Hourihane labels attack on Grealish 'an absolutely disgusting incident'

Hourihane labels attack on Grealish 'an absolutely disgusting incident'
Jack Grealish is attacked during the game. Picture: Sky Sports/PA Wire.

Ireland international Conor Hourihane has said Jack Grealish could have been seriously hurt during Aston Villa's win over Birmingham City yesterday.

There have been calls for an inquiry after a fan hit the Villa captain during the derby victory at St Andrews.

Grealish was assaulted by Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell, 27, who was later charged with invading the pitch and assault.

Villa midfielder Hourihane feels pitch invasions have taken a sinister turn.

"We all thought it was a runner on the pitch...one of the things that happens in football," said Hourihane.

"But no one expected the incident that happened. An absolutely disgusting incident.

"It can't be tolerated in the game. Jack could have been severely hurt.

"It put a dampener on the game really, especially for ourselves because obviously, we've come away with a fantastic result."

Villa and Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane. Picture: PA Wire
Villa and Ireland midfielder Conor Hourihane. Picture: PA Wire

Villa won the derby game 1-0, with Grealish scoring the winner on 67 minutes.

Meanwhile, former England striker Alan Shearer has warned players' lives could be at risk unless the authorities take urgent action to prevent pitch invaders.

"It is absolutely disgusting and if we don't stamp it out now, next time it could be a knife," Shearer said in his column in The Sun.

"It's that serious. Where are we at in football when some thug thinks that is what he is going to do?"

"The football authorities have to be seen to nail Birmingham for the behaviour of their fan.

"If that means docking them points, playing in an empty stadium, so be it. There cannot be a strong enough punishment.

"It's completely ridiculous - I can't remember seeing anything as blatant as this."

Jack Grealish celebrates after the final whistle. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Jack Grealish celebrates after the final whistle. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Birmingham said Mitchell would be banned for life from St Andrew's.

Arsenal later pledged the same punishment would be imposed on the pitch invader at their match against Man United after Chris Smalling was also confronted on the pitch in a separate incident on Sunday.

Shearer added: "There has to be the right message here. Come down like a ton of bricks on Birmingham and punish so-called fans where it hurts, with bans and fines.

"It just proves we have a real problem. The authorities have to stamp it out now."

Former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie said the incident at St Andrew's was the worst of its kind that he had seen and backed Shearer's calls for urgent action.

Hendrie told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It could have been someone running on with a knife - how are you meant to stop this?

"It's going to take something, that's going to cause a big, big scene in football, that's going to make people really stand up.

"Why do we need to wait for that to actually happen before someone gets really hurt? Imagine Jack's family sitting at the side and thinking about what could possibly have happened."

Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor said the attack on Grealish was "disgraceful" and "cowardly".

He has called on the Football Association to work with the government, police and stewards at the grounds to help stamp out such incidents.

- Digital Desk & Press Association

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