Footballer refuses to lay blame for tackle

THE FOOTBALLER Vinnie Jones was a reluctant witness yesterday after being forced to appear at the High Court in the damages claim involving two top players.

The former Chelsea midfielder, who was the nearest player to the tackle which ended the career of his team-mate, Paul Elliott, said in a statement it was a nasty tackle likely to cause injury. But Mr Jones - who attended court only after receiving a subpoena - told the hearing some of his statement may have been 'severe' and he did not wish to give evidence.

Outside the court, Mr Jones said: 'I did not enjoy the experience and I would rather be fishing. I think there is an easy solution. The Professional Footballers Association and the FA should get together, they have got enough money. We do not want the game dragged through the High Court. I know other professionals did not want this.'

Mr Jones was ordered to appear on behalf of Mr Elliott, who is suing the Aston Villa striker Dean Saunders and his former club Liverpool for negligence over a tackle at Anfield in September 1992. The case is the first involving two top-flight players in a dispute over an injury on the pitch and damages could run into millions of pounds.

In a statement submitted to the court but not read out, Mr Jones said: 'It looks like a nasty two-footed tackle by Saunders. It also looks as though he missed the ball, but Elliott's intention is clear. Saunders probably thinks 'I'm going to get clattered'.

'In my opinion Saunders has not gone for the ball, but only he knows. It is clear that he has made a very bad tackle or had other intentions, ie to injure Elliott . . . The stud marks went right through to the bone. It ended up as a two- footed challenge and in any such challenge it is likely that the result will be a broken leg at best.'

In court, Mr Jones said: 'I am here but I did not want to come. I would not criticise Dean Saunders for missing the ball and there is only one person who knows if there was an intention to do that - Dean Saunders.'

At the end of his evidence Mr Jones said: 'Thank God for that.'

The chairman of Chelsea, Ken Bates, said his players wanted to lynch Mr Saunders. 'The players were incensed. I couldn't believe it. I was strongly of the view it was Dean Saunders's fault. He gathered himself and launched into the tackle.'

Antony Berrisford, representing Mr Saunders, who denies liability, said Mr Elliott was injured by his own reckless tackle. Colin Mackay QC, representing Liverpool FC, said the incident did not appear to have caused animosity between the players.

The case continues today.

(Photograph omitted)