Christmas came early at Croydon University Hospital this week as players from Crystal Palace FC visited patients and handed out gifts.

First team players Patrick Van Aanholt and Scott Dann, plus Palace Ladies Freya Holdaway and Ciara Watling, visited the hospital’s acute care of the elderly service and the Rupert Bear children’s ward on Thursday December 13 to spread festive cheer.

One of the patients they met was 71-year-old Barry Horstead from Selsdon. Having been an avid football fan since he went to his very first match with his dad in 1955, Barry felt emotional at meeting the players.

“I was so touched by them taking the time to come to the hospital,” he said. “Football to me is such a family thing and all about the people, so I think it is wonderful that they do this.”

On the Rupert Bear ward, the players handed out gifts and posed for photos with staff and children.

Among the children who met the players was Khyan Edwards, 12, from Croydon, who said: “It was a really nice surprise and good that they took time to come to visit us.”

Matthew Kershaw Chief Executive of Croydon Health Services NHS Trust said: “We really appreciated the generous gifts and the time that the Crystal Palace players spent with our young and elderly patients.

“The visit gave everyone at the hospital such a wonderful boost and for all those they met, created some great memories to treasure.”