Paul Mitchell, 27, pictured, has admitted assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, 23, today and the court heard he punched him ‘as a joke’
The thug who attacked Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish after invading the pitch during the Birmingham derby has admitted assault in court today – as it was revealed his pregnant wife and two-year-old child have fled their home over ‘death threats’ against him.
Jobless Paul Mitchell, 27, appeared before Birmingham Magistrates’ Court this morning where he pleaded guilty to the astonishing attack.
The court heard the married father-of-one, who is a season ticket holder at Birmingham and has been a fan for 20 years, carried out the assault ‘as a joke’ because he thought the footballer ‘was a kn*b’.
Meanwhile a statement from Grealish, who scored the winner in a 1-0 victory for Villa despite the attack, said he was ‘shocked and scared’ at how Mitchell had been able to launch his attack and feared it ‘could have been worse’ if he was armed.
It comes after friends revealed Mitchell, who until recently ran a working men’s club, had received ‘death threats’ for his actions including that his home would be attacked.
Opening the case, prosecutor Jonathan Purser told the court: ‘The officer who was carrying Mitchell off the pitch said Mitchell thought Mr Grealish was a kn*b.
‘Mitchell claims he was not intoxicated and was with his father and did it as a joke.
‘He did say he was remorseful.’
Mr Purser then read a statement from Grealish which said: ‘Jack Grealish was shocked and scared because if this person was brazen enough to get onto the pitch, what else could he do?
Friends of father-of-one Mitchell, 27, pictured, said he has been ‘sent death threats’ after invading the pitch during Birmingham’s match with Aston Villa
Mitchell, pictured, pleaded guilty to pitch invasion and assault and will be sentenced later today. The court heard Grealish said he was ‘shocked and scared’ at how he was able to get to him on the pitch
Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was assaulted by a pitch invader during the Birmingham derby yesterday
‘He didn’t know person who assaulted him and didn’t antagonise Birmingham City supporters.
‘It could have been worse had the person had a weapon.’
Mitchell, who has a Birmingham City tattoo on his left forearm, appeared remorseful in the dock as his case was heard.
The court heard he is currently unemployed and was previously a manager of an unnamed pub.
Mr Purser said: ‘Jack Grealish felt a push in the back and a hook to his lower jaw.
‘It could have been worse’: Jack Grealish on the astonishing attack
In a statement read to Birmingham Magistrates’ Court today by prosecutor Jonathan Purser, Jack Grealish said:
‘He [Jack Grealish] was shocked and scared because if this person was brazen enough to get onto the pitch, what else could he do?
‘He didn’t know person who assaulted him and didn’t antagonise Birmingham City supporters.
‘It could have been worse had the person had a weapon.’
‘He had just won a corner and had his back to stand containing Birmingham City supporters.
‘The TV footage had captured the defendant running onto the football pitch, Mr Grealish with back to him, and had his name on back of his shirt.
‘Footage shows him taking a running swing, jumping on the back of Mr Grealish and launching that punch.’
Birmingham City has confirmed the supporter has been given a lifetime ban from St Andrew’s.
Mr Purser added: ‘He did say he was remorseful. It was an unprovoked assault on someone doing his work. There was pain, discomfort and shock.’
Vaughan Whistance, defending, said: ‘It has brought shame upon his family and the club he has supported as a child. A season ticket holder for over 20 years.
‘He has apologised to Aston Villa and of course to Jack Grealish. This was totally out of character.
‘He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning. His initial foolish intention to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd.
‘He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a two-year-old together, and they’re expecting their second child.’
Mr Whistance added: ‘This is a high-profile case, captured on national television.
‘My client’s young family have had to leave their home and move out of Birmingham in fear of serious harm or death.’
Mitchell will be sentenced this afternoon.
Mitchell, who until recently ran a working men’s club in Warwickshire, saluted fellow Birmingham fans as he was removed from the pitch by stewards and drinkers at his bar said staff had received terrifying calls threatening to ‘burn it down’.
Friends told The Sun about the threats to Mitchell via his former pub.
Once source said: ‘We’ve had calls from people issuing death threats against him. One said, ‘We’re coming after the game, we’re gonna burn the place to the ground then burn his house’.
‘His family are worried. We were all watching and no one could believe what Paul did. He’s loud and not the brightest but this was totally insane.’
Another friend told the paper: ‘He deserves everything coming his way.’
It is believed his wife Sandra has deleted his recent social media posts amid a flurry of abuse and condemnation from other fans on Twitter and Facebook.
The incident occurred in the ninth minute of the game when flat-cap wearing Mitchell ran onto the field from the Tilton End and appeared to punch Grealish in the head from behind.
The 23-year-old fell to the floor but was not badly hurt. A steward, helped by both sets of players, then restrained Mitchell.
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 appeared to kick the Aston Villa captain and was later led away by police.
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
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.’
At half-time, Aston Villa coach John Terry was first speak with the Englishman along with manager Dean Smith.
A steward and the players quickly ran over to deal with the pitch invader after the incident
Aston Villa players ran over to confront Mitchell but they were able to keep their cool
Birmingham City players rushed over to check on their opponent and apologise for the attack
The invader was led away by police and stewards, blowing kisses to the crowd on his way out
On the way down the tunnel, Grealish was subject to further goading from 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.’
It was one of two incidents of fan trouble on the same day after an Arsenal supporter ran onto the pitch and clashed with Manchester United’s Chris Smalling.
An Arsenal supporter ran onto the pitch and clashed with Manchester United’s Chris Smalling in the second incident of fan trouble yesterday
Stewards quickly grabbed the invader before escorting him off the pitch
The man managed to get onto the turf at the Emirates Stadium as the home side celebrated its second goal when Pierre Emerick Aubameyang converted a penalty.
He ran past Smalling with his arms wide and appeared to smack the back of his neck before he headed towards other players.
Stewards quickly grabbed the invader before escorting him off the pitch.
Gary Neville said on Sky Sports: ‘You see the fan coming on and going to Chris Smalling. An absolute numpty.
This is the third incident within a week in the United Kingdom where a fan has attacked a player on the a football field.
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.
This is the third 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
Meanwhile there were also clashes between Birmingham and Aston Villa 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.’
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said similar incidents could lead to the returning of fencing
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?
‘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
‘He might have scored, but it’ll never bring his dead brother back’: Troll mocks Jack Grealish over the loss of his baby brother to cot death when Aston Villa star was just four
By Joseph Curtis for MailOnline
Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish came under attack again after a troll mocked his dead brother just hours after the footballer was punched on the pitch.
Paul Mitchell, 27, will appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court this morning charged with assaulting the 23-year-old after he was caught on camera running onto the field and appearing to punch him in the back of the head.
Grealish went on to score the winner in a 1-0 victory for Villa, but was taunted on Twitter by user alfieperkins over his brother Keelan, who died in 2000 aged just nine months due to cot death.
The troll wrote: ‘He might’ve scored but it will never bring his dead brother back and that gives me more satisfaction than anything ever could hahahahahahaha.’
A Twitter troll mocked Jack Grealish’s dead brother after the Aston Villa midfielder scored the winner against Birmingham yesterday in a Championship match. Keelan Grealish died of cot death aged just nine months in 2000
The abuse sparked widespread condemnation with EastEnders actor Shane Richie branding the troll a ‘f****** lowlife’, pictured
Grealish, pictured celebrating the only goal of the match, was physically attacked yesterday as well after a pitch invader hit him from behind. Grealish has previously spoken of how he has dedicated his career to his brother’s memory
Grealish previously paid tribute to his brother on Instagram with a picture of his grave covered in flowers, pictured
Grealish, who was just four at the time of his brother’s death, has previously spoken of how he tries to honour Keelan’s memory and make parents Kevin and Karen proud.
Meanwhile the troll has been widely condemned on social media by football fans and celebrities alike, including EastEnders star Shane Richie who branded him a ‘f****** lowlife’.
The actor said: ‘You f****** lowlife ….hope whoever your mates are know you’re a complete & utter p****.’
Another user wrote: ‘Absolutely sickening, the kid deserves to be locked up and the key needs to be lobbed.’
And another said: ‘He is an attention seeking keyboard warrior who is a little boy and would s*** himself in the real world.’
Twitter has since deleted the offensive tweet while the account also appears to have been removed.
Grealish has honoured his brother throughout his career, dedicating his first-ever goal to Keelan while on loan at Notts County in the 2013/14 season.
His father Kevin was at Wembley for Aston Villa’s FA Cup semi-final with Bolton in 2000 when he learned of Keelan’s death and has previously spoken of how it has driven his son on in his footballing career, such as when Grealish helped lead Aston Villa to an FA Cup semi-final victory over Liverpool in 2015.
Social media users were quick to slam the troll for making light of the tragedy, pictured
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail last year, Mr Grealish said: ‘He [Keelan] was only nine months old, he was a little angel and I was devastated. We all were.
‘Jack was only a kid himself back then, but he still remembers Keelan and he still thinks about him with everything he achieves.
‘I said to Jack when I remember the last FA Cup semi final against Bolton and the news we got that day, and then I think about what he achieved and the way he played against Liverpool, he made us so proud and brought us so much happiness.
Mr Grealish, also father to son Kevan and daughters Holly and Kiera, revealed how the family donated a trophy Jack won in his childhood back to his then school Our Lady of Compassion Catholic Primary School in Solihull because staff had been ‘brilliant’ to the family in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The prize was then renamed the Keelan Daniel Grealish Memorial Cup.
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