A TEENAGER'S dreams of becoming a professional footballer have been left in tatters after a vicious assault.

Football-mad Joe Sawyer, 14, was down to the last week of trials for Sheffield Wednesday's under-14 side until a fight in which he was set upon by three other boys left him with a broken nose, a black eye and bruising to his face.

Joe, who had been travelling to Sheffield for training three times a week, has been told by his doctor it will be about six weeks before he can resume training, by which time it will be too late for him to play.

"I'm gutted. It's one of my main dreams to be a professional footballer and I've devoted my life to it," said Joe.

The attack involved Joe and three other boys from Huntington School.

Head teacher Chris Bridge described the attack as a "three on one" and said he was "appalled by what had happened" and has given all three of the other boys lengthy suspensions.

The incident happened last Monday at about 12.45pm when Joe was on his lunch break.

The teenager, a pupil at the school, had gone off the school grounds to the shops in New Earswick Road when he claims he was ambushed by the gang of three, led by a boy in his year at school.

Outside the shops Joe claims he was subjected to a sustained round of blows to his face and head by the other 14-year-old, but that he never hit back and kept walking back towards school.

He said: "He came up behind me and kicked my chips out of my hand and a group of them started throwing cans and sticks at me. I kept on walking but he came up to my left-hand side and hit me in the chin.

"All I could think was I've got to get back to school and get away. I didn't turn round and hit back and didn't say anything. Some of my mates tried to get in between me and them."

Joe claims it took about 20 minutes for him to get back to school, but the other boys would not let up and the other boy in his year hit him in the face, breaking his nose.

Joe reported the incident to the school and Mr Bridge.

Joe's mum, Yvonne Williams said: "I'm very annoyed and upset. This sort of thing just shouldn't happen and Joe could have been injured much worse. Joe would have had his first match on Sunday, but there's no hope of that now."

Mr Bridge said: "Such an incident is very rare and we are appalled by what has happened. It's the height of cowardice for three pupils to try to set up a fight and agree beforehand that if their friend comes off worst, they will both jump in and support him."

He said all three pupils involved had been given long exclusions and the school would be meeting their parents before they were allowed back.

A spokesman for York Police said the incident had been reported and inquiries were on-going.

Wednesday's academy manager, Sean McAuley, explained that because of FA rules, the club could not offer Joe a trial again this season.

But he said: "I have been in contact with Joe's father to offer him another trial at the start of next season as Joe deserves another opportunity to show us his ability."