IT WAS a special visit that helped put the smiles back on the faces of some of Hampshire's poorly children.

Young patients at Southampton General Hospital were given a treat this afternoon when players from Saints' first-team squad popped in for the afternoon.

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The Premier League stars toured the wards where they posed for pictures, signed autographs and handed out gifts.

For the sick youngsters, many of who are battling serious illness, it was a day that visibly helped boost their spirits.

Joe Scully is a 12-year-old Saints fan from Shirley who suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and his face lit up as he spoke with his heroes.

“It's really exciting,” said Joe. “Getting the chemo isn't very nice, but meeting the Saints players has really cheered me up.”

His mum, Caitriona, 46, said: “It's quite inspirational. It's been so tough over the past few months, but this has made him really happy, to know that they care.”

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While this was a day for the children, it also had an impact on the players.

Star striker Rickie Lambert said: “It means a lot to us. Obviously, it means everything to the kids.

“You're only putting a smile on their face, but when they see you walk through the door it makes you feel really special that they look up to us the way they do.

“I've got three kids, so it touches home when I see kids who are not as fortunate as mine.”

Midfielder Steven Davis added: “It's a privilege. You can't imagine how hard it is for them and their parents, but it's nice to be able to come round and try and put a smile on their face.”

Healthcare play specialist Claire Pickett said: “It's brilliant that they come and do so much for us, and just do so much for the families and the kids, because they don't have to do it.”