Leeds United’s players showed the caring side of football during a day that some of the most seriously-ill youngsters in Yorkshire will never forget. Paul Robinson reports.
LEEDS United players were in champion form as they provided a Christmas pick-me-up for young hospital patients.
United’s first-team squad took time out on Tuesday, December 11, for a tour of the paediatric wards of Leeds General Infirmary.
They succeeded in putting smiles on the faces of the children, many of whom will have to spend part of the festive period in hospital.
And the players also told how their annual Christmas visit to LGI places the ups and downs of life on the football pitch firmly in perspective.
Midfielder Michael Brown said: “It makes you realise what it’s all about.
“To be able to cheer the kids up and give them a bit of a break in their daily routine is great.”
Brown’s midfield colleague Aidan White, meanwhile, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve done the Christmas visit here.
“It’s a good way for us to give something back and it’s also a bit of a reality check.
“Seeing the children makes you realise how lucky you are to be healthy and able to spend Christmas with your family.
“Getting the chance to make a difference [to the patients] is a privilege, really.”
The United squad’s tour of the hospital took them round units such as oncology, haematology and neuroscience.
They handed out goody bags of Leeds-themed Christmas gifts, including club calendars and cuddly toys.
Teenage star Sam Byram even found time to play building block games with two-year-old Brooke McCulloch, who was in the LGI for an MRI scan.
Brooke’s mum, Clare, from Belle Isle, Leeds, said: “It’s nice to know that there’s people outside the hospital thinking about the patients in here.”
Other youngsters to meet the squad included eight-year-old James Driver, from Rothwell.
James, who has cerebral palsy, is a season ticket holder at United and was proudly wearing his replica club shirt for yesterday’s visit.
His grandmother, Muriel Wilson, said: “He’s due to be having some physio but we managed to get it delayed.
“James would never have forgiven us if he’d missed the chance to meet the players.
“It’s really good of them to give up their afternoon like this.
“You see a lot of bad publicity about footballers so today’s a really refreshing change.”
Melissa Green, 13, from Huddersfield, was another patient delighted by the visit – despite her conflicted sporting loyalties.
She confessed: “I support Huddersfield Town – but Leeds are my second choice now!”