A football team’s preparations for an historic third round FA Cup tie were marred with misery after their dressing room was ransacked by thieves.
Intruders broke into the training centre of League Two Cheltenham Town while players prepared for their once-in-a-lifetime match against Everton.
The thieves rifled through player’s belongings at their training centre in Swindon Village, Glos., and stole wallets, smart phones and watches worth thousands of pounds.
It is also reported that they took car keys and stole property from the vehicles owned by Mark Yates’ squad, nicknamed the Robins, before making off.
But the defiant Robins players vowed not to let the burglars put them off their stride ahead of their clash.
Paul Godfrey, club secretary, said: “Obviously everyone’s really disappointed.
“Our players were going through their last preparations for the Everton game and for most of them it’s the biggest match of their careers so far.
“So to have this happen is the last thing they needed. Some of the phones which were taken had personal photos on them which you can’t replace.
“But sometimes adversity can unite a team and we hope that will be the case for us.”
The intruders broke into the changing rooms between 10.45am and noon on Sunday and police have since arrested and bailed two 17-year-old boys.
They added that some of the property stolen had also been recovered.
Striker Darryl Duffy voiced his disgust on Twitter at the theft of his Samsung Galaxy S3 mobile phone, appealing for its return.
He said: “If anybody comes across my Samsung galaxy s3 mobile phone, or is offered to buy one, let me know and I’ll pay you to get it back.
“It was stolen from me today, it’s white and has all my pics/videos of my kids in it so it means a lot to me. Cannot stand thieves and hope the wee s**ts that done this get what they deserve!”
He later tweeted that police had recovered his watch on another person’s wrist and had returned it.
Mark Yates said: “Obviously, it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and is not the ideal preparation for the game.
“We haven’t had any problems like this before. One of the club staff has worked here throughout the 10 years we have used the facilities as a base and not encountered any problems.
“So we are now going to have to review our procedures. It’s a shame but we are wondering whether the club have been targeted.
“A couple of the lads mentioned that other clubs have fallen victim to the same crime.”
Police are now appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
The FA Cup match is one of the biggest matches in Cheltenham’s 126-year history, with 67 league places between them and Everton.