Football sometimes seems like the most important thing in the world, but visiting the local hospitals certainly puts everything into perspective. Next week Rotherham United’s first-team squad will be visiting Rotherham Hospital and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.
Footballers are in a privileged position where fans recognise and support us, so it’s great to give something back to the community, and I always feel truly honoured to get the opportunity to visit these places and put smiles on people’s faces.
The visits are always a day of mixed emotions, because it is very hard seeing children who are poorly, especially as I have children of my own. At times I’ve struggled to control my feelings and hold back the tears, but the main thing is to put a smile on the children’s faces, If we can have a positive effect on someone’s life for that day, then it’s worth it. To see a child’s eyes light up when we come into a room is very humbling and makes me feel so proud.
When my eldest son was taken ill and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we stayed in hospital for just over a week, so I can relate to the young children and parents who we visit. It’s such a difficult time, filled with worry and sadness for everyone involved.
At such times, anything to take the focus away from the situation is a welcome relief. My son is football mad so, looking back, if a football team had visited the ward during his stay, he would have been completely made up, and for that hour his condition would not have been in the forefront of our minds.
During my visit, I just want to provide that feeling to numerous families who are enduring troublesome, tiring and exasperating times.
It is also important to recognise the tremendous work done by all the staff at the hospital and hospice. They do an incredible job looking after the patients and it is a great chance for us to say thank you to them personally. Sometimes they are even bigger football fans than the children and they are excited to see us, so it’s nice to meet them too.
While at Coventry, I visited the premature-baby unit by myself and it really struck home the incredible work the hospital staff undertake.
I spoke to parents of these tiny premature babies who were in incubators, and they were visibly upset that their child was so fragile. Nevertheless, they couldn’t praise the staff enough for the incredible work they were doing in supporting them. It seemed to me that they were working miracles in there, and I really do take my hat off to them.
As a footballer, I believe we should take advantage of our position and do as much as we can to help the local community. I am looking forward to next week and hopefully brightening up someone’s day.
Meanwhile, we’re at home to QPR on Saturday and the lads are all desperate to get a result for the new interim management duo, Paul Warne and John Breckin, who have been great with us in training this week.