Rhys Jones’ old football team to disband after gun threats

Club’s manager tells how he is no longer prepared to put up with aggression and  violence on the pitch

Rhys Jones

Kids in the football team that Rhys  Jones played for until his murder  six years ago were faced with a gun  threat in an on-the-pitch row over a  bad tackle.

Manager Steve Geoghegan revealed the chilling warning as he  called time on running Fir Tree FC  – an amateur side which campaigned for city youngsters to “join  a team, not a gang” in the wake of  Rhys’s death.

The team Rhys played for will  now cease to exist, apart from in a  small under-8s format.

Everton fan Rhys, 11, was killed  walking back from football practice  on August 22, 2007, when he was hit  by a bullet fired by gang member  Sean Mercer, then just 16.

 

 

Mercer was firing at rival Norris  Green gang members across the Fir  Tree pub car park when the bullet  ricocheted on a wall and hit Rhys.

 Mr Geoghegan, a close friend of  Rhys’s parents, Mel and Steve, revealed he had taken a decision to  step down as manager, fed up with  on-pitch violence and aggression.

 

Rhys Jones' dad, Steve, left, together with the manager of Rhys' old football team, Steve Geoghegan in 2011
Rhys Jones’ dad, Steve, left, together with the manager of Rhys’ old football team, Steve Geoghegan in 2011

 

 

  He told how one opponent had  threatened to shoot his players  after a dispute over a foul.

  Mr Geoghegan, 54, said: “The  honest truth is that nothing has  changed.

“We have got lots of people trying  to do stuff (to tackle anti-social  behaviour), promising things, but  it is just the same.

 “One team threatened to come  back with a gun and shoot the  kids.

“They were about 14 or 15 and  they ran across the pitch and hurled a volley of abuse at the parents  and threatened to come back and  shoot them.

 “It wasn’t taken lightly, given  what happened to Rhys.”

 He added: “All the current kids  are coming up to 18 now and as they  get older the arguments on the  pitch get worse. 

 “I’m not doing it any longer.”

 Mr Geoghegan, who works in  social care, also recalled Rhys’ time  at the club, saying he could have  made it to the very top.

 He said: “He was a great little  footballer.

“He was the life and soul of the  party, he would always be messing  up the sessions.

 “The sad fact is that I think he  was good enough to have made the  grade. We will never know what he  could have achieved.”

 Fir Tree FC made trips to Germany and Ireland to spread their  anti-gang message and the club  played an integral part in  launching the Rhys Jones  Memorial Cup competition.

  Mr Geoghegan’s son, Sean, will  run the Under-8s Fir Tree side.

* Rhys Jones community centre and football pitches to open next week

Where are they now – the thugs behind Rhys’ murder and its cover up

Sean Mercer            

 

GUILTY: Sean Mercer
GUILTY: Sean Mercer

 

 

The wannabe gangster was  jailed for life for pulling the  trigger of the gun that killed  Rhys Jones.

Yet, in the face of  overwhelming evidence, he  still privately denies being  the hooded gunman and at  one point looked set to take  his conviction to an appeal.

 The 22-year-old was last  year transferred to a high-  security adult prison after  serving time in a young  offenders’ institution.

 He will become eligible  for parole in December,  2030.

Gary Kays

The gang member who  helped murderer Mercer in  his bid to evade justice was  sent back to prison earlier  this year, after serving half  of a seven-year term.

Kays, now 30, helped  destroy evidence linking  him to the 11-year-old’s  killing.

  He was released on  licence in 2011 but is back  behind bars after his home  was raided by police  investigating a huge drugs  operation.

 He is currently on remand in custody.

Melvin Coy

Coy walked free less than  three years after he was  convicted for his role in the  cover-up plot.

It was Coy and best friend  Kays who picked up Mercer   from the Croxteth home of  a 16-year-old defendant  known only as Boy M.

Mercer and two other  gang members were taken  to a lock-up used at the  time by the welding  business owned by Coy’s  dad, Chilton. Inside the  unit, Mercer was washed  down in petrol to rid his  skin of gunshot residue.

James Yates

The thug who armed  Mercer with the lethal gun  is understood to have  tasted freedom after being  enrolled on a day release  programme.

Yates, now 24, supplied  the gun and then helped  murderer Sean Mercer  cover his tracks.

 He was locked up for 12  years but was put on a day  release programme earlier  this year after being moved  to an open prison.

 He celebrated his first  period on release with a  luxury stay at a city hotel.

Nathan Quinn

Thickset gang member  Quinn refused to face up to  his role in assisting Sean  Mercer.

The 22-year-old was  released in 2011 after serving time for helping Mercer  get rid of the murder  weapon and being caught  red-handed buying a gun in  a separate matter.

 Upon his release, Quinn  was allowed back into  Croxteth to visit a sick  relative. That prompted  anger from Rhys supporters, who felt he would mix  with old friends.

Dean Kelly

The thug who hid the  murder weapon is back on  the streets after serving  time for stealing  a van.

Kelly, 22, sparked a police  chase after being seen  speeding away in the van.

 He served two years of a  four-year sentence for his  role in the murder before  being jailed for eight months  in July last year for the  vehicle theft.

Mercer called at the home  of layabout Kelly before  Rhys was shot – he refused  to go with him because he  had just bought some chips.

 

Coleman

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