A man has been arrested after a pitch invader assaulted Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish during the Second City derby at St Andrew’s.
But a determined Grealish had the last laugh by picking himself up after the vile assault and scoring the match-winning goal in the second-half.
The assailant who ran on the pitch has now been identified as father-of-one Paul Mitchell.
The incident occurred in the ninth minute of the game when a man wearing a flat cap ran onto the field from the Tilton End and punched Grealish in the head from behind.
The 23-year-old fell to the floor but thankfully did not appear to be badly hurt. A steward, helped by both sets of players, then restrained the man.
Shortly after the incident Grealish scored what would end up being the match-winning goal and jumped over the hoardings to celebrate.
A steward restraining him appears to kick the Aston Villa captain and is later led away by police.
The assailant who ran on the pitch has now been identified as father-of-one Paul Mitchell
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish has been assaulted by a man during the Birmingham derby
He struck the midfielder in the head with his right hand from behind, knocking Grealish over
Thankfully the 23-year-old did not appear to be badly hurt and the man was restrained
In the shocking incident the man sprinted onto the field in the ninth minute and struck Grealish with some force – to cheers from some supporters.
The intruder was quickly restrained by stewards as several other Villa players rushed in to confront him.
The Aston Villa bench were all on their feet to check on Grealish while Birmingham City players came over to apologise to the Villa captain.
Grealish later smashes home a goal in the second-half and leaps over the hoardings to celebrate with Villa fans.
But in doing so, he appears to be punched and kicked by a steward to get him back over the hoardings.
The end of the footage shows a steward being led away by a police officer.
After the game, the match-winner Grealish said: ‘I was just unaware of it at the time obviously I think we had a throw in in the corner, I was walking into position and I felt a whack around the side of the face.
‘Obviously there’s rivalry and stuff in football but I don’t think there’s any place for that really. But I just tried to get on with my job in the end and I think I did, scored the winner and we’ve come away with three points.’
A spokesman for Birmingham City Football Club said the pitch invader will be banned for life.
They said: ‘Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in this afternoon’s derby match.
‘We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The Club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
‘The Club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
‘What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this – there are no excuses.
‘Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.’
A steward and the players quickly ran over to deal with the pitch invader after the incident
Aston Villa players ran over to confront the man but they were able to keep their cool
Birmingham City players rushed over to check on their opponent and apologise for the attack
The man was led away by police and stewards, blowing kisses to the crowd on his way out
At half-time, Aston Villa coach John Terry was first speak with the Englishman along with manager Dean Smith.
On the way down the tunnel, Grealish was subject to further goading home supporters nearby, chanting ‘one punch and he knocked him out.’
He was led away by police, blowing kisses to the crowd as he left.
A post on the force’s official Twitter feed read: ‘ARREST: Following the incident on the pitch involving an attack on an Aston Villa player; a man has been arrested and en route to a custody block. Further details to follow.’
Responding to the incident, an EFL spokesman said: ‘The EFL condemns the mindless actions of the individual who encroached on to the pitch at St Andrews on Sunday afternoon.
‘It’s a situation no player should ever be faced with.
‘In all circumstances the playing surface is for players, not supporters and those playing in the game must be able to do so safe in the knowledge they will not be subjected to this type of behaviour.
‘Whilst this incident falls within the remit of the Football Association, we will work with all the relevant parties to address the issue of player and match officials safety on the pitch and ensure the appropriate action is taken.’
This is the second incident within a week in the United Kingdom where a fan has attacked a player on the a football field.
This is the second incident in the United Kingdom within a week after an incident in Scotland
Rangers defender James Tavernier was involved in an altercation with a fan on the touchline
On Wednesday a Hibernian fan confronted Rangers captain James Tavernier during their Scottish Premiership clash at Easter Road.
The fan jumped over the hoardings and booted the ball away from Tavernier as the he was about to take a throw.
The pair then squared up and pushed each other before security and police dragged the man away.
The incident at Birmingham City followed a feisty opening to the game, in which Birmingham’s Maikel Kieftenbeld was booked for scything down Grealish, while there were also clashes between fans outside the stadium before kick-off.
Police had to hold back fans while at least one man was seen being treated by paramedics after suffering a head wound.
Fans and players have been reacting with shock at the incident on social media.
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville called for a heavy punishment on Twitter. He wrote: ‘The club are going have to take a huge punishment for this to act as a deterrent in the future . A Points deduction or Empty stadium for 10 games !’
Gary Lineker branded the attack ‘abhorrent’, adding on Twitter: ‘Well done @JackGrealish1 for keeping his cool.’
West Ham midfielder Declan Rice was quick to react to the incident, tweeting: ‘Absolutely disgraceful what just happened to Jack Grealish’.
Brighton defender Shane Duffy added: ‘That is a disgrace.’
Raheem Sterling said: ‘Idiot of the year… congrats on your lifetime ban.’
The game was televised live on Sky Sports Football and former Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie, on duty as a pundit during half-time, called for a severe punishment and suggested the game would have had to be abandoned had Grealish suffered a serious injury.
Hendrie said: ‘I’m all for the rivalry, I’m all for the banter, but that is literally the worst thing I’ve seen on a football pitch.
‘Jack Grealish, one of the key players – what if he breaks his jaw and has to go off the pitch? That’s one key player who is out of your side. If that would have happened, I think the game would have had to have been abandoned.
‘A fan running on to the pitch and taking someone like Jack out, that could have been anything, there’s knife crime… anything could have happened out there.’
Former Liverpool player and manager Graeme Souness, also working for Sky Sports as a pundit ahead of Chelsea’s clash with Wolves and Manchester United’s visit to Arsenal, said: ‘It shows you there’s village idiots everywhere. It’s such a sad thing to see, what has possessed him to do that?
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said similar incidents could lead to the returning of fencing
‘Have I ever been in that situation? No. And I’m thinking, if I’m in that position, how could you ever restrain yourself if he’s done that to one of your team-mates? How could you?’
Gary Neville added that football could see the return of fences in stadiums: ‘It’s not the club’s fault in some ways because, as you say the village idiot you can’t stop him doing what he’s going to do. But as a deterrent for the future there has to be a huge punishment for Birmingham City for that.
‘Because in the future if any fan thinks they can just get a five-match ban or a season ban… We’ve seen horrific incidents in other sports where fans have been attacked more seriously than that.
‘If that comes into football we’ll have fences round the ground again. I think that’s a really serious problem that needs nipping in the bud and the club needs to take a huge punishment.’
The midfielder went on to score the opening goal for Aston Villa in the second half
Grealish went on to get a modicum of revenge in the second half when he opened the scoring for the visitors.
The midfielder hit a driving shot with his left foot past goalkeeper Lee Camp in the 67th minute, before going on to celebrate by jumping into the away end.
The Villa captain was subsequently booked for his celebration.
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