A football team captain suffering from a potentially fatal blood clot on the brain was punched during an attack outside a town centre pub, say police.

Rumours were rife among football fans that former Albion midfielder Paul Armstrong had been attacked either with a bottle or a glass but police have denied this.

Eastbourne Borough captain Mr Armstrong was attacked outside the Brewery Shades pub in High Street, Crawley, at 8pm on December 28.

Police have said he was punched in the face and then fell to the ground as he socialised with friends after Eastbourne’s match against Crawley.

Following the assault, paramedics took Mr Armstrong to East Surrey Hospital in Reigate.

He was later taken to Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre in Haywards Heath, where he is still being treated.

Mr Armstrong, who made 53 first team appearances for Brighton and Hove Albion, is said to be recovering well from the attack.

In a statement on Eastbourne Borough’s website Nick Greenwood, the club’s assistant manager, said: “I visited Paul on Thursday evening at Hurstwood Park Hospital and spent an hour with him.

“He is sat up in bed and was back to his old self, talking about the match against Lewes.

“He has had two CT scans and the doctors are pleased with his progress.

“Paul is hoping to go home after this weekend.”

Mr Greenwood added that medics are optimistic Mr Armstrong will make a full recovery and that the club will support his family in every way possible.

Team-mates have visited Mr Armstrong and have presented him with a yellow jersey — usually handed out to that week’s worst performer in training.

A Sussex Police spokesman urged any witness to come forward.

He said: “The suspect is described as white, 6ft, of medium build and with spiky dark hair.

“He was wearing a white woollen top, blue jeans and white trainers.”

Police are also keen to speak to a man with a South African accent who spoke to officers at the scene but left before leaving his contact details.

Yesterday police asked anyone with information to contact Detective Sergeant Jon Pink or Detective Constable Julie Davis at Crawley CID on 01293 583823. Or people can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.