Kate Longhurst

Hammers spread Christmas cheer far and wide!

West Ham United players headed out into the local community to spread love and cheer during the festive season.

The Hammers’ Men’s and Women’s first-team and Academy of Football squads were all represented at more than a dozen events across east London and Essex as part of the Players’ Project, the most ambitious and integrated community programme ever created by a Premier League club.

The visits were organised with support from West Ham United Foundation, the Club’s award-winning official charity, which has been delivering life-changing opportunities and support to thousands of local people for over 25 years.

Manuel Lanzini, Conor Coventry and Jamal Baptiste visited Newham Hospital in Plaistow.

The Club has had a long relationship with the hospital, with many players being born there or using its services, and has formed a partnership with Barts Charity, which provides support and raises funds for Barts Health NHS Trust five hospitals – Newham, Mile End, The Royal London, St Bartholomew’s and Whipps Cross.

During their Christmas visit, the Hammers trio first dropped into the Hospital’s Wellbeing Hub, Rainbow Centre for children and young people and Critical Care Unit.

Later the same week, Women’s goalkeeper Sophie Hillyerd was joined by mascots Hammerhead and Bubbles for her own visit to the Rainbow Center.

Young fan Buster welcomed the players to the Rainbow Centre

Kurt Zouma was joined by Academy youngsters Will Greenidge and Remy Coddington in showing support for Ambition Aspire Achieve’s Kevin Jenkins OBE Newham Christmas Toy Appeal in Stratford.

Ambition Aspire Achieve (AAA) is an official charity partner of the Hammers and delivers a wide range of projects and services from their two hubs and across local communities in Newham. Their work particularly focuses on and supports children and young people most in need, including those with disabilities or additional needs.

Part of their work in Newham is the Christmas Toy Appeal, now in its 45th year and named in honour of the charity’s founder, the late Kevin Jenkins OBE, and the players helped select and pack toys to be distributed to local children in need.

Jarrod Bowen, Darren Randolph and Freddie Potts paid a special Christmas visit to Saint Francis Hospice in Romford, which provides care and support to individuals with a life-limiting illness, as well as their carers and family members, completely free of charge.

Saint Francis Hospice is one of the largest adult hospices in the UK, serving the populations of Havering, Brentwood, Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and West Essex.

“The staff here are a real inspiration,” said Bowen. “They work extremely hard and they care immensely for everyone at this hospice. It was clear to see how special the staff are as soon as I walked in. Everyone was talking about how nice the nurses are and how much support they give everyone.

“It was really nice for us to come down here and to put a smile on so many people’s faces. Christmas is a time of joy and spirit and it was brilliant to spread some joy.  I just want to say thank you to everyone at Saint Francis Hospice, it was really special and inspiring for us players.”

Kurt Zouma packed toys for Ambition Aspire Achieve's Christmas Appeal

Łukasz Fabiański, Tomáš Souček and Levi Laing showed their support for Irons Supporting Foodbanks, who have a longstanding relationship with the Club. Joint-Chairman, David Sullivan has made several personal donations throughout the years, including when he helped to fund the purchase of a new delivery van, which helped to collect and deliver food and clothing to homeless centres across Newham.

The trio joined Irons Supporting Foodbanks founder John Ratomski at their container at Chadwell Heath, a stone's throw away from the Club’s historic training ground, where Ratomski showed them through the many items of clothing that have been donated.

After helping sort through boxes of clothing, the players then helped load boxes into cars and vans and headed on the road to Tunmarsh School in Plaistow, part of Newham PRUs (Pupil Referral Units), where they will be given to young people who are in need of them.

Irons Supporting Foodbanks paid a visit to the training ground

Vladimír Coufal and Flynn Downes and Academy goalkeeper Jacob Knightbridge visited Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

There, the trio spent their time speaking with the children, taking pictures with families and staff, and handing out goodie bags as they spent valuable time with those on the hospital’s Tropical Lagoon and Tropical Bay wards.

Aaron Cresswell, Ben Johnson and Angelo Ogbonna became West Ham’s three Secret Santas, heading out into the local community to delivery gifts to deserving supporters.

Last, but by no means least, Ogbonna and Kate Longhurst joined Any Old Irons at their Christmas social at The Boleyn Tavern in East Ham – a traditional base for West Ham supporters for decades.

Supported by the West Ham United Foundation, Any Old Irons uses a shared passion for the Hammers to bring supporters aged 60-plus together to socialise, learn new skills, share their fandom and meet players and staff, past and present.