A TALENTED footballer was among a teen trio who left a young man so badly injured he is now unable to join the army.

The three youths, who were aged just 15 and 16 at the time of the attack, were part of an eight-strong gang responsible for what a Swindon judge labelled a vicious assault in July 2018.

The boys, who cannot be named as they are all under-18, narrowly avoided being sent into custody. Sentencing the three at Swindon Crown Court, Judge Peter Crabtree said they could have expected jail terms ranging from two years to 29 months had they been adults.

Prosecuting, Hannah Squire said a couple of days before the assault two of the lads – including the one expected to turn semi-professional footballer next year – were involved in an argument with the driver of a car they claimed had almost hit their cyclist friend.

A couple of days later one of the two boys, now 17 and a college student with hopes of being a plumber, spotted the driver at a Swindon Co-op and challenged him to a fight. The driver, 18-year-old Oliver Gore, refused to get involved.

Later that day the pair who had challenged Mr Gore at the scene went to his girlfriend’s home on White Eagle Road and began throwing stones at his car.

As Mr Gore, his girlfriend and her sister came out of the house the pair approached them. The footballer was brandishing a bike seat and the group scuffled before the two boys retreated.

“Had it been left there Oliver Gore would not have gone on to suffer the horrific injuries he did,” Ms Squire said.

The two boys returned with reinforcements: a group of around eight youths on bikes that included the third defendant.

The would-be plumber struck the first punch. Ms Squire said: “That was the catalyst for all the others to join in. Bearing in mind the numbers involved in that group he had little chance to defend himself and he fell to the ground.” He was kicked in the head and body, suffering a broken cheekbone, nose and eye socket.

In a victim statement Mr Gore, a labourer, said the assault had left him briefly unable to eat as his lip would split open and the injuries had quashed his dreams of joining the army.

He said he did not want the three to be jailed but hoped to meet them so he could explain face-to-face the impact of their crimes. All three pleaded guilty to GBH.

Rob Ross, for the 17-year-old footballer, said his client was remorseful for what had happened.

“When this incident took place he could have ended up going down the road of a thug. Or he could have probably looked in the mirror, realised what had happened and knuckled down to sort himself out,” Mr Ross said. He took the latter route and was now at a football academy.

Emma Handslip, representing the 16 and 17-year-old college students, said both were remorseful. The former, who hoped to go to university, had been grounded by his parents since the assault. The older boy, who planned to become a plumber, felt a “deep sense of shame” for what he had done.

All of the boys had stayed out of trouble in the 18 months since the attack.

Sentencing the trio, Judge Crabtree described the group as feral, adding: “This was pre-meditated violence in circumstances where such a response to a road traffic incident was wholly disproportionate.”

The two 17-year-olds were given a two-year youth rehabilitation order with a supervision requirement, a four-month curfew, 140 hours of unpaid work and 20 days in which to complete a restorative justice course. The younger teen received a two-year order with a three-month curfew, 45 restorative justice days and 80 hours of unpaid work. Compensation was ordered totalling £1,300.