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