Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers speaks for first time about son Anton's sex assault acquittal
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has spoken for the first time of his family's anguish as they watched their footballer son undergo two sexual assault trials.
The Co Antrim man's son Anton was accused of being one of four professional footballers who sexually assaulted a teenage girl while she was sleeping.
Along with the other Brighton and Hove Albion players, 20-year-old Anton denied the assault.
During the Old Bailey trial the jury was dismissed after they could not reach a verdict.
They then returned for a retrial where the men were acquitted of their charges.
Throughout the process, Anton's father Brendan and his mum Susan were wracked with worry as they witnessed every step of the agonising legal process.
As the trial edged closer, the 40-year-old Carnlough man recalled how he was ever-mindful of the potential for intensified scrutiny as a direct result of him having only recently been appointed to his high-profile job as the boss of one of the biggest football teams in the world.
"As parents, both his mum and I found it really, really difficult, especially when you know the innocence of your son," Mr Rodgers said.
"The one thing we took out of it was that his mum was there for every minute of the trial and saw everything.
"I was there for parts of it – and we are talking about two trials at the Old Bailey here, not just one."
He continued: "The nature of that and what you go through is surreal.
"It was a really difficult period because obviously Anton has got his professional life and I'm at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
"But this is about life and it was very, very important for us to defend his name.
"His mum and I would have done anything to defend his name."
The Crown Court heard that the players were celebrating a victory in a local cup in July 2011 when they came across the woman at a club.
It was alleged in court that the girl woke up at the Jury's Inn hotel in Brighton to find she had been photographed on a mobile phone with the top of her pink dress pulled down, exposing herself.
However, only one photograph was found on 21-year-old footballer George Barker's phone following forensic tests on all the player's phones.
At the time the players told the Old Bailey there was nothing sexual in what went on.