Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish insists he was “lucky” that the supporter who attacked him during the EFL Championship clash against Birmingham City this past weekend was not carrying a weapon.
The Villa captain, who scored the decisive goal in the derby, was punched by City fan Paul Mitchell, 27. The latter pleaded guilty to assault and invading the pitch at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
In a statement read into the court record by prosecutor Jonathan Purser, Grealish said: “I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident.
“It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor labelled the attack “disgraceful” and “cowardly”.
It was one of three incidents of supporters invading the pitch and approaching a player during British club football this past weekend.
A fan invaded the Emirates Stadium on Sunday and pushed Manchester United defender Chris Smalling in their loss to Arsenal, while on Friday Rangers player James Tavernier was confronted on-pitch by a fan during their game against Hibernian.
“We have seen an increase in such behaviour at clubs this season. It’s been racist abuse, it’s been anti-Semitism and now it’s real fear for the safety of players,” Taylor told Sky Sports News.
“From that point of view, we had a meeting just the other week with the Minister for Sport about engaging on this issue between the police and the stewards, which is crucial, and the responsibility of clubs about trying to get the right balance between educating supporters but also having sanctions to make sure we put a lid on it because we’ve been down this road before and we don’t want to go there again and see the game threatened.”