Micah Richards denies being Roy Keane’s ‘puppy’ in Arsenal fan headbutt trial

Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards denied being Roy Keane’s “puppy” and “stooge” as he gave evidence in the trial of a man accused of headbutting his punditry partner.

Scott Law, 43, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of common assault against Mr Keane relating to an incident on September 3 last year following Arsenal’s 3-1 victory over Manchester United.

The former Manchester United midfielder, who was working as a pundit for Sky Sports, was allegedly headbutted through doors at the Emirates Stadium by Law, of Waltham Abbey, Essex.

Mr Richards denied accusations by Law’s defence barrister that he had claimed to see the headbutt because he was “Roy’s mate” and had become the ex-Ireland international’s “puppy” and “stooge”.

The ex-England international told Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning that he “grappled” with Law following the alleged incident.

Mr Richards said he was in “disbelief” at what he witnessed, adding that he “felt sorry for Roy” who he described as a friend.

The pundit said “you wouldn’t get sent off” for CCTV footage, shown in court, that Law’s defence team alleged showed Mr Keane elbowing the defendant in the face.

Scott Law court case
Micah Richards leaves Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court where Scott Law is accused of headbutting football pundit Roy Keane (Lucy North/PA)

Wearing a dark navy double-breasted suit with a black shirt and tie, Mr Richards told the court: “I felt sorry for Roy.

“Just because of the fact you’ve come to work, to do your job and you’ve been assaulted.

“I could see he was physically shaken up.

“You do what any friend would do, or any colleague, step in and try to help the situation.”

The 35-year-old added: “It was a surreal moment. We weren’t going to a UFC match. We were at work.”

Following the match last year, footage was widely shared on social media of the former Aston Villa footballer stepping in to calm an apparent confrontation.

Discussing the aftermath of the incident, Mr Richards said: “I grappled with the gentleman for a while.

“I believe I was saying to him: ‘What have you done that for?’

“I sort of grabbed him and pushed him towards further out of the corridor.

“I was basically trying to restrain him until security could deal with the matter.”

Mr Richards said his Sky Sports colleague was “cool” and “calm” in the aftermath of the incident.

He added: “I know he’s got this persona of being the hardman but my relationship with Roy – we get on so well because he’s such a great guy.

“He was cool, he was calm in this situation.

“I felt a little bit sorry for him because we’ve had incidents at stadiums where fans might give you a little shove or use words.

“But after the incident, I was in shock and so was Roy.

“I was in disbelief, like had that really happened?”

Discussing the moments before the alleged incident, Mr Richards said he “saw a gentleman running towards Roy”.

He added: “I heard shouting and then as he came closer to Roy, I see him arch his head back and just try to headbutt him.”

Scott Law court case
Scott Law, 43, (centre) arrives at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court (Lucy North/PA)

Mr Richards demonstrated the action in court by moving his head back and forward and said Mr Keane was hit “more on his jaw” than his face, pointing to his lower jaw.

Defence barrister Charles Sherrard KC alleged Mr Richards had not seen any headbutt and had instead claimed to see it as “Roy’s mate” and his “puppy”, adding: “You have become Roy Keane’s stooge.”

Mr Richards, who smiled as he entered the court, replied: “Strongly disagree.”

The former Fiorentina player told Mr Sherrard: “You tried to mix my words a lot today, but I know what I saw.”

Law’s defence team alleged that CCTV footage from inside the stadium, shown in court, displayed Mr Keane elbowing the defendant in the face and delivering an “upper cut elbow to the nose”.

Mr Richards, who gave his occupation as “retired footballer, now a pundit” denied this and said his colleague was “trying to defend himself”.

He added: “You wouldn’t get sent off for that – standing your ground.”

During his cross-examination of the footballer, Mr Sherrard described Mr Richards as a “jovial cuddly bear” and contrasted his persona to Mr Keane’s “moody sombre appearance”.

Asked about this description of his colleague, Mr Richards replied: “I know him a bit differently but that’s how he can be perceived.”

The ex-footballer said that pundits always interacted with supporters, “especially when we’re at the stadiums”.

He added: “We always have a bit of banter. My personality is quite bubbly.”

Questioned about his football club loyalties, Mr Richards said: “Obviously I’m an Arsenal fan, so I always want them to do well.”

Law, who was sat beneath the Sky Sports studio during the match, said Mr Keane was “very animated” and “angry” throughout the game, adding he had “never really seen that behaviour from someone who was working in the Sky box”.

He told the court: “Mr Keane was puffing his cheeks out. He was right up against the glass. He was banging on the window.

“Mr Keane picked me out and started telling me to see him outside. He was pointing to doors in the box.”

Law said he went inside the stadium to go to the toilet and encountered Mr Keane who “collided into him”.

Prosecutor Simon Jones KC asked Law: “Are you seriously saying that Roy Keane ran into the top of your head?”

Law, who cried while being questioned, said: “I put my head down in a defensive manner to protect my face.”

He added that he believed injuries to his face, seen in custody photos from the following day, were from “Mr Keane’s elbow”.

Mr Jones said Law’s “ridiculous” defence had “changed dramatically” from a prepared statement he gave to police the day after the incident.

In the statement from September 4 last year, Law said he moved his head forward “in a pre-emptive strike” to defend himself from a “violent approach” by Mr Keane.

Asked about the apparent differences in this statement, Law replied: “I’d had no sleep – I was guilty by media.

“It was the worst night of my life.”

Law, a civil engineer, said he had been an Arsenal fan “from birth” and said his Emirates Stadium season ticket was his “prized possession”.

He told the court: “It’s the main part of my social circle. My wife organises her diary around Arsenal fixtures because she knows I’ll be there.”

Asked by the prosecution how much alcohol he had drunk before the match, Law replied that he had consumed “two bottles of beer” in a Nando’s restaurant.

In his closing argument, Mr Jones said Law “was intent on violence” from the moment he saw Mr Keane inside the stadium.

Mr Jones said: “He chose to give Roy Keane no chance and he headbutted Roy Keane forcefully.”

The prosecutor added that the idea the former Manchester United midfielder would seek confrontation when “he was about to go live on air to millions” lacked credibility.

He alleged that the defence had tried to distract from the case with a focus on “Roy Keane’s playing career that ended 18 years ago”, including cross-examination over a tackle he made on England manager Gareth Southgate in 1995.

Mr Sherrard said in his closing submission that Law had been the subject of an “unfair and unbalanced investigation” that was designed to “pat on the back one of football’s notorious hardmen”.

He said: “There was a coming together. It was defensive.”

The defence barrister described Mr Keane as “a bully”, adding that his ex-footballer “chum” Mr Richards would “back him up no matter what”.

District Judge Angus Hamilton is expected to give his judgment on Thursday.