A Premier League football star who punched a reveller in an early hours brawl outside a nightclub has been cleared of assault.
Stoke City ace Ryan Shotton – the club’s Young Player of The Year – went on trial at magistrates yesterday.
The court heard Shotton, 24, punched his victim in self defence after a row outside Pink nightclub in the city’s Hanley area on July 24, this year.
The blow left his victim Mark McDonald requiring 23 stitches to a head wound after he was floored by the 6ft 3in defender, who was then caught on CCTV running away from the scene.
JPs at North Staffordshire Justice Centre were told Shotton lashed out at McDonald after he had himself been hit in the mouth by the victim in a different nightclub earlier that night.
Shotton was approached again while he walked to get a taxi at the end of the evening by McDonald who had bragged: “Stay away from me, I own Stoke-on-Trent.”
Giving evidence Shotton said he then punched McDonald because he feared he was going to attack for a second time.
He said: “The first recollection I have of him was when I came out of the toilet he stood in my way. He was saying things like ‘every time you see me now you had better run’.
“It was very aggressive and unnecessary really. I’ve just leaned in to listen to him and he’s just given me a very cheap shot to my left lip.
“He was calling my brother a p***k, calling me a w****r and saying he was going to fill both of us in.”
Speaking about the incident outside Pink nightclub minutes after, Shotton added: “Just before we crossed the road, two males across the street started walking towards us.
“I didn’t recognised them at that time. I carried on and I took a second glance and I thought ‘oh that’s him, that’s the lad who hit me in Touch.’
“He’s then come across the road and that’s when we’ve had words exchanged again.
“As they got a bit closer they began shouting. It was rather aggressive.
“He said ‘I played football with your brother, he’s s**t, I’m going to make sure I stab you every time I see you.
“You better stay out of my way because I run Stoke-on-Trent.
“He then proceeded to gesture to me. I can see he is pumped and his body language was aggressive.
“I thought his arms were coming up and he was going to hit mr or my friend.
“I was aware he had struck me previously, it was definitely clear that he wanted to hit someone.
“I admit that I struck the man, I didn’t feel I was in the wrong. I didn’t feel the need to see if he was okay and stay there.”
Chair of the bench Kate Fitzpatrick agreed Shotton had acted in self defence.
Passing a not guilty verdict, she said: “Mr Shotton was very credible.
“The bench believes that there may have been verbal contact between Mr McDonald and Mr Shotton in the toilets but it may not have been recognised by Mr Shotton.
“The decision of the bench is that we find Mr Shotton not guilty.”
David Broomhall, the friend who was with McDonald at the time, described to the court seeing his friend being punched.
He said: “He went straight on the floor and Mr Shotton ran up the road.
“I went straight over to Mark McDonald. He wasn’t in a very good condition at the time.”
Speaking outside court, the delighted footballer said: “I’m a happy man. Justice has been done.”
Shotton, born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs., came through the club’s youth ranks and made 37 appearances in all competitions last season, scoring two goals.
The defender – who is renowned for his long throw-ins – joined Stoke in 2008 and last season played in 14 Premier League games.
The club designed a special shirt for him with a towel stitched inside. It came after the league banned the use of touchline towels to dry the ball before throw-ins.