A Nottingham Forest fan who was allegedly trampled by Sheffield United striker Oli McBurnie has claimed he was singled out and attacked after he told the star: “You suck at football, I’m better than you. “
George Brinkley told Nottingham Magistrates’ Court he was in serious fear for his life after being caught in a header by McBurnie’s team-mate Rhian Brewster during a pitch invasion after the semi-final of the play-offs of the last season’s championship at the City Ground.
Prosecutors say Scottish international McBurnie, who was wearing a protective boot due to injury, suffered ‘loss of composure and control’ as Mr Brinkley, 27, celebrated Forest’s victory on penalties on May 17.
McBurnie, 26, from Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, who has scored nine goals in 18 games this season, denies a single charge of assault while beating, saying he lost his balance after helping a team-mate.
After social media footage reportedly showed the assault was played out in court on Wednesday, Mr Brinkley said he invaded the pitch from the Peter Taylor stand because of the ‘adrenaline’ of Forest reaching a final at Wembley.
Giving his story to a district judge via video link to a witness room, Mr Brinkley said he was seated by the dugout in the second row of the stand for the game.
He told the court: “At half-time I spoke to a few (United) players.
“I said, ‘Oli McBurnie, you suck at football, I’m better than you and I’m not a pro’.”
Mr Brinkley said former Swansea and Barnsley player McBurnie heard the comment, adding: “He laughed back at me and said, ‘You look the way you do’.
“I said, ‘Enjoy the championship next season’. I had a smile on my face. I hope because I was joking it came across that way.
“It’s just a bit of a joke, isn’t it?”
Asked by prosecutor Simon Jones about McBurnie’s reaction, Mr Brinkley said: ‘He had a smile on his face – quite condescending … looking down on me.’
Describing what he says happened moments after Forest’s 3-2 penalty shoot-out win, Mr Brinkley told the court: ‘I celebrated with the two people directly behind me. I jumped over the billboards – I had so much adrenaline in me.
After joining other fans in hugging Forest defender Steve Cook, Mr Brinkley said, he saw United striker Billy Sharp was bleeding from his nose.
“My instant reaction was shock,” added the supporter. “I didn’t know how it happened.”
Asked to tell the district judge what happened next, Mr Brinkley said: ‘I had my head pinned to the ground. I was lying on my back.
“Oli McBurnie stomped me once, stomped me twice, then went and stomped me a third time, but then got pushed away.
“My immediate reaction was to kick him, but I didn’t because I knew what the repercussions would be.”
The alleged victim said he knew his attacker was McBurnie because he was the only person he saw wearing a protective boot.
“I couldn’t get up because of the people around me,” he said. “I felt like I was going to take my head.
“I really feared for my life because I had head injuries in the past and my head is very sensitive.”
The court heard Mr Brinkley did not realize it was Brewster who gave him a headache until he saw footage of the incident on social media.
During cross-examination by McBurnie’s lawyer, Lisa Judge, Mr Brinkley was asked if he was suggesting that the attacker had selected him from a crowd of hundreds and assaulted him ‘purely because you had said he was a *** footballer”.
Ms Judge asked: “He (McBurnie) said, ‘Ah, that’s the man who said I was a *** footballer, am I going to dab him? “”
Mr. Brinkley replied: “I believe so.”
Later in his testimony, Mr Brinkley denied that his assault allegations were ‘prompted by a desire for compensation’.
He was also warned to be respectful after addressing Ms Judge as ‘babies’ and accusing her of trying to ‘saddle the sugar’ over what happened.
He told the court that ‘the video doesn’t lie’ – before being asked if his claims that he was stomped on were false.
After being asked if his account was a “made-up fantasy”, Mr Brinkley replied: “No it’s not – not at all.”
The lawsuit was told that McBurnie maintains he had no physical contact with Mr Brinkley.
In a statement to police shortly after the incident, the player also said he lost his balance slightly after being injured for several weeks.
His statement added: “My intention at all times was actually to ensure that I did not make such contact with him.”
Prosecutors dropped a common assault charge against Brewster in July.
The trial continues.