YOUNG footballers, sick and tired of people making a mess of their playing fields, took matters into their own hands by staging a clean-up operation.

Players at Spennymoor Town Youth FC volunteered for a morning of action, picking up litter and rubbish that had been dumped on the fields where they train and play matches.

The club’s base, at the former Tudhoe Grange Upper School site, has been plagued by antisocial behaviour, criminal damage and fly-tipping in recent months.

Metal poles around the pitches have been wrecked, barriers promoting the FA’s Respect campaign were stolen, dog mess left on the grass where children play and cans and bottles are thought to have been left behind by youths who have been congregating to drink there.

Academy manager Andy Lowe said the problems have had a practical impact and been disheartening for those who help or play for the club.

He said: “We have an amazing site with five pitches and 320 kids playing football and training with us but some people, we hear rumours about local teenagers, think it is a free-for-all and they can do what they want on the fields and in the surrounding trees.

“The problems have escalated in the last few months so we asked for volunteers to get on board and collect some of the rubbish.

“It is disheartening for everyone at the club which has done a lot for the area and the volunteers who put in a lot of time.

“I was really proud of the effort from youth players who volunteered for the litter pick. We got bags of rubbish, parasols, old tyres, drinks bottles - the amount of rubbish we cleared in a short space of time was shocking.

“I’d like to issue a plea from the club for everyone to respect the facility.”

Police and club officials are working on measures to improve security on the site.

PCSO Helen Gaskarth said: “It is really unfortunate.

“They have good fields and are getting more members joining, it is taking of well and a positive thing for kids to be involved with.

“I helped out on the day and did a leaflet drop to raise awareness.

“I’d ask people to responsibly dispose of their waste and if they see or hear activity on the fields that is not part of the football to report it to Spennymoor neighbourhood policing team on 101.”