THE Clarets paid a festive visit to the children’s wards at Blackburn and Burnley hospitals yesterday as they aimed to spread Christmas cheer.

The squad handed out gifts to poorly children, signed autographs and posed for photographs.

Sean Dyche led half of his squad to Royal Blackburn Hospital and the Clarets chief said the yearly visit was essential for the club.

“I’ve been here a number of years and it’s always important. It’s hard enough being in hospital at any time but particularly this time of year,” he said.

“To see some of the kids is a moment of relief from hopefully not too serious issues, but I know there is a few in here with quite serious conditions.

“It’s something different for the kids to meet a few players and it breaks up their day.”

Staff at Royal Blackburn Hospital had praised the club and the time they put into the visit since Dyche arrived and the Turf Moor boss said fostering stronger links in the community had been key for him.

“It started when I got here, this idea of how many relationships we can build off the pitch,” he said. “I’ve been so pleased with some of the work done by Neil Hart and his community team and carrying people within the club.

“There’s been loads of links made and some strong links. It’s particularly important for clubs like Burnley and a lot of the clubs in this part of the world now, they’re very important to the communities and they should be.

“Over the years we’ve enhanced that and I think the conduct of the players is exceptional at times like this. They are more than willing to give their bit of time to try and lighten the load on families at this time of year that are in this predicament.”

The team are certainly bringing plenty of cheer to supporters at Christmas, with the Clarets sixth in the Premier League.

“There’s a lot of good feeling about what the club’s done and what it is trying to do. I think the respect we have for that and for the community is something I spoke about when I got here,” Dyche added. “This is a reminder that there are some good things these lads do behind playing football.

“I think footballers get a raw deal sometimes across the country and these are reminders that they do care, they often have kids themselves and, particularly at Christmas, it enhances that feeling.”