Ex-Stoke City FC goalkeeper Peter Fox denies 'gloving abuse' claim
A former goalkeeper has denied that a ritual known as "The Gloving" was carried out at a football club in order to toughen up apprentice players, a court has heard.
Ex-Stoke City FC star Peter Fox is being sued by former apprentice George Blackstock, 44, who alleged that he was twice given the punishment during the 1980s - once for delivering the first team players cold tea.
The second incident allegedly happened between August and November 1987, around a year after the first after the teenager called a bad decision on the pitch.
Mr Blackstock was allegedly called up on the decision and held down by up to three players as Fox smeared Deep Heat on his goalkeeping glove and assaulted him while saying: "That will teach you a lesson."
Fox told the court he could not remember Mr Blackstock, who had been scouted for his talent at the age of 15 before leaving his Belfast home.
He is seeking damages for nearly £170,000 against the footballer and Stoke City FC for loss of earnings on the basis that he would have played at least at Conference level for five years after leaving the club but for the alleged assaults.
He claims he was also left with post-traumatic stress.
Preston Civil Court had heard that at least three other apprentices described the practice happening to them for such things as wearing someone else's boots, putting on the wrong studs or their weight.
But Fox denied that it had taken place, saying: "That's what story they have come up with."
He added: "That's what they believe. The Gloving didn't go on."
Ms Aswini Weereratne QC suggested it was "a rite of passage" for apprentices to be disciplined by first team members in order to "toughen" them up and said that apprentices would not complain because they wanted to progress on to professionals.
Ms Weereratne said it was "a very nasty assault" that had been "much more than high jinks", adding: "This is your chance to admit it and apologise."
She added that he had used his good character and charity work to "brazen out something what he did to Mr Blackstock on two occasions".
Fox said: "I have not done anything relating to the Gloving and the glove."
He said if he had seen the practice taking place, he would have "stopped it and said something".
Ex-Stoke City player George Berry, now the commercial director of the Professional Footballers' Association for the North, rejected claims that he had been involved in the alleged incidents, adding that there had been "no instances of Gloving".
He denied the two incidents ever occurred and said it was "a fiction".
Although he agreed that there had been "high jinks" in the dressing room - cutting holes in socks and tying knots in the arms of clothing - he said apprentices did not mingle with the first team players.
He said: "There was no malice in any of the stuff that we did. It was just one of these things, normal high jinks within the dressing room."
He denied ever holding down Mr Blackstock on a physio table as Fox carried out the Gloving or putting a hot teapot on Mr Blackstock's bottom.
Mr Berry said: "No, I did not hold Mr Blackstock down."
Bradford City FC a ssistant manager Steve Parkin, who is also named as having participated in the incidents while a first team player, denied the claims alleged by Mr Blackstock.
He denied any assault ever happened, either while he was an apprentice or playing for the first team.
In response to a number of apprentices alleging that Mr Parkin was involved in the manhandling and holding down of an apprentice, he told the hearing: "Absolutely not."