Squad spread Christmas cheer

West Ham United players visited King George Hospital in Goodmayes to spread some Christmas cheer to staff and patients.

Captain Kevin Nolan, James Collins, Stewart Downing, Matt Jarvis, James Tomkins, Razvan Rat, Jack Collison, Matt Taylor and Stephen Henderson put smiles on faces during their festive visit to the Barley Lane hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

The players distributed bags full of Hammers goodies in the Clover Children's Ward and The Cedar Centre day unit for cancer patients and each made a personal donation, while happily signing autographs and posing for photographs with patients, family members and staff alike.

View our King George Hospital Photo Gallery

It was evident from the reaction of all those they met that the players' visit had brought a moment of cheer during what, for some, could be a difficult time.

Tomkins told West Ham TV he and his team-mates were happy to put smiles on faces ahead of the festive season, saying: "It's obviously nice to come over to King George Hospital and give a little bit back to the community, meet the kids and see the hospital staff doing a good job.

King George Hospital

The squad meet the staff in the Clover Children's Ward

"We just pray they get home for Christmas, which is what everyone wants to see.

"There are a lot of freebies in the bags we gave out, so the kids looked chuffed, even if they didn't know who we or West Ham are! Some of their parents were West Ham fans as the hospital is local to us, so it was nice to put smiles on their kids' faces and see them upbeat."

The main item used for autographs was the 2014 Official Calendar, with the players featured quick to point that fact out to the team-mates who had not secured a month!

"I was just signing bits of paper!" joked Tomkins. "I didn't quite make it this year."

While the No5 did not make it into the calendar, he was certainly a hit with many of the staff he met at King George, who were delighted to pose for a photograph with the defender.

"Of course, it's nice for the whole place to see smiles on faces as hospitals can be quite down places at times. I just think it's good for us to give a bit back and show our support for the staff.

"When you see the families who are struggling it can be heartbreaking at times when you visit the hospital, but it certainly puts it in perspective after a defeat. We were obviously disappointed after Tuesday but meeting the kids cheered us up too, playing little games with them and that."

King George Hospital

The players enjoy some colouring-in with one young patient

Among those to meet the players were Cedar Centre staff nurse Terri Shepherd, matron Claire McGregor and Macmillan Cancer information officer Alex Holmes - all delighted Hammers fans.

McGregor explained: "We give chemotherapy to patients who have a variety of cancers. We are a satellite  unit to our main centre at Queen's Hospital in Romford for people who are having less complex chemotheraphy. My Dad is a lifelong fan so to get some autographs myself to take back to him was great. He used to take me over when i was little and i used to fall asleep during every match! I still go over there now and I married a West Ham fan too!"

Holmes added: "I married a lifelong West Ham fan so I decided to join the cause as well. The patients really appreciate it when the players visit and the staff do too."

Shepherd overcame her initial shyness to pose for photographs with her favourite players before the whole ward staff got together for a team photo with a difference. She then explained her personal reasons for welcoming the visit: "They are all pretty good looking to be honest and it's nice that the local team come to support the local residents from the area! I like Carlton Cole the best, and I got a bit starstruck. On a serious note, at this time of year, it's nice to get people together and spread a little festive cheer."