IT was an early Christmas present for youngsters at the Royal Blackburn Hospital yesterday when Rovers players paid a visit.

The stars went to the children’s ward after training to hand out presents and chat with the young patients, their parents and staff.

Former England midfielder Danny Murphy said: “It puts everything into perspective coming here and seeing the kids. It brings home how important the health of your kids is and makes you take stock.

“People find it so difficult in situations like this, but it touches the lads’ hearts to be able to make a kid smile.

“What is an hour out of your day? It’s nothing really. It’s the least we can do and it’s so worthwhile.

“But one little boy was more excited about the penguin we gave him than he was about meeting me.”

Sister Mandy Kennedy from Blackburn took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to meet the footballers. She said: “It’s great all of them have come along, it’s such a lift for the children.”

Zohra Bhatti and her two-year-old Xavier were delighted to meet the players. She said: “My little man’s really happy with his jigsaw and chocolates. The players are so handsome! They don’t look bad on telly but it’s nothing like in real life.”

Suleman Mall, four, received a car toys from Marcus and Martin Olsson. His mum Fatima said: “He loves cars so I’m sure he’ll enjoy the gift but he was more excited about meeting the boys.

“Suley watches football with his big brothers and he recognised they were players straight away.”

Midfielder Jason Lowe said: “I feel very humble to be here. It isn’t every day you get a chance to do this and it puts a smile on the kids’ faces, it is very special to see.

“When you come to hospitals at a festive time of the year, everything else goes out of the window and it is great for us as well. We will be doing everything we can to get three points on Saturday for them.”