An amateur footballer has been cleared of deliberately shattering an opponent’s leg in a horror tackle.
A jury was told Ryan King had warned Tom Pritchett he would “snap” him following a row and later got his revenge with a two footed lunge during a local league fixture.
When witnesses from both teams gave differing accounts the prosecution claimed the only truly “independent witness” was the referee who showed a red card for a “reckless” off-the-ball foul.
But King’s defence said the official may have been mistaken. The red card was compared to top ref Mike Jones’s decision in controversial Premier League match between Southampton and City last month. That led to Manchester City star Sergio Aguero being wrongly booked for diving.
At the end of a three day trial a jury at Derby Crown Court found King, 26, not guilty of grievous bodily harm.
King, who had trained with Manchester City as a 14 year-old, was playing for Chinley FC in their home clash with Grindleford FC on September 14 2013 when tempers frayed during the fixture in Derbyshire’s Hope Valley League.
James Thomas, prosecuting, said in the first half of the match King was acting as a linesman, when he clashed with the ref and opponents.
King was said to have rushed on to the pitch and confronted midfielder Mr Pritchett.”
He denied making threats, but admitted he was “out of order” and described the incident as “a bit of banter”.
King’s team were losing 4-1 when the replacement right back tackled his opponent with such force it broke both bones in his right leg as he turned in the penalty area.
King was red carded and the game abandoned as an ambulance rushed to the ground.
Mr Pritchett, 24, spent two days in hospital after surgeons inserted metal pins and screws to repair the multiple fractures he suffered.
King, of Midland Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, admitted mistiming the challenge, but claimed he was trying to prevent another goal.
Mr Thomas said despite the “conflicting accounts” the jury did have one “independent witness” in referee Steve Tuft.
The referee said it was “totally reckless” and claimed King had “got nowhere near the ball” but other witnesses said the ball was at the attacker’s feet.
Summing up Mr Watkins referred to the Premier League game when Manchester City were denied what looked to be a clear penalty.
Aguero was taken down in the box, but referee Mike Jones refused to award a spot-kick and instead wrongly showed the striker a yellow card for diving.
“The referee, a professional with 15 to 20 years’ experience was just 5 to 10 metres away, staring straight at the incident, but he did not give a penalty he booked Aguero for diving,” he said.
“That’s what he thought, but when the incident was played back everyone who watched it could see what a terrible decision he’d made.They could see the defender had caught both the striker’s legs.
“He too hasn’t got an axe to grind, but if a professional can make a mistake, then so can Mr Tuft.”
Mr Watkins said there was no dispute the tackle had been “late” and was clearly a foul, but it had been “an act of desperation” to stop another goal and not an act of revenge.
After the jury’s not guilty verdict lifelong Manchester United fan King said he could not believe one mistimed tackle had landed him in the dock.
“I’m relieved it’s all over this has put us all under a lot of stress. I’m finished with football now,” he said.