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Former football star backs weekly's Christmas appeal

Local papers have been getting in the festive spirit early by launching Christmas gift appeals for children.

Archant London’s Newham Recorder has enlisted the help of former Premiership star Tony Cottee for its 32nd annual toy appeal while Northcliffe’s Dover Express and Deal and Sandwich Express are collecting gifts for a children’s hospital ward.

Mr Cottee, left, met a group of local schoolchildren when he launched the Recorder’s campaign at Upton Park, the home of his former club West Ham.

The star lent his support to what he described as a “wonderful campaign” and pledged to do all he could to help the title collect thousands of toys for Newham children who would otherwise have none this Christmas.

He said: “My roots are very firmly in the East End, so it’s great for me to give something back.

“I’ve got three children of my own. I know what Christmas means to the kids.”

Last year’s appeal provided a record 13,500 gifts for more than 3,250 children to open on Christmas morning while nearly 1,000 children enjoyed a Christmas party and a further 1,500 children went to watch a pantomime.

In Kent, journalists at the Dover Express and Deal and Sandwich Express are urging readers to dig deep and buy gifts for children in the district staying on a ward at Buckland Hospital in Dover.

The special ward, called Carousel, deals with everything from babies who have birthing problems to teens needing growth hormone injections as well as offering physio, speech and occupational therapy.

After a member of the nursing team contacted the Express asking if staff would donate chocolate stockings, news editor Kathy Bailes decided the she and reporters Rhys Griffiths and Yamurai Zendera could do much better.

Parent company KRNMedia has already donated 100 seats for a pantomime in Folkestone while local businesses including P&O Ferries have been approached to contribute.

And the team is organising events including a visit to the hospital by the pantomime cast.