Jonny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill are highly unlikely to face punishment in Spain after a Barcelona court decided not to pursue a case against the four West Bromwich Albion players after they allegedly stole a taxi in the city last week.
The decision will come as some relief to Alan Pardew as he fights to remain in charge at the Hawthorns. An investigating magistrate decided to archive the case because of a lack of evidence owing to the taxi driver's decision not to press charges.
Had the driver, who was left stranded outside a fast-food restaurant at 5.30am last Thursday, decided otherwise, the players could have faced heavy fines and/or community service in Catalonia. The quartet were alleged to have “borrowed” his vehicle in order to return to their city-centre hotel where West Brom were staying.
The four players, who apologised for their involvement in the incident and breaking a midnight curfew, have been told the case will be reopened only if compelling evidence emerges.
Pardew is struggling to persuade West Brom's Chinese owner to retain his services. Only last week, Guochuan Lai sacked the club's chairman, John Williams and chief executive, Martin Goodman. The pair were instrumental in appointing Pardew as Tony Pulis's successor.
Since Pardew took charge, West Brom have won one of 13 League games and are bottom of the Premier League, seven points adrift of 17th placed Huddersfield. On Saturday they lost 2-1 at home to Southampton in the FA Cup, with the manager surprisingly selecting Evans and Barry, even though the former was, temporarily at least, stripped of the captaincy.
“If your chairman and your CEO are moved on you can’t be sure of your job,” Pardew has admitted. The 56-year-old faces matches at home to Huddersfield on Saturday and at Watford seven days later that could determine his future.
Questions are being asked about the wisdom of the struggling squad taking a three-night bonding break to Barcelona. It featured little warm-weather training and also involved Pardew having his wallet and mobile phone stolen in a bar on Tuesday night.
Pardew’s squad spent a total of only three hours training at Espanyol’s base but returned with four players the subject of an internal investigation. That inquiry is expected to last two weeks and will see the quartet interviewed individually by club directors. – Guardian service