Gerrard to plead not guilty to assault

England and Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard told a court on Friday he would plead not guilty to assaulting a man in a bar brawl in December.

The Liverpool captain was arrested in the early hours of December 29 after police were called to the Lounge Bar nightclub in Southport, north of Liverpool in northwest England.

Company director Marcus McGee, 34, required hospital treatment after receiving facial injuries in the incident.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said the club were fully behind Gerrard who was released on bail to appear in court again on March 20, the day before a Premier League game against title rivals Aston Villa.

"I was watching him play five-a-side today and he scored two or three very good goals, so that's very positive. He is OK," Benitez told the club's website. "He has our full support, he knows this."

In a short hearing at North Sefton magistrates court, Gerrard, 28, said he intended to deny charges of assault occasioning bodily harm and affray, the Press Association reported.

Two other men, John Doran, 29, and Ian Smith, 19, both from Liverpool are also charged with the same offences.

The incident occurred following Gerrard's man-of-the-match performance in a 5-1 win over Newcastle United in which he had scored twice.