Ian Banks, a skilful midfielder who played more than 300 games in two stints for the Reds in the 1970s and 80s, was out celebrating a friend’s 60th birthday with his wife Kaye at the Olive Lounge, a tapas bar and restaurant in Wickersley, Rotherham, on March 2.
But as he checked for the group’s taxi home, Ian was attacked twice - once inside the bar and again as he was standing on the pavement.
“There was a bang and suddenly he was laid at my feet,” said Kaye, 53, who lives with her husband in Brampton.
“Then there were two bouncers coming over. I was frantic. I went outside to find someone in our party and the bouncers wouldn’t let me back in, and then I saw an ambulance coming up the road and had this horrible feeling.
“There was blood pouring down the street. I thought he was dead.”
Ian said he doesn’t remember much from the night, despite going back to the bar to review CCTV footage with Kaye following the attack.
“Me and Kaye were stood with the bouncers, and I’d got blood all down the back of my head,” said Ian, 58, who now works as a mortgage advisor.
“And I said, ‘I can’t even remember that’.
“I remember going into the toilet, and then waking up in the ambulance for two seconds, and then waking up again in hospital.”
Ian discharged himself from Rotherham Hospital the following day, and after some CT scans and seven stitches in the back of his head he was allowed to leave.
He said he didn’t realise the extent of his injuries: “I thought, if my chest and brain don’t have anything wrong then I’m going home.
“But I kept going dizzy all the time, I couldn’t even lay on my left side.
“I couldn’t close my mouth and couldn’t eat for three days.”
Ian, an apprentice at Oakwell who made his debut at 18, said his recovery has taken a while - but the psychological effects may never fully disappear.
“I wouldn’t say I’m back to how I was,” he said. “I still don’t think I’m there psychologically.
“The scars have healed but the scars in your brain don’t heal.
“If I see a gang of four or five lads I give them a swerve.
“We don’t even go out that often, I’d rather sit at home with a drink.
“But we must’ve been sat downstairs at 3.30am for two or three weeks, just having a cup of tea, because I didn’t want to go to bed.
“It’s affected my concentration, and I suffer with fatigue and tiredness. I used to go running but now I just can’t motivate myself to do it.
“I’ve been looking at it philosophically. I was unlucky in some ways but lucky in others.”
Ian and Kaye have grown increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of communication from police.
“Initially I had heard nothing for two weeks, no one even asking if I was all right,” said Ian.
“I’m getting so frustrated. I need some answers for closure.
“This guy has done that and I’m being punished.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed a man had been taken into custody following the incident, but no charges have yet been made.