LIVERPOOL took a step towards repairing their bruised reputation by issuing an apology to the Oldham defender who was allegedly racially abused at Anfield on Friday night.
The Merseyside club offered its “sincere regret’ to 20-year-old Tom Adeyemi for the distress caused when he was targeted by a fan sitting on The Kop during the latter stages of the FA Cup third-round tie.
The statement followed another day of adverse publicity for the under siege club after their England international winger Stewart Downing spent most of Sunday in custody for an alleged assault.
Downing was arrested in his home town of Middlesbrough after an altercation in a bar in the early hours of Sunday. A 32-year-old woman was also arrested on an assault charge in connection with the incident.
The off-field traumas appear to have a daily motion at Anfield in the aftermath of the Luis Suarez race abuse charge.
There was a debilitating predictability about the FA Cup draw pairing Liverpool with Manchester United, raising the prospect of a vitriolic return to Merseyside for Patrice Evra.
While criticism of Liverpool’s handling of the Suarez case has been broad and persistent, their response to the Adeyemi complaint has been swift and unambiguous.
A 20-year-old man from Aintree was arrested on Saturday, and later bailed, on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence after the club provided CCTV footage to Merseyside police.
The club has also vowed to ban the supporter for life if he is found guilty.
Liverpool’s statement read: “Whatever the outcome of what is now a police investigation, all of us are deeply sorry for what happened on Friday night and our players and our Club pass on our sincere regrets to Tom Adeyemi for the upset and distress he suffered as a result of the matter at hand.
“Regarding the incident that occurred on Friday evening, we have given Merseyside police every possible assistance we can and will continue to provide the necessary support to their investigation in order to ensure this particular incident is dealt with properly.
"We will continue to take the strongest possible action(s) against unacceptable behaviour during our matches.”
As with many of Liverpool’s recent statements, there was also a prolonged qualification of their position as they felt compelled to issue a reminder of their stance on racism in the wake of such widespread criticism.
“Liverpool Football Club has been forthright and resolute for many years in its stance against racism and any form of discrimination,” read the statement.
“The Club has worked actively to combat discrimination and has been at the forefront of social inclusion and community activity in football, winning awards and commendations for its work throughout the world.
"And this Club is determined to continue its part in working with the game’s ruling bodies and the other organisations active in this area.”
Adeyemi has been liaising with the Professional Footballers’ Association, and has received the full support of its chief executive Gordon Taylor. “Abuse came from a spectator sitting in the Kop section of the ground,” said Taylor.
“Tom has given a full witness statement to the Merseyside police regarding the incident and will continue to assist the police fully in their inquiries.”
Downing’s arrest was yet another damaging episode in what has become a traumatic season for Liverpool.
The midfielder was detained by Cleveland police after a confrontation which is understood to be a consequence of a long-running domestic dispute between the 27-year-old and the mother of his child.
A Cleveland Police spokesperson said of the incident: “Police were called to an incident at a pub on Yarm High Street.
“A 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault and a 32-year-old woman has also been arrested on suspicion of assault.
“Both are in custody and inquiries are ongoing.” Liverpool’s players had a day off from training on Sunday, so Downing was not a notable absentee from Melwood, where he will be expected back on Monday.
The club has made no comment on Downing’s arrest, as they’ll speak to the player on his return to Merseyside and establish the full circumstances behind the events on Teesside.
The £18m midfielder, who was signed by Kenny Dalglish from Aston Villa last summer, is considered one of the most placid members of the Liverpool squad so his involvement in any controversy is a surprise.
The former Middlesbrough winger returned home to the North East after celebrating scoring his first goal for his new club in Liverpool’s 5-1 win over Oldham in the FA Cup.