Members of the First Team squad visited young patients at Southampton General Hospital on Wednesday.
The tour of the wards was arranged for this week following the postponement of the club’s annual trip there prior to Christmas, which had to be rearranged from last December due to an outbreak of the norovirus.
With so many representatives from the Club in attendance, the squad made their way around the hospital in two groups – starting at the specialised inpatient paediatric/psychiatric unit at Bursledon House, before going on to visit the Piam Brown Children's oncology and haematology Centre, amongst other areas, to bring smiles to a few young faces.
The team were supported by the Saints Foundation in spreading some much needed cheer to lift the spirits of the young people unfortunate to be hospitalised both short and long term.
Small Saints gifts including signed posters, as well as chocolates and soft toys were distributed to the patients, whilst larger presents were donated to the wards.
All of the presents were paid for by the players themselves, with their contributions matched by the Saints Foundation to make sure there were plenty to go around.
The whole squad stayed to sign autographs and pose for photographs throughout afternoon, with their efforts warmly received by patients, parents and hospital staff alike.
Team captain Adam Lallana highlighted the importance of visits such as these, with the reality striking a chord with the skipper, who became a father for the first time not so long ago.
“It does impact on us,” he said. “It puts everything in perspective for a lot of the lads here who have got kids of their own and when you know kids that are ill, it’s so sad to see. If we can give a little bit back and put a smile on their face then it’s something that all the lads are happy doing.
“You see that some of the children are Southampton fans as well and there’s that recognition when they’re talking to the players as well. They’re almost a little bit in awe of you so you try and make them feel normal because we’re just normal people at the end of the day.
“We’re all so fortunate to be doing what we love day-in-day-out and maybe sometimes you do take that for granted so it does you the world of good and hopefully the kids take the same from it too hopefully by seeing us it gives them more optimism looking on.”
Rickie Lambert was equally moved by the stories from some of the patients, and revealed his empathy for the families involved.
“It’s a bit emotional,” said the England frontman. “When you see some of the kids you realise how lucky you are and how brave they are. I’ve got so much respect for the parents too because some of the kids have gone through a hell of a lot an early age so I feel for them as well.
“I think every football team goes to their local hospital now which I think is very important because you can see how much it means to people.
“It won’t get headlines maybe, but it’s nice to see the camera crews here for it. We’re not here because the cameras crews are though, we’re here because it might make a few people's day or week, or month and probably put a smile on their face, that’s it really.”