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EDITIONS
Thursday, 22 August, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Night out ended in court
Jody Morris (left), John Terry and Des Byrne
The three footballers denied the charges

When the former England under-21 captain John Terry joined his Chelsea team-mate Jody Morris and the Wimbledon defender Des Byrne for a night out on the town, they didn't expect it to end in court with their reputations and quite possibly their careers on the line.

The jury's decision to clear all three men of starting a violent brawl will have come as a relief to the players and their clubs. Byrne, however, was found guilty of possessing an offensive weapon.

The men had been celebrating the birth of Mr Morris's baby and after a meal in a bar-restaurant in Epsom they drove into London in Mr Terry's new car.

The first place they visited was closed so they went to a members-only club in Knightsbridge popular with celebrities.

The Wellington Club
The Wellington Club is an exclusive London venue
Mr Morris knew one of the directors and the three were admitted and shown into the downstairs bar.

That was where things started to go wrong.

Drinking vodka and shots of B52s - a mixture of 3 different spirits - the players soon attracted the attention of the club's staff.

A barman told the court they were noisily slamming their drinks down on the bar and the manager said Mr Morris was staggering and appeared to spit out his drink.

CCTV footage

She also gave evidence that Mr Morris swore at her after she asked them all to calm down.

At this point the men were told to leave by one of the doormen, Trevor Thirlwall.

In court the players all denied being drunk or behaving badly in any way and claimed there had been a simple misunderstanding.

jody morris
Jody Morris was celebrating the birth of his child
Mr Terry in particular said he'd apologised to the manager if his friend had caused any offence.

But after the men had left the club CCTV footage showed two of them - Mr Terry and Mr Byrne - apparently bursting back in while the doormen were distracted.

They were pushed outside again and a fight broke out.

Mr Byrne, who is Irish, told the jury that Mr Thirlwall had used a racial insult and he wanted to let him know that this was unacceptable.

Cuts and bruises

In the witness box, Mr Terry admitted punching Mr Thirlwall but said it was in self-defence, and he denied categorically using a bottle to strike him.

Mr Thirlwall suffered cuts to his face around the eye as well as bruising.

But the players maintained in court that they had not started the brawl and that they were the victims of an unprovoked attack.

The jury heard how Mr Thirlwall and a fellow bouncer were helped by Mr Thirlwall's brother, a professional boxer who was at the club that evening.

John Terry
John Terry: Cleared of starting brawl
Mr Byrne admitted holding a bottle at one stage, but said in evidence that he didn't throw it at anybody - just hurled it to the ground in anger.

Mr Morris, who's five feet five inches tall , told the court he had nothing to do with the fight whatsoever.

Even before the court case began, Chelsea fined Mr Morris and Mr Terry two weeks wages - the maximum allowed - but didn't stop them from playing for the club, although Mr Terry has missed possible selection for the England squad.

The case won't have helped the image of the game - but it has reinforced the lesson that well-paid young footballers are under as much scrutiny for what they do in their own time as they are for their activities on the pitch.

See also:

20 Aug 02 | England
16 Aug 02 | England
15 Aug 02 | England
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