Festive cheer arrived today at Whipps Cross Hospital when players from West Ham United paid a visit to patients and staff.

Captain Kevin Nolan led the way along with Andy Carroll, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Joey O'Brien, Matt Jarvis and Modibo Maiga in dropping into the Acorn children's ward at the Leytonstone hospital.

The players, all wearing Santa hats, gave out goody bags which contained footballs, scarves and other items and happily chatted with the young patients and their families. They also posed for photographs and signed autographs for the hard-working staff.

Skipper Nolan said he and the players were only too pleased to put some smiles on the faces of those having to spend time in hospital over Christmas.

"It means a lot to see them just smile and that us visiting has given them a boost," said the captain. "I am a dad myself so I can understand what the mums and dads are going through when they are by their children's bedsides and the concerns you have, so if we can give them something positive about by being here, then that is a great thing."

Nolan also had words of praise for the hospital staff: "I think what they do, the doctors and nurses and all the staff, is just fantastic. My wife was a nurse when we lived back in Liverpool, so I understand the work they put in. They were really pleased to see us, which is really nice, but we were only too pleased to be here."

A personal donation from all the players was presented by Nolan to the ward's modern matron Eileen Elms. The money will be used to benefit the patients and staff of the Acorn ward in a variety of ways both now and in the future.

Winger Jarvis said the players were more than happy to help out, adding: "To come here and just spend a moment means a lot to everyone and we were just as glad to be here. To show appreciation for the work the staff put in is important too and if we can help make it a little brighter for those in hospital, then that is a good thing."

The visit is just one of several the players will take part in during the season and the visit to a local hospital at Christmas time is an annual fixture in the team diary.

Whipps Cross Hospital