Chichester City FC star Josh Clack was jailed for 27 months yesterday for a punch outside a nightclub on a lone passer-by.
The 24 year-old winger’s young victim suffered bleeding on the brain, plus two facial fractures and spent ten days in hospital.
“You are fortunate that you did not kill him,” Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court Judge Stephen John told Clack. “If you had it would at least have been a charge of manslaughter.”
Semi-pro Clack, of Oakwood Close, Midhurst, West Sussex was convicted after a week-long trial of inflicting grievous bodily harm on 20 year-old Kieran Smithers.
One of his last tweets a week ago read: “Waking up on a Sunday and knowing you’re in the last 16 of the FA Vase is lovely!”
He will now be behind bars when that fixture, away to Cheshire’s 1874 Northwick FC, kicks off on February 3 and he will miss the remainder of his club’s Southern Combination Premier Division season.
The jury returned an 11-1 majority verdict that Clack was not defending himself when he struck the blow just after 3am outside Guildford’s Casino nightclub on October 18, 2015.
Clack’s lawyer told the court the delay in coming to trial had weighed heavily on Clack, but Judge John told the footballer: “It is your fault it has taken this long to sentence you.
“You were the aggressor and it is aggravated by the fact that at no stage have you expressed any remorse for this offence.”
Clack had already consumed a beer, two vodkas and two other drinks during a night out with a group of pals, one of whom playfully startled Mr Smithers.
The complainant pushed back in surprise and was backed-up by two concerned off-duty soldiers as the incident escalated.
But prosecutor, John Coates had told the jury during the hearing: “The prosecution say Josh Clack deliberately punched Kieran Smithers in the face or head, causing really serious harm.”
He continued : “Kieran Smithers fell to the ground like a tree. He was out cold and fell backward and hit the back of his head on the concrete.
“This defendant then walked off across the bridge and disappeared.”
Mr Smithers suffered a fracture above his left eye and a fracture of his nasal bone and a blood-filled swelling to the back of his head.”
Clack fractured his hand delivering the punch and it was still in a cast when he was questioned by police.
But he had hidden the truth from medical staff at Chichester’s St Richard’s Hospital, claiming that he suffered the injury when punching a wall.
Mr Smithers recalls nothing of the incident, but the court heard he has been on anti-depressants since the assault and has had trouble sleeping.
“The aggravating features of this case outweigh the mitigating factors,” added Judge John. “The offence is so serious any sentence cannot be suspended.”
A large number of family and friends were in court to support Clack, who signed-off his season with a pair of goals in Chichester’s 4-0 league away win at Hassocks.
“You and your family must know this is a very serious offence,” the judge told him.
During the trial Clack told the jury he was not a violent person or a heavy drinker, yet he had previously received a police caution for assault and a drink-drive conviction.
Backing up his self defence claims he had told the jury: “I might have been hurt myself. I did not think I had any other options.
“He pushed me in the chest with both hands and I punched him as soon as he put his hands on me.
“I was trying to protect myself and just did what I thought was necessary at the time. It was a split-second decision in an instant.”