Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish was punched by a pitch-invading Birmingham fan in a shocking incident during Sunday’s Championship clash, but the midfielder had the last laugh as he scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 win over their bitter rivals.
The incident took place just 10 minutes into the contest when Grealish was around the penalty area and the supporter ran towards him and struck him on the side of the head, bringing the Villa captain down.
Stewards soon rushed to the spot and took him off the ground as he was confronted by many players of the away team. West Midlands police later confirmed a case was registered against the supporter who blew kisses to the crowd as he was escorted.
Former Manchester United player Gary Neville called for strict against Birmingham after the embarrassing incident that left many in shock. 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!”
Here’s how the rest of Twitter reacted to the incident:
There is a long history of animosity between Birmingham and Villa supporters, with outbreaks of serious violence in the streets marring many of the ‘second city’ derby encounters.
There was fighting between rival gangs before Sunday’s match, with police having to hold back fans while at least one man was seen being treated by paramedics after suffering a head wound.
Fanning the flames further, Grealish is a boyhood Villa fan and once turned down a chance to join Birmingham on loan when he was a youngster, reportedly saying: “I’m not going there”.
In 2002, a Birmingham fan was jailed for four months after running onto the pitch at St Andrew’s to taunt then Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman, who had just conceded a bizarre own goal when he let a backpass roll under his foot into the net.
The supporter made an obscene gesture in Enckelman’s face and slapped his cheek.
Adding to the tense nature of Sunday’s derby, both teams are fighting to earn a place in the Championship play-offs, with Birmingham starting the day two points above Villa.
(With inputs from AFP)