PATIENTS at a North-East hospice got an early Christmas treat when Middlesbrough FC players arrived to wish them the best of the season.

Striker Rudy Gestede and midfielder Marcus Browne, along with former Boro player and the team’s current goalkeeping coach Danny Coyne, paid a visit to Butterwick Hospice Care, in Stockton, to the delight of patients, families, volunteers, and staff.

The footballers spent time with hospice day care patients, who taught them to play dominoes, and visited families in the In-Patient Unit, handing out Christmas gifts of chocolates and Boro scarves.

Rudy Gestede presents Gerry Knowles with a MFC Christmas gift

Despite being beaten at dominoes, all three enjoyed their visit to Butterwick. Rudy Gestede said: “We’ve had a really good time, especially playing dominoes – I didn’t lose, I just didn’t win!

“The people around us are doing their best to show everyone here a nice Christmas time, so if we can come and spend a bit of our time with them and give a bit of happiness, that makes us happy also.

“It was a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank all the people working here.”

Rudy and Marcus were outmatched at dominos by more experienced players

Danny Coyne said: “It’s very humbling for us to come here, and it puts a lot of things in perspective for us, especially at this moment in time.

“It’s amazing what the people here do, and I hope we’ve put a smile on a couple of peoples’ faces, and taken their minds off things. It’s been great to meet some fans and talk football, and just spend some time with them.”

Ann-Marie Anderson, Butterwick’s Fundraising Manager, said: “It’s so great that these guys come out into the community and see the great work that goes on.

“These guys are figureheads for our community, they’re well-loved local celebrities, and it’s lovely that they’ve taken the time to come and meet patients, see what goes on locally, and spread a little bit of joy.

“The patients have all been very excited. We’ve got a few big Boro fans in, and there’s a lovely buzz around the place. We’re very grateful to Rudy, Marcus, and Danny for coming in, and to Middlesbrough Football Club  for making the visit happen.”