Jordan Pickford was eventually provoked into a disturbance which erupted outside a Sunderland bar after antagonisers insulted his fiancée, according to reports.
Witnesses told our sister paper the i how a group of people had been goading the Everton and England goalkeeper all afternoon, but a disturbance broke out late in the evening when abuse was levelled at his fiancée Megan Davison.
Pickford was given permission to return to the North East, where he grew up in Washington, after Everton’s 2-0 Premier League win against West Ham in London on Saturday night.
He had initially planned to watch the Checkatrade Trophy final between boyhood club Sunderland, whom he joined as a youth player aged eight and played for six years years before moving for a world record £30million fee to Everton in 2017, and Portsmouth in the capital, but changed his plans to spend Mother’s Day back home with his and his fiancée’s family, the i reported.
Video footage, which emerged on social media on Monday, showed Pickford being subjected to taunts which he attempted to take in good spirits and laugh off as he posed for pictures with fans, but witnesses told the i a sickening insult was later aimed at his fiancé.
Pickford and Davison are childhood sweethearts since meeting at school as teenagers and currently live together in Merseyside. They got engaged early last year.
Pickford, 25, has previously spoken about his enjoyment at being cast into the spotlight since he became England’s No1 goalkeeper and reached the World Cup third-place play-off in Russia last summer.
Figures around the England camp often speak highly of the player and others who have known him for a long time talk of a player who has little time for much else beyond football and family.
Northumbria Police said they received a report at 12.19am on Monday morning of a scuffle between a large group of people on Tunstall Road, in Sunderland.
No arrests were made but the police said their inquiries remain ongoing and they appealed for anyone to come forward with any information.
Everton are also investigating the incident, saying in a statement: “The club has been made aware of an alleged incident involving one of our players and we are looking into the matter.”