MIDDLESBROUGH FC players brought Christmas cheer to dozens of sick youngsters yesterday when they visited the children's wards of local hospitals.

The stars distributed presents given by supporters on behalf of Roary's Children's Charity at the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, and the North Tees University Hospital, Stockton. One group of players also visited Butterwick Children's Hospice, in Stockton.

Club captain Paul Ince said: "We'd like to thank the supporters and companies for their outstanding generosity. We all know how much these visits mean to children who are too poorly to leave hospital over the festive period.

"The players always find it a very moving experience and we are only too glad to brighten up their Christmas by paying them a visit and signing autographs and posters."

The annual appeal was kicked off by Boro and the club's main sponsors, BT Cellnet, which donated chocolate goodies. NTL, 3663, Pelican Rouge, Chocolate Temptations and Eden Vale Oil also donated gifts.