'Eric Cantona without the talent' - Irish football star hit pensioner fan in face during friendly match
A footballer who attacked a 70-year-old fan has been branded “an Eric Cantona without the talent” by a judge.
Nigel Turner punched pensioner Thomas Gibbons in the face moments after being sent off in a pre-season friendly at Bangor FC’s ground.
The victim suffered a bloodied mouth in the attack by Turner who has now quit football due to his anger management issues.
Turner, 25, has a history of violence, Newtownards Magistrates’ Court heard last week.
He was playing for Ballymena side Wakehurst FC in the friendly against Bangor on August 28 last year when he was sent off following a scuffle and a clash with the home side’s goalkeeper Darren Gibbons.
As Turner left the pitch he became involved in a verbal exchange with a relative of the Bangor keeper and he struck the 70-year-old in the face.
Turner, of Dunboe Gardens, Articlave appeared at court for sentencing having been convicted of assaulting Mr Gibbons this year.
The prosecutor said Turner told police he was “surrounded by an angry mob” as he left the pitch and pushed an unknown male to “secure his own safety” but his version was contradicted by an independent witness.
The court also heard Turner had committed another assault just two days after the incident at the match, this time occasioning actual bodily harm for which he received a suspended prison sentence.
He also had a previous conviction for causing GBH.
A defence lawyer said abattoir supervisor Turner was attending anger management counselling and had quit football as he was reducing situations where he was struggling to cope with his emotions.
District Judge Mark Hamill ordered Turner to pay his victim £500 compensation and to serve 80 hours community service with 12 months probation but warned: “You have to seize the opportunity to change your ways, if not, your next step is the Crown Court, facing two, four, six years in jail.”
Judge Hamill previously labelled Turner “an Eric Cantona without the talent”, a reference to the Man United legend’s kung-fu attack on a Crystal Palace fan in 1995 which led to the Frenchman receiving a two-week jail sentence before it was reduced to 150 hours’ community service on appeal.