Gerrard says sorry for bar brawl

England star denies losing control over dispute and says he acted in self-defence
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The Independent Online

The Liverpool football captain Steven Gerrard said yesterday that he suffered "a lot of mither" (hassle) when he was out relaxing in bars or restaurants, shopping with his family or simply when stopped at traffic lights.

Giving evidence on the third day of his trial for affray – he is charged with hitting a businessman three times in a bar brawl – the England midfielder apologised for the incident, but insisted: "Because I am a footballer, sometimes I get supporters coming up to me, be they Liverpool fans or Everton or Manchester United fans, and sometimes the comments can be derogatory or insulting. So I try to deal with it in the best way I can," he said. "I try to talk to them and smooth it over."

Mr Gerrard denied he lost control when a dispute flared with Marcus McGee over who should control the music at the Lounge Inn in Southport in the early hours of 28 December last year. He said that he always did his best to defuse potential trouble with fans who had subjected him to regular tirades of abuse and personal insults during his Premiership career.

Liverpool Crown Court heard glowing character references for Mr Gerrard, who denies affray and claims he was acting in self defence.

Among the tributes read out was one by the 29-year-old footballer's hero, former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish. He said Mr Gerrard endured "grief" from fans for "simply trying to be normal". Mr Dalglish, who has known the player for 15 years, said: "Despite the fame and obvious wealth that comes with Steven's abilities and success, he has never forgotten where he came from. Steven is a very responsible man and always has been."

The jury heard that Mr Gerrard had not been in trouble with the police since a conviction for drink driving 10 years ago. The court was told that the player estimated he was seven out of 10 on a drunkenness scale after visiting bars with friends on Merseyside after a 5-1 victory against Newcastle in which he scored two goals.

Mr Gerrard, dressed in a smart blue suit, said he had been given permission by a member of the bar staff to choose records to play on the club's sound system when Mr McGee snatched the music card out his hands. He described how the two men had a short argument in which they swore at each other before separating.

Mr Gerrard said he then ignored friends' advice and went back over to Mr McGee. "I couldn't understand why the guy had such a problem with me, why he was so aggressive. I was also concerned that if I did leave it I would not have been able to enjoy my night, he may have come over to me," he told the court.

Mr Gerrard insisted he had not intended to use violence but admitted delivering a blow to Mr McGee who had just been hit by one of the footballer's party: "It was very difficult at the time to explain to police why I did throw that first punch. I felt that Marcus came towards me and that's why I raised my arms.

"Now I know, obviously, he had been struck, reacted and thought the strike was by me and he came into me and that's when I reacted." Mr Gerrard added: "I am sorry about the whole incident."

Five of Mr Gerrard's friends on the night have admitted affray. The jury is expected to be sent to consider its verdict later today.

A lot of 'mither'

Mither is a commonly heard word in the North of England where it is used as a synonym for trouble or bother. It is thought to have originated in Wales in the late 17th century. Chambers English Dictionary says it is a variation of moider, meaning to confuse, stupefy and overcome. In Scotland it means mother, as in the Orcadian myth of the Mither o' the Sea.