Stewart Downing, the Aston Villa and England midfielder, was forced to disclose how he spends his income to York crown court on the second day of the trial of his former agent.
Ian Elliott, whose former clients include Paul Gascoigne, represented Downing from 2001 until he was sacked in 2008. He has denied four counts of fraud. Downing was in the youth team at Middlesbrough when introduced to his agent by Chris Waddle. "I relied on him to do most things on the business side. I then discovered a lot of money missing," Downing told the jury.
The court was told how Elliott allegedly withdrew substantial sums from the Stewart Downing Promotions bank account to prop up his struggling businesses. The Villa midfielder said more than £2m had been paid into it while he was at the Riverside and detailed some of the spending he had authorised when cross-examined by Elliott's barrister.
If the defence counsel had intended the jury to be shocked by Downing's luxurious tastes, the list was a disappointment. Faustino Asprilla had spent a large amount of his salary when at Newcastle in amusement arcades and at the Metro Centre's Disney Store. William Gallas, more conventionally, paid £350,000 for a McLaren Mercedes. Manchester United's Nani has invested a proportion of his wages in a life-size marble statue of himself while Downing's Villa team-mate Stephen Ireland has a passion for aquariums, candy-coloured soft furnishings and car accessories. Downing, in contrast, has more modest tastes by modern Premier League bling standards. The £136,000 he got through may be eye-watering to most but was spent on the kind of home improvements that were more Sarah Beeny than Djibril Cissé.
His home cinema cost £45,000, an extension £30,000, a walk-in dressing room £6,000, a new bathroom £6,000 and a conservatory £45,000. He also made gifts to family members totalling about £180,000 and told the jury that even after this expenditure the account should still have had £600,000 to £700,000 in it. His accountants, however, discovered only £11,000 left in it. Downing, understood to have been paid a weekly salary of about £35,000 at Boro, said: "If you look at the money that had gone out, there should have been more than £11,000."
Robin Patton, defending Elliott, replied: "That's if you know what you are doing with your money."
Whether he did or not, the Pallister Park council estate boy could not be accused of sharing some of his colleagues' Louis XIV-style profligacy. You could hardly see Hello! or OK wetting their lips over a conservatory, however nice the cushions. The trial continues.
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