from the local area.

Coleman said it was good for his players to break out of their ‘bubble’ and said they were bowled over by the reception they received.

Two-year-old Leah Partland received a visit from the SAFC squad at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Two-year-old Leah Partland received a visit from the SAFC squad at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

"It is good for the players to get out and put smiles on faces," he said.

"Football is a sheltered and guarded world, we live an a bit of a bubble and it is unrealistic. But as strange as it sounds I think players always wonder how they’re going to be received. It’s nothing for us to really to get out and about and it has been great for everyone."

Club captain John O’Shea echoed his manager’s sentiments and said the squad were thrilled to support the community.

He said: "We really look forward to these visits every year – it is a humbling experience. Being in hospital is never fun for anyone, especially for children, and even less so at Christmas time.

Chris Coleman gives a hug to baby Logan Steel, aged 28 days, from South Shields at Sunderland Royal Infirmary, joined by his assistant Kit Symons and Logan's parents.

Chris Coleman gives a hug to baby Logan Steel, aged 28 days, from South Shields at Sunderland Royal Infirmary, joined by his assistant Kit Symons and Logan's parents.

"As a squad we enjoy being able to get out into the community and visit the children and their families. Hopefully our visits go a little way to help the youngsters at what must be a difficult time for them and their families."

Members of the Sunderland AFC squad meet Phoebe Dodds, five, of Consett, at the University Hospital of North Durham.

Members of the Sunderland AFC squad meet Phoebe Dodds, five, of Consett, at the University Hospital of North Durham.

Tristan Thompson, age 4, from Grangetown meets Lee Cattermole and Robbin Ruiter at the University Hospital of North Durham.

Tristan Thompson, age 4, from Grangetown meets Lee Cattermole and Robbin Ruiter at the University Hospital of North Durham.

Sunderland AFC stars and chief executive Martin Bain pictured with four-month-old Ruby Waugh, of Chester-le-Street, at the UniversityHospital of North Durham.

Sunderland AFC stars and chief executive Martin Bain pictured with four-month-old Ruby Waugh, of Chester-le-Street, at the UniversityHospital of North Durham.

Sunderland AFC players and chief executive Martin Bain with staff from the Treetops ward at the University Hospital of North Durham.

Sunderland AFC players and chief executive Martin Bain with staff from the Treetops ward at the University Hospital of North Durham.