Players at Royal Berks Hospital
It’s not new, it’s not necessarily original. If anything the football club’s traditional hospital visit has become a familiar sight for fans up and down the country; but that’s not to say it’s not a thoroughly magical experience.
Monday 16th December saw the Royals descend en masse to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, as Stephen Kelly, Chris Gunter, Alex Pearce, Sean Morrison, Jobi McAnuff, Garath McCleary and Adam Le Fondre aimed to spread some Christmas cheer to youngsters unfortunate enough to be spending the festive period away from home.
Some, like our skipper Jobi, are relative veterans of this type of event – whilst others could have been forgiven for feeling a little overawed by an experience that can certainly be an emotional one. It didn’t take Sean Morrison long to settle in though…the towering centre back managed to squeeze all of his 6 foot 5 frame onto a child’s easel in the playroom and began to show off his artistic talents – much to the bemusement of watching toddlers.
Adam Le Fondre was at home scoring goals of course, as he joined a couple of young boys for a game of table football – passing on his finishing expertise wherever possible. One of his fellow players was a very chirpy boy by the name of Russell, who soon had a partner in crime…in the form of a rather excitable Chris Gunter. The amiable Welsh international presented his new friend with an eye catching toy car, and in truth it was hard to tell who was the bigger kid….as both tried out their automobile with glee. The wheels raced around the hospital floors at some pace, with the game only briefly halting as ‘Gunts’ inadvertently sent the vehicle flying under Russell’s hospital bed. In the end both parties had to be dragged away to save playtime going on into the early hours….which was no surprise to a certain Garath McCleary, who is all too familiar with his close friend’s childish side. As godfather to McCleary’s children and a neighbour, Gunter is a frequent visitor to his former Forest teammate’s household…and has been known to keep the winger’s offspring up way past their bedtime!
However if Chris had a new chum, it certainly seemed Garath had also proved to be a hit – as a girl by the name of Hannah decided that she wanted to give something back to the Mad Stad’s midfield star, and presented him with a thoroughly impressive personalised drawing. In a day that provided plenty of laughs, it was a touching moment that clearly tugged on the heartstrings of the Jamaican international, who tightly clutched the artwork for the duration of his visit.
Elsewhere, it was easy to see that Stephen Kelly became a father earlier this year, as he took time out away from the group to chat with a number of young patients – listening intently, and attempting to put a smile on the face of one young lady as he produced a brand new Barbie doll from the Royal bag of goodies!
As the group made their way down the next corridor, they were stopped in their tracks by a passing Mum – who asked politely if Jobi and co would have a chat with her son on the other end of the phone! The team duly obliged…and the mobile was passed around the group, eventually falling into the hands of a slightly cheeky Le Fondre, who it’s safe to say was slightly twisting the words of the mad Royal on the other end of the line. “Shall I pass you on to Chris Gunter? No? Not bothered? I’ll put you back to Mum then….”.
Before time was called on the afternoon, Alex Pearce made sure his teammates summed up their thoughts as he took over the cameras of Reading FC Player as a makeshift presenter – providing plenty of outtakes for the blooper reel…much to the amusement of impromptu cameraman McCleary. Keep an eye out on YouTube for the results!
And so the day drew to a close, another memorable trip to the Royal Berks was complete and a thoroughly good time had by all. With a number of photographers capturing the event and ITV Meridian news crews in attendance, what can’t be denied is that the smiles on those young faces were real, and at a time where life is perhaps at its toughest for those unfortunate kids – for a couple of hours at least, parents, patients, and nurses alike enjoyed their Royal Christmas party.
Gunter makes a new friend! YouTube video.