Is the Christmas period perhaps the only time where sympathy is felt towards a footballer, or is it the time where footballers pay their debt to the karma gods?

As footballers we have great jobs, it’s a healthy job, it’s a passion and a love for most people involved in it, and for the hours we work it’s well paid.

Of course better for some than others. Christmas time comes around and it’s the festive season, and parties and family gatherings are being arranged. 

Joyous plans to meet people have fun, drink and eat too much. Everybody is on holidays relaxing and enjoying themselves.

But as a footballer it’s not about that, it’s about travel plans for games. It’s about making sure to eat the right foods and drinking the right fluids to recover between games and training.

It’s easy to feel sorry for myself when I’m up early to head off training and everybody else is in bed. I’ve done the training on Christmas day and staying in a hotel after.

For the last few Christmases my family and friends are all at home in a different country together and enjoying themselves. This is the choice I made when I got involved in football as a career.

Festive spirit: The Wimbledon squad visited the Shooting Star CHASE hospice in Hampton

Like every club I’ve been at we get involved in the community a bit more at Christmas time. This time was a little different because we got together as a squad and put some money together and as skipper I went and bought about 50 decent presents for children.

We wrapped them up at our training ground, some doing a better job than others. We visited the children’s ward at the St Georges in Tooting. The following week we also visited the shooting star hospice in Hampton for very sick children.

I think I know the lads I work, eat, travel, play and live with for a year but I don’t really. You see another side to some of the lads when we visit sick children.

The jokes, the complaining, the arguing, the moaning, the slagging all stop. Big smiles and generosity of spirit come out. It’s incredible to be part of.

It’s a complete mixture of emotions, thanking whatever god or angel or lucky stars for the blessings in your life.

I feel guilty about the concern, worry or stress I have about my job or in my life when you meet a sick child who is smiling and happy because he or she got to meet you. 

For that few moments they forget about the situation when we all pile in for a picture and smile.

Reality check: Bennett says the visit puts football in perspective

Parents thank you for coming in, they all look shattered. Your heart goes out to them, I feel very happy to have done something but very sad that I couldn’t do more.

I feel powerless and insignificant but proud and invigorated. We meet all different people from different social, ethnic, and religious back rounds, illness doesn’t care.

At the end of the hospital visit the nurse who has been with us, gathers us around and thanks us for coming in. She says it made her and the children’s day.

I’m blown away by the attitude of the staff, every day dealing with the huge ranges of emotions, stresses and responsibilities. We thank her as we leave.

I’m unable to tell her just how impressed and humbled I am by her and the other staff. The hospice staff are the same, a nurse tells me she is working all over Christmas and I’m in complete awe of them again I feel guilty for complaining about my own life.

I feel like I’ve met my hero, the complete admiration I have for this person, I’ve just met, and a complete stranger. The parents, the siblings, the children themselves are inspirational.

I can’t really remember many games I’ve played in, I’d have to really concentrate to remember which games are in which seasons and I’d have no chance of remembering individual results but I can remember every single Christmas club visit to a children’s ward. 

I’ve been very lucky to have played against some great players and in some great stadiums. I have no jerseys from those players but I do have an email from parents in Southampton who appreciated our visit and meeting their child. 

We get back down to training and working, the competitive angry animals return. The shouting and work intensity is back, the joking and the moaning and the complaining return straight away.

But I will take away and keep hold of a lesson, and when I’m worried in future and can’t sleep I’ll count my blessings instead of sheep.

Happy Christmas,