Footballers deny attack on club's doorman

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Three professional footballers appeared in court yesterday to deny assaulting a doorman in a brawl outside a private London club that left their alleged victim with severe cuts and bruising to the face.

The Chelsea players Jody Morris, 23, and John Terry, 21, – tipped as a future England captain – sat alongside the Wimbledon player Des Byrne, 20, to answer charges arising from the incident six days ago. The two Chelsea stars and Mr Byrne, of Clarendon Park, Surrey, were granted bail on the condition that they do not go within 800 metres of the club where the alleged attack took place and do not attempt to approach any witnesses.

The trio were mobbed by journalists when they arrived at Horseferry Road magistrates' court in central London. The case has highlighted rising concern about the off-pitch conduct of highly paid footballers.

District judge Roger Davies heard how the three latest footballers to find themselves in the dock were accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray at the select Wellington Club in Knightsbridge.

All three were alleged to have taken part in an attack on Trevor Thirlwall, 28, a doorman from Bermondsey, south-east London, after they had spent more than four hours inside the members-only club.

Mr Morris, of Epsom, Surrey, had gone to the £250-a-year membership club, owned by friends, to celebrate the birth of his first child, a daughter named Romy. He was accompanied by Mr Terry and Mr Byrne, who joined Wimbledon in September.

The court heard Mr Thirlwall was left bleeding from his face after suffering cuts to his eyebrow, cheek and eyelid during an attack, which happened shortly after 1am on 4 January.

Peter Zinner, for the prosecution, told the court that further charges might follow after police study video of the fracas and seek scientific advice.

The trio, who sat in a dock sealed from the rest of the court by a floor-to-ceiling glass screen, remained impassive as details of the alleged assault were given to the packed room.

Dressed in dark suits, the men spoke only to confirm their names – their addresses were handed to court officials on pieces of paper rather than read aloud to the court.

Lawyers for each of the men said they intended to plead not guilty to the charges.

Defender Terry, who has captained the England Under-21 side and was expected by many to break into the national squad in time for the World Cup this summer, has already been fined two weeks' wages by his club, as has Morris.

The punishment – believed to amount to about £30,000 for each player – was imposed by Chelsea FC for breaking a club rule by being on licensed premises less than 48 hours before a match.

Terry played the second half of the match – a 0-0 draw with Norwich in the FA Cup third round last Saturday. Morris, a midfielder, is recovering from an injury and has not played recently .

A decision is expected within the next days from the Football Association as to whether Terry, also of Epsom, Surrey, should be allowed to continue to play for England representative teams.

It is widely expected that he will receive the same treatment as the Leeds players Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Wood-gate, who were excluded from playing for their country while charges of assault remained outstanding. They were both cleared last month of assault causing grievous bodily harm to a student by a jury at Hull Crown Court.

The three men are expected to be committed to face trial at Middlesex Crown Court at the next hearing on 20 February.

* Four men will appear in court next week charged with public order offences relating to violence at Cardiff City's 2-1 victory over Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday. South Wales Police said yesterday the accused men had been arrested during the disturbances at Cardiff's Ninian Park ground and that further arrests were likely.