The future of Oxford United footballer Ross Weatherstone was in the balance today after he was found guilty of a racist attack on an Asian taxi driver, write Emma Henry and Mark Edwards.

The Second Division club was due to issue a statement on their promising 19-year-old defender.

United manager Denis Smith would not comment but fans expect the club which backs football's anti-racist campaign to take tough action. Martin Brodetsky, editor of United's fanzine Rage On, said: "I'm obviously very disappointed and think that the club has to take a strong line on the matter now.

"Oxford United are signed up to the 'kick racism out of football' campaign and racism is unacceptable wherever you are."

Weatherstone was fined 500 and ordered to pay 200 costs by magistrates for the attack which left a taxi wrecked and the driver mentally scarred. He and two friends were found guilty of racially aggravating, threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour towards driver Zafrad Naeem in Reading on January 23 following a drunken fare dispute.

Reading magistrates heard that Weatherstone and three friends hired Mr Naeem to take them back to Weatherstone's home in Hagbourne Close, Woodcote, after a night out in Reading.

But the taxi ride ended in a serious crash after Mr Naeem became nervous when Weatherstone and two of the men insulted him and discussed planning to rob him. Mr Naeem told how one of the passengers then smashed the partition window, grabbed his jumper and pulled him so tight he choked.

He lost control of the taxi and it veered off the road into a lamp-post, ending up on its side.

He said: "I fell unconscious and that is why I do not have a full account of the details.

"All I can recall after the crash is that the taxi was on its side and two of them had got out and were kicking the window in."

Weatherstone, who was described as the loudest and most boisterous of the group, admitted wolf-whistling at girls, but denied being racist, abusive or violent. He said: "I don't think the use of racial abuse is acceptable in any way but especially not in my profession."

Weatherstone was one of three men involved in the attack. Two close friends Robin Antonowicz, 19, of Elm Close, Goring, who plays for AFC Wallingford, and Gareth Evans, 21, Bensgrove Close, Woodcote, were also found guilty yesterday. They were also fined 500 plus 200 costs.

A fourth friend, Carl Walker, 25, of Cuddesdon Close, Woodcote, was cleared. All had denied the charge at a previous hearing. Weatherstone made his debut in the local derby at Reading last year. He played six first-team games last year. He suffered ligament damage in January and has not played since but is seen as a rising star in the club.

His distressed father refused to comment after the hearing.