THIEVES have left a football club with just one ball between 260 players after breaking in and stealing £1,000 worth of equipment.

About 200 footballs and two goals were taken overnight on Tuesday from Middleton Rangers’ lock-up at Middleton St George, near Darlington.

First aid kits are also thought to have been taken during the theft.

Chairman of the club Les Hughes said it was a massive blow for the club.

“We had just invested in a load of footballs for training and matches and now all but one have gone,” he said.

The equipment was stored in a secured container at Middleton St George Cricket Club.

Describing what had happened, Mr Hughes said yesterday: “I got a phone call this morning, at about 8am, from a friend who lives opposite the container. He just said ‘I think you’d better come down here.

It looks like there’s been a break in’.

“When I went down, the police were already there and it was obvious someone had snapped the lock off and taken a lot of stuff.

“I never thought anyone would want goals and footballs, really. It’s quite sad.

“They did leave us one football, right in the middle of the doorway – as if to say, I never thought anyone would want goals and footballs, really.

It’s quite sad Chairman Les Hughes ‘ ‘We’ll let you have one ball’.”

Middleton Rangers has only been running for five years, but already has about 260 players on its books, spread across 16 teams and four leagues.

Mr Hughes said: “It will take a few weeks to get sorted again. We have some old goals and balls that will act as a temporary measure, but it’s not ideal.

“We have matches to play this weekend, which we must be ready for otherwise we could be fined by the league.”

Acting Sergeant Stuart Dawson, of Darlington police, said half of the balls were Mitre Explorers and the others made by Avec. The Avec balls are rare and could be traced, he said.

“There must have been a vehicle up there at some point, so were are hoping to get some witnesses that way,” he added.

If anyone has information, they are asked to call Darlington police on 0345-60-60-365, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800-555-111.