A SURPRISE visit by Clarets players was the perfect Christmas tonic for poorly children in hospital.

Armed with gifts, around 20 players from the first team, and reserves, took time out from preparing for this week’s clash against Watford to visit youngsters in Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Teddies, chocolates, scarves, and signed Burnley FC albums, were handed around to children on the ward, who were thrilled to meet their heroes.

The team were also joined by manager Sean Dyche, and mascot Bertie Bee.

Defender Michael Duff said the visit is a highlight of the team’s year.

He said: “It is a privilege to be able to give something back to the community, and it is something we really enjoy doing.

“Especially at this time of year, when it is all about families and being together, you realise how awful it is for people who have children in hospital.

“It can be heart-breaking to see children like this, but if we can put a smile on their faces, then that is priceless.”

Sarah Caton, ward manager, said: “We would like to say a massive thank you to the Burnley team for coming to support us, and the children. They all love it.

“It gives them such a lift. It is better than any treatment we could give them. It really does give them a massive boost.”

Clarets fan Callum Slade, 12, from Burnley, who suffers from crohn’s disease, said: “I was really excited to meet the players. I have met them before when I was a mascot for the team, but it was nice to be able to speak to the players and have my photograph taken with them.”

Burnley fan Tim Brierley, from Haslingden, whose 10-month-old daughter Mia was on the ward with bronchiolitis, said he was thrilled to meet the players.

He said: “I had tickets to see the Burnley versus Blackburn match, but Mia was admitted to hospital that day, so I missed it.

“It’s lovely that the players come and see the sick children. It brightens up their day.”