Adam Johnson, the Sunderland and England soccer star, could face more than two years in prison after pleading guilty to two child sex offences involving a 15-year-old girl.
The Premier League star, who has been capped by England on 12 occasions, changed his original plea and admitted the offences when he appeared at Bradford Crown Court on the first day of his trial.
The 28-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of grooming the teenager and also one count of kissing her in a sexual manner.
But he continued to deny two further alleged offences involving the same girl, and will now stand trial, with the prosecution expected to begin outlining its case against him tomorrow.
Johnson, from Castle Eden, County Durham, arrived at court yesterday supported by his 26-year-old girlfriend, Stacey Flounders, and his father.
Wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and dark tie, the footballer sat in the dock, accompanied by one female security guard.
His barrister, Orlando Pownall, indicated that Johnson wished for the first two counts on the indictment to be put to him again. When asked how he pleaded to the two offences, he replied “guilty” in a quiet voice.
Ms Flounders, who was sitting in the public gallery, showed no emotion.
A jury was then sworn in to hear the case relating to the two outstanding offences which he continues to deny.
They relate to two further allegations of sexual activity with the same girl, which the Crown says went beyond kissing.
The alleged offences were said to have taken place in January and February last year.
Following his arrest Ms Flounders, who has a baby daughter with the footballer, vowed to stand by the £50,000 (€64,000) a week winger.
The jury was informed of Johnson’s two guilty pleas but was then sent home to allow the prosecution and defence to iron out a number of outstanding legal issues. Johnson’s guilty pleas mean he could face a maximum sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison and potentially the end of his football career.
But if found guilty of the more serious offences, which he denies, he could be jailed for a maximum of 14 years.
He was arrested in March last year after the alleged victim’s father went to police when rumours about the illegal relationship began circulating on social media.
Johnson, who started his professional career with Middlesbrough, was regarded as one of England’s brightest young stars.
After a big money move to Manchester City – where he was reputed to have been earning £80,000 a week – his international career stalled and in the summer of 2012 he returned to his hometown club of Sunderland.
The club initially suspended the £10m player, but then subsequently reinstated him.
He played for the Black Cats in the weekend’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool, scoring a free kick.
It is not clear whether he will be selected to play in this weekend’s home tie against Manchester United.
Sunderland are currently second from bottom in the Premier League, four points from safety.