Liverpool received a lift yesterday ahead of the new Premier League season when captain Steven Gerrard walked free from court after being cleared of unjustly attacking a man in a bar brawl last December. The England midfielder admitted punching businessman Marcus McGee, 34, three times during a row in a bar in Southport, England, but said he had acted in self-defence.
McGee suffered facial injuries after the incident in the Lounge Inn, where the Liverpool captain had been celebrating his team's 5-1 win over Newcastle. Outside court, Gerrard spoke of his relief at the verdict, saying: "I'd like to put this case behind me. I'm really looking forward to the season ahead and concentrating on football." Gerrard's manager Rafa Benitez learned of the decision during a training session in the national stadium of Singapore, where the club are preparing for tomorrow's friendly against the national team.
"We are really pleased," he said. "He is very important for us and he can now focus just on football." Meanwhile, Liverpool fans have been given another chance to claim a stake in the club, as supporters' groups ShareLiverpoolFC and Spirit of Shankly yesterday announced a revision to their buy-out proposal. The change sees the share price reduced from £5,000 (Dh30,000) to an initial investment of £500.
The fans' organisations hope to acquire a 60 per cent stake in the club by raising an initial £150m from supporters. A statement from the SLFC board said: "This is a realistic plan that squares the circle: how to get broadly-based fan ownership of the club, and relieve the level of debt, by offering Liverpool fans an affordable entry fee and a chance to get a modest return for their additional financial support.
"Now we need all those Liverpool fans to carefully consider the proposals in detail and let us know what they think." Elsewhere, Marseille captain Lorik Cana looks set to become Sunderland's third summer signing after manager Steve Bruce admitted he was "right up his street". Cana was expected in Holland last night for talks with the Black Cats boss ahead of Sunderland's clash with Benfica. Bruce will want to move fast after missing out on signing Portsmouth striker Peter Crouch earlier this week.
"He is captain of Marseille and captain of his country - he's right up our street." Bruce said. "I hate talking about other club's players until things are all signed and delivered - you just have to look at what happened with the Peter Crouch deal." One man leaving Sunderland is midfielder Dean Whitehead, 27, who has agreed a move to Stoke City for an initial fee of £3m, which could rise to £5m.
Manchester United will be without Gary Neville for the remainder of their Far East tour and the Audi Cup in Munich next week after the defender suffered a groin injury during training. Neville has flown back to England for treatment. email@example.com