I was in control, Gerrard tells court

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Footballer Steven Gerrard denied today that he lost control on the night he thumped a businessman three times in a bar brawl.

The England international told a court he was used to "mither" (bother) and had ways of smoothing over trouble when confronted by people.



Gerrard, who denies affray, told Liverpool Crown Court he was having a great night on December 28 last year as he celebrated Liverpool's 5-1 crushing defeat of Newcastle Utd.



The star began his evening with friends at a bar in Formby, Merseyside, then went on to the Vincent Hotel in Southport before attending the Lounge Inn, where trouble flared.



The jury has heard that the 29-year-old estimated he was seven out of 10 on a drunkenness scale.



But he told the court today: "I certainly knew I had had a drink.



"I was certainly in control of how I felt in my surroundings."



Gerrard went into the witness box shortly before 11am.

His barrister, John Kelsey-Fry QC, told the jury and public gallery: "Obviously, there is no need to give an introduction to the captain of Liverpool Football Club."



The QC began by explaining that the father-of-two had been in trouble with the police before - when he was 19 he was banned from driving for nine months for drink-driving.



"Have you been in trouble with the police since then?" asked the barrister.



"No," replied Gerrard, who was dressed in a well-cut blue suit.



"Have you been involved in any other violent incident?" asked Mr Kelsey-Fry.



"No," replied the Reds captain.



He said he suffered "a lot of mither", not just in bars, but at traffic lights, shopping centres and in restaurants.



"What sort of mither?" asked his QC.



"For example, 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 added: "I try to talk to them and smooth it over."

But there was no smoothing it over in the early hours of December 29 when Gerrard and Mr McGee clashed.



The millionaire said he was given permission by the club manageress to choose music from a stereo Mr McGee was operating.



Recalling Mr McGee allegedly grabbing a music card menu from his hand, Gerrard said: "I asked Sabrina for permission to have an input into the music and she gave me permission to go over to the machine and have a look at the menu.



"It was a small A4-sized piece of paper covered in a plastic cover with numerous songs and then you speak to a member of staff if you want anything on.



"I looked for the music card and picked it up.



"I was looking at the music card for a couple of seconds for my songs and it was snatched out of my hands by a guy I didn't know at that time but I now know to be Marcus McGee.



"That's when I first spoke to Marcus McGee."



Asked what Mr McGee said to him, Gerrard apologised to the jury for his language before replying: "He said to me 'You are not putting no f****** music on in here'.



"I was shocked and tried to speak to him and asked him what his problem was.



"I asked why I couldn't have an input in the music and tried to explain that I had permission from the manageress."



Mr Kelsey-Fry asked: "Did he explain it?" to which Gerrard replied: "No."



Explaining how it came to an end, the No 8 said: "He turned away from me and wasn't really listening to what I was trying to say and he swore at me a couple of times and we had an argument for four or five seconds and then he walked away.



"I remember asking a member of the bar staff if they saw the incident and what the guy's problem was, and the bar guy said he never saw it really, but told me to forget it."



Gerrard told the court that his friends and the manager of the bar recognised that there was a change in his facial expression and he explained to them what had gone on with Mr McGee.

He described how Mr McGee then walked towards the bar area of the Lounge Inn and sat on a bar stool and he pointed him out to friends.



Gerrard said Mr McGee was then staring at him.



Mr Kelsey-Fry asked the defendant: "What advice did you get from your mates?"



Gerrard replied: "Basically to ignore him and leave it."



Mr Kelsey-Fry then asked him: "Did you ignore it and leave it?"



The footballer said: "No."



Gerrard then told the court he went over to speak to Mr McGee.



He said: "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.



"I wanted to see why he had such a problem with it, why a total stranger had such a problem with me putting my favourite songs on.



"I asked Marcus what was the problem with the music machine and why he treated me like that.



"Very quickly he came off the bar stool and was in my face right by me."



Gerrard said it was a heated discussion with Mr McGee and added: "He felt I was coming over, charging over to confront him in an aggressive way, which I didn't.



"I went over to speak to the guy and try and smooth the incident over."



He said that there was a lot of foul language going back and forth between the men.



He said: "When I first spoke to him I didn't intend to use any bad language."



Mr Kelsey-Fry asked Gerrard: "Why did you deliver a blow to Marcus McGee?"



The defendant replied: "To defend myself.



"It was very difficult at the time to explain to police why I did throw that first punch. We were arguing and I told the police I felt that Marcus came towards me and that's why I raised my arms.



"I firmly believed Marcus came towards me to hit me."

Gerrard described raising his left arm and swinging it towards Mr McGee and making contact with him with his fist.

He said: "I grabbed the back of his jumper as he moved forward to me. When I had hold of Marcus, I remember swinging my right hand two or three times."



He said the incident took about four or five seconds before he was "pushed and pulled" away from Mr McGee.



He said he remembered people shouting in his face and saying "Don't go back" and "Stop".



He said: "I was trying to stop still and I felt I had arms all over me. I could see a melee around Marcus McGee.



"When I was getting pulled away I realised people were patting me, some of whom were my friends.



"I wanted to help control the situation. I was worried the fight I had with Marcus was going to get worse because people were going past me in that direction."



As the fracas continued away from Gerrard, the footballer said: "I wanted it to stop. I wanted to get as many friends as I could, round them up and go."



In Mr McGee's evidence he said he did not know that John Doran, a long-time "loyal" friend of Gerrard, threw the first punch.

The defendant reiterated that he was unaware that Doran, 29, had lashed out and therefore, when Mr McGee came forward at him, thought he was in danger.



"I thought he was going to hit me," he said.



"He was on his way forward to me and his behaviour had changed from when I was having a discussion with him. I didn't know why."



Asked how he felt now, Gerrard said: "I am certainly mistaken in thinking he was coming towards me to throw punches at me.



"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.



"I am sorry about the whole incident."



Prosecuting QC David Turner began his cross-examination by applauding Gerrard for his modesty.



"As you do in television interviews, you speak quietly and are very modest.



"But I am going to ask you to be a little immodest," said Mr Turner.



"You are a great footballer."



"Thank you," replied Gerrard, looking a little uncomfortable.



Mr Turner told him he had amazing speed, strength and reactions.



"That's what makes you better than the rest," he said.



"In your opinion," said Gerrard.



The barrister, based at a Liverpool city centre chambers, said to him: "You have had some great days and, may I say, you have given us some great days in Liverpool.



"The 28th of December was a great day too. wasn't it?



"OK, Newcastle aren't Manchester United or Everton, but Liverpool battered them.



"You scored twice and one of the goals was a surge, beating all the defenders, and many others would have fluffed it, made a mess of it, but you just flicked it round the goalkeeper."



"Flicked it over him," said Gerrard.



"You said in your police statement, if you had lost you wouldn't have gone out that night but you did win and you were entitled to go out."



Mr Turner used Gerrard's stardom to ask him how he felt when Mr McGee refused to let him pick a song.



"He is from nowhere, and you are Stevie G, Stevie Gerrard," said Mr Turner.



Gerrard answered: "I just couldn't understand why somebody who didn't work in the Lounge was turning me down to put my music on when I had permission from somebody who worked there.



"I was frustrated and wanted to know what his problem was."



Mr Turner said: "Not many people can say no to you as people admire and worship you.



"If you ask for a beer there are 16 on the bar."



"People do say no to me," said Gerrard, "maybe not all the time but they do it."



Mr Turner asked him how he dealt with abusive fans bellowing at him.



"There have been many occasions when I have been abused and had bad things shouted at me but I have smoothed it over," said Gerrard.



"Not all the time but yes."