He faces serious charges carrying up to five years behind bars, but Steven Gerrard was reassured yesterday that he can carry on playing for club and country.
Both Liverpool and England publicly backed the £120,000 a week footballer hours after he was charged with affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm following a nightclub brawl. Gerrard leaving Southport police station after his arrest for assault
His club offered him 'all the support he needs' while the Football Association stressed that any question about his future international career was 'not even an issue for discussion'.
The FA said that if a player is convicted of a serious offence then 'it would be looked at, but on a case by case basis'.
The attitude of English football's governing body is in marked contrast to its handling of the Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer case in 2000 – when both players were charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and affray following an attack on an Asian student.
The FA decided neither men, then playing for Leeds in the Premier League, would be available for selection for England pending their court case and both were left out of the squad for the 2000 European Championship finals.
Woodgate, who was subsequently cleared of causing GBH but sentenced to 100 hours community service for the affray, was recalled by England in 2001.
Earlier this year Bowyer, who was acquitted of both charges and won his only England cap in 2003, accused successive England set-ups of having double standards in their attitude to his off-field problems.
'Why can other people represent their country when they've had problems and I couldn't,' he asked? Gerrard has played 70 times for England and captained the team four times.
England's next match is a friendly against Spain in Seville in February – almost three weeks after Gerrard is due to appear in court – then three vital World Cup qualifiers in April and June.
Gerrard, 28, was charged early yesterday after being arrested following a fight in the Lounge Inn, Southport, 24 hours earlier.
The Liverpool captain, who was made an MBE last year, went there with friends on Sunday evening following his team's 5-1 win at Newcastle.
Two other men, John Doran, 29, and Ian Gerard Smith,19, both from Huyton – where Gerrard grew up – have also been charged with affray and assaulting businessman Marcus McGee, 34, who lost a tooth and suffered cuts and bruises.
Gerrard, Doran and Smith are due to appear before North Sefton magistrates in Southport on January 23.
Two men, aged 33 and 31 from Huyton, were released on police bail pending further inquiries along with another footballer, Bobby Grant, 18, from Litherland, who plays for League Two club Accrington Stanley.
Liverpool Football Club gave their full backing to Gerrard in a statement saying: 'Steven has been an outstanding servant to Liverpool for the last 10 years and the club will give him all the support he needs at this time.'
Mr McGee, a father of two, was yesterday recovering from his injuries at his bungalow on the outskirts of Southport. His partner, Gina Lond, and friends who visited him refused to comment. A bloodstained towel on the dancefloor at the Lounge Inn
According to witnesses, the Manchester United fan was in charge of the bar's music system and had refused to let Gerrard select a song.
They said Mr McGee pushed Gerrard in the chest, at which the England star knocked him in the face with his elbow before one of his friends allegedly smashed a beer bottle over the 34-year-old's head.
After being released from custody shortly before midnight on Monday, Gerrard returned to his £3million mansion in nearby Formby.
Last night a friend said Gerrard was agonising over what had happened but had received the backing of his team manager, Rafa Benitez. Blood splattered on the floor of the Lounge Inn
He can't talk about the incident for legal reasons, but nobody is giving him a harder time than he's giving himself,' the friend added.
'Just 15 minutes before this happened he was talking to his old manager Kenny Dalglish about his wife's breast cancer charity.'
A Liverpool FC source said: 'The whole club is 100 per cent behind Stevie and that includes the manager who has told him as much.'