London - The first assignment was at the house of a friend they knew well, and involved emptying cupboards of pots and pans, throwing out a dining table and chairs, and removing toasters, deep-fat fryers and other electrical items from a rain-battered kitchen.
The players then walked up and down the street, sidestepping discarded goods — fridge freezers, Christmas trees — to knock on front doors and offer their help.
Luke Joyce and his teammates at English fourth-tier soccer club Carlisle usually spend their afternoons lifting weights at the gym, or at home with their families. On this occasion, they were involved in a vast clean-up operation at houses badly affected by severe floods brought by Storm Desmond, which has caused widespread damage in northwestern England and Scotland.
"It's people's livelihoods at stake, things they've probably saved up for months and months to buy," Joyce told The Associated Press. "At the end of the day, we are just normal fellas, normal human beings — if you see people in need, you want to help."
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Much of Carlisle, a city located in the extreme north of England and just 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the Scottish border, was affected by rainfall on Friday and Saturday that likely exceeded an average month's worth in the area.
Brunton Park, the ground of Carlisle's soccer team, is submerged. Water inside the stadium has risen way above the advertising hoardings and almost up to the crossbar of the goals. The team will play its next home match, on Dec. 19, 88 miles away in Preston and may not play on its own field until the end of January at the earliest.
"A few of the lads went to the ground and said it is just an absolute mess," Joyce said in a telephone interview. "The smell, the state of the place, it's unbelievable. Not just the water but what it leaves behind. There's all kinds of stuff in there.
"The images of the stadium on TV are almost fascinating to look at. It's happened at Carlisle before, but it's something you very rarely see — a football ground under water like that."
Joyce said some teammates are yet to return from London, where Carlisle played in the FA Cup on Sunday, because trains are cancelled. Five or six players have lost their cars in the floods. The house of Carlisle's fitness coach has been flooded and his wife had to be evacuated late on Saturday.
Carlisle goalkeeper Dan Hanford laughed when he spotted his wrecked vehicle in the club car park from a newspaper's aerial photograph of the damage. A wheelie bin sat atop his written-off BMW. A house nearby that he had just bought with his girlfriend was also submerged.
"I had friends who told me, 'Dan, sorry to tell you but your house has gone,'" Hanford said.
With no midweek game, Carlisle's players and officials have donned rubber gloves to help with the clear-up operation in the local community, and have handed out food and supplies after training.
"The players are keen to get out there," Carlisle manager Keith Curle said. "We'll be setting time aside to get around and do whatever it takes to help make things easier for people who have suffered through this horrid situation."
Joyce could be back to help out Carlisle's affected residents next week, too.
"They back us week in, week out, from the stands. So it's only right we help them in their moment of need, especially when it's three weeks before Christmas." Joyce said.
"It's seeing Christmas trees up in front rooms and then seeing water everywhere when you walk in through puddles. You are looking at furniture that is wrecked, stuff that people have had for most of their lives. It's just devastating."