Thug jailed for punching Stevenage player after FA Cup tie

A THUG who punched a Stevenage FC footballer after the club’s historic FA Cup win over Newcastle last month has been jailed today (Thursday).

Robert Fitzgerald, 24, of Colts Corner, Stevenage, was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of common assault and has been banned from attending football matches in England and Wales for six years under a second charge of pitch invasion.

Stevenage Magistrates’ Court heard how Fitzgerald, an unemployed person trainer, punched defender Scott Laird and left him concussed as fans and players celebrated on the pitch following the club’s 3-1 giant-killing on Saturday, January 8.

Magistrate Linda Nadauld, who ordered Fitzgerald to pay a fine of �100 and a �15 victim surcharge, told the court: “This offence was fueled by alcohol. It was clear from the TV you made a beeline for this particular player.

“The victim was in a vulnerable position as he was in the application of fulfilling his duties as a professional football player.

“The attack was unprovoked and unexpected. The court must impose a deterrent sentence to stop this type of conduct at football matches.”

Prosecuting, Phillip Mansfield said: “A steward saw him run out onto the pitch. He’s seen him punch with such force that one of his (the defendant’s) feet came off the ground.”

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Defending Fitzgerald, who said he supported Stevenage FC, Jennifer Browne asked magistrates to put the punch into context and that it was in act of “misplaced loyalty” to his 24-year-old girlfriend Jade Coles, who used to date the player.

Miss Browne told the court: “There was an incident between the injured party and his (the defendant’s) current girlfriend and wrongly he took matters into his own hands.”

The defence said that if a custodial sentence was not imposed Fitzgerald had the chance to act responsibly as Miss Coles, of Letchworth GC, is pregnant with his child.

The court also heard how Fitzgerald was convicted of GBH in 2005 and was given a six-and-a-half year sentence.