Members of the Portsmouth Football Club team visited patients and staff across some of the children’s wards at Queen Alexandra Hospital. The team spoke to patients and staff and handed out presents.
Christmas is arguably one of, if not THE best time of the year and on top of the religious traditions involved in celebrating the occasion, the gifts of love, health, laughter and of course presents too, take centre-stage.
All of these festive factors are usually shared with families and friends, however, for a certain group of people, the Christmas period is all about giving back to the local community who support them week in, week out.
This afternoon, a certain annual event took place at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, whereby members of the playing squad and management team of Portsmouth Football Club pay a visit to poorly children, who are unfortunately spending their holidays being treated in hospital.
At around 1:30pm, a blend of 17 players, combined mostly of first-team names as well as a handful of academy graduates, arrived at the main reception of QA to be greeted by a group of nurses and hospital staff, who began to direct them around the site alongside First-Team Manager Kenny Jackett and Assistant Manager Joe Gallen.
Jackett, who has been in charge of the club since June 2017, stressed how big a relationship Portsmouth FC and the local community have, and how Pompey go above and beyond in their efforts to continue building those: “I think Pompey is traditionally, and really still is now, a community club and to support the local community because let’s be fair, the local community support us at the football club very well and we really do appreciate that.
“You can see the hardship they (the patients) are going through and the smiles on their faces. Obviously, the presents are a big part of it and as ever, meeting and engaging with the players too is a really big thing.” – Kenny continued.
The gaffer concluded by saying: “It’s a fantastic club Portsmouth – the integration with the community and in particular with the kids down here in the wards, seeing the smiles on their faces and watching them open their presents is great.”
As well as those involved with the visit to the Portsmouth-based hospital, there was also a collective group of players attending a similar trip over at Southampton General Hospital – this included the likes of Brett Pitman, Gareth Evans and John Marquis to name a few.
Back at QA, players such as Ronan Curtis, Anton Walkes and Bradley Lethbridge were being shown around all of the different children-specific wards across the hospital, including the ER, the chemotherapy unit and also the outpatients and admissions departments. 25-year-old forward Ellis Harrison was one of the big names in attendance and he truly appreciated how important initiatives like these are. He told us during the visit: “We’ve just met the most inspirational girl that I’ve ever met in my life, her name is Hope, and she is so positive! Obviously, she’s had her problems but to meet her and see her smiling, you come out after thinking it was all so worth it!”
Harrison added how much appearances like these mean to the kids benefitting from them: “You do come out from there sad sometimes but there I came out and I knew how happy the appearance had made her, and she was, so that’s brilliant to see!”
After the heart-warming trip around the hospital had been completed and the children had all received their Pompey-related Christmas gifts, those present were greeted by the Sing For Life Choir in the main entrance, which led to some jubilant scenes as the entire Pompey squad, including manager Kenny Jackett, joined in with the festivities and carol singing.
After a few of renditions of some classic Christmas carols, lead vocalist and Blues vice-captain Lee Brown told of how proud he is to be involved with such a special football club: “There’s not much to life if you haven’t got your health. This was inspirational and a credit to everyone really, every player has turned up here and got right involved you know so, as a club… the players, the staff, everyone has got to take credit today!”
As explained by the Blues left-back, who netted his maiden goal for Pompey in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Peterborough United, moments like this mean just as much to the players as they do to the children: “It’s very important and it shows the players, the club, that just giving that little bit back you know, sometimes it’s a couple of hours out of your day but it’s the most important couple of hours for me!”
In addition to his previous comments, Ellis Harrison pointed out: “A lot of people are passionate about it of course, but there’s a lot more to football… we’ve just been up to the chemo ward and you realise that football means absolutely nothing. You go up there and everyone’s so positive, and it’s good to see because we do a job that we love and they’re in there, praising us and it just means a lot
“There’s a lot of people from all walks of life who support us, and it’s nice to give back!”