Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish became a victim of an attack by a spectator during the side’s derby clash at Birmingham. The pitch-invader was later arrested for the violent attack during the fixture in the English Championship – the second tier of club football.
Ten minutes into the match, Grealish, who was in the hosts penalty area, was attacked viciously by a spectator. The Birmingham City ‘fan’ invaded the pitch and ran straight towards the midfielder. He then punched Grealish on the head from behind – who went down under the impact.
— Kian Malhi (@Kianmalhi11) 10 March 2019
Players from both sides quickly came between the intruder and Grealish before he was led away by the officials. A while later, West Midlands Police reported that the invader who attacked Grealish had been arrested and was enroute a custody block.
The man has been named by police as 27-year-old Paul Mitchell, of Rubery, and will appear in court on Monday, reports BBC. He will appear in Birmingham Magistrates Court and charged with encroachment on to the pitch and assault. “An attack on a player is completely unacceptable and outrageous,” said the match commander, Superintendent Nick Rowe. “The vast majority of people were well behaved but unfortunately the occasion has been marred by this.”
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. pic.twitter.com/fed9KrHBgl
— West Midlands Police (@WMPolice) 10 March 2019
According to reports, there were clashes between the fans of the two sides outside the stadium as well. West Ham midfielder Declan Rice was quick to react to the incident, tweeting: “Absolutely disgraceful what just happened to Jack Grealish”.
Meanwhile, former England player Gary Neville tweeted, “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!”
The incident, however, did not affect Grealish who scored to give Aston Villa the lead.
The English Football League issued a statement condemning the incident and said, “The EFL condemns the mindless actions of the individual who encroached on 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.”
Birmingham City apologise to Villa, Grealish
Birmingham apologised to Grealish and Villa immediately following the game and added they would be reviewing stadium safety procedures at St Andrews.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St Andrew’s for life,” said a Blues statement.
“The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“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.”
Aston Villa said they were “appalled by the disgraceful attack” and that a “red line has been crossed by this cowardly on-field assault”.
“Local rivalries are part of the fabric of the game. However, as we are sure our friends at Birmingham City would agree, to have a player’s personal safety placed under such jeopardy is a serious cause for concern for the entire football community,” said a Villa statement.