Chiedozie Ogbene has called on the English football authorities to protect players amid a growing phenomenon of pitch invasions by fans.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Robin Olsen became the latest player to be allegedly assaulted on Sunday, coming five days after an attack on Billy Sharp that led to the assailant being jailed.
Patrick Vieira also got caught up in Everton’s survival celebrations last week when the Crystal Palace manager reacted to taunting from a supporter by striking out.
Rotherham’s Ogbene saw the positive side of fan interaction on League One’s final day as Georgie Kelly’s goal at Gillingham was the cue for thousands to spill onto the pitch embracing their promotion.
Although he didn’t condone Vieira’s actions, the Ireland international can understand why he retaliated.
“People forget players are human beings as well,” he reasoned. “I know if someone is making fun of me, making faces and all sorts of signs in front of me, it will make me frustrated.
“We’re all quite disciplined. We’re trained not to react but, at the end of the day, we’re human beings.
“I saw what Vieira did and I’m not saying I would have done it. I would have taken a different approach but other players could have done something worse.”
Ogbene feels the time is right to implement sterner preventative actions at grounds.
He added: “I think the pitch is supposed to be a safe place for players but lately it hasn’t been due to all of the fans coming on. There needs to be stricter measures for that.”