A FORMER Premier League goalkeeper netted a year-long driving ban after being stopped behind the wheel after a drinking session with pals in South Tyneside.
Steve Simonsen, who has won four England under-21 caps and also played for Everton, was caught over the limit on Mowbray Road, South Shields, while driving back to his parents’ home in the town – hours after being part of his club’s matchday squad.
The 34-year-old had been out drinking with friends in Sunderland on February 22 – after being on the bench for Rangers’ home clash with Stenhousemuir – before heading to two clubs in South Shields.
He had left his car in Ocean Road at 4.30am and walked home to his parents’ house but, two hours later, decided to pick up the vehicle.
When stopped by police, he recorded a breath test reading of 54mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath – one-and-a-half times over the legal limit of 35mcg.
Simonsen, who is originally from South Shields, admitted driving with excess alcohol at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
Sarah Guest, prosecuting, said: “A Ford Focus vehicle was stopped at 6.40am on Mowbray Road in South Shields on February 23.
“The driver recorded a reading of 54mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath and was charged. He has no previous record and is a man of previous good character.”
Laila Ghahhari, defending, said: “Mr Simonsen is a professional footballer. On February 22, he had been playing for Rangers in Glasgow and later went to Sunderland to see a friend competing in another sporting event. He had two bottles of Desperado alcohol in Sunderland from about 9.30pm, which is of 5.9 per cent proof.
“He decided not to drive and asked a friend to drive him back to South Shields and went to a club, where he had another drink and then went to another club for another drink at 1.30am.
“He had his last drink at 2am.
“At around 4am he and a female friend left the club and went back to his car and had a conversation. Police arrived and spoke to Mr Simonsen but she had no cause to take any action.”
The court heard that the car’s engine was not on and the key was not in the ignition at this point.
Miss Ghahhari added: “His parents live a short distance away and he walked to their home at 4.30am. He went to bed but had some coffee and struggled to sleep. A couple of hours later he decided to get some fresh air and pick up his car.
“He genuinely didn’t believe he was over the limit.
“If he had thought any different, he would’t have got in the car.
“He was stopped by police driving from her home back to his parents’ home.
“He had travelled a very short distance of about one to two miles. He clearly completely regrets driving in the circumstances and offers his apologies to the court.
“He has two children and is separated from his wife and they are going through a divorce. This will have a significant effect on his ability to see his children. It is this that he regrets most of all.”
Ridley Reid, chairman of the magistrates, said: “You made an unfortunate decision to return to your car.”
Simonsen, of Tudor Road in Southport, Merseyside, was banned from driving for 12 months and fined £650, as well as being ordered to pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £60.