/Jack Grealish punched: Birmingham City apologise to Aston Villa midfielder and promise to ban supporter who

Jack Grealish punched: Birmingham City apologise to Aston Villa midfielder and promise to ban supporter who

Unacceptable

The Villa midfielder was knocked to the floor after being struck around the back of the head in the early stages of Sunday’s Second City derby

The Birmingham fan who punched Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish during Sunday’s Second City derby is to be banned from St Andrew’s for life.

The incident occurred less than 10 minutes into the match when Grealish was in the Birmingham penalty area.

A spectator in a flat cap dashed on to the field and threw a punch from behind the visiting captain, striking him on the side of the head.

The shock attack happened in the ninth minute

The shock attack happened in the ninth minute

The intruder was quickly restrained by stewards as several other Villa players rushed in to confront him. He was led away by police, blowing kisses to the crowd as he left.

Aston Villa have since released a statement, branding the attack ‘disgraceful’ and ‘cowardly’.

“Aston Villa Football Club is appalled by the disgraceful attack on Jack Grealish during today’s game,” the statement read.

“A red line has been crossed by this cowardly on-field assault on a player, which is unprecedented in English football.

“We trust the perpetrator will feel the full force of the law and the authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding today’s deplorable incident.

“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.”

West Midlands police confirmed a man had been arrested following the incident.

They tweeted: “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.”

Grealish thankfully appeared unhurt and was comforted by team-mates and opponents. He went on to open the scoring with a low, angled shot in the second half, leaping jubilantly in to the Villa supporters to celebrate.

Birmingham condemned the attack as ‘deplorable and disgusting and apologised to Grealish and Aston Villa after the match – which the visitors won – ended.

Blues also confirmed they will ban the individual from St Andrew’s for life.

A club statement read: “Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in this afternoon’s derby match.

“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The Club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.

“The Club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.

“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.

“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”

The English Football League condemned “the mindless actions of the individual” involved and pledged to work with the Football Association to “ensure the appropriate action is taken”.

An EFL spokesman said: “It’s a situation no player should ever be faced with.

Jack Grealish was knocked to the floor

Jack Grealish was knocked to the floor

“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.”

There also appeared to be angry clashes between fans before the game at St Andrew’s.

The man was led away by the authorities

The man was led away by the authorities

The attack on Grealish followed a number of recent high-profile incidents of crowd trouble in Scottish football.

In Friday night’s 1-1 draw between Rangers and Hibernian at Easter Road, Gers captain James Tavernier found himself face to face with a fan who had jumped out of the home support before being led away. Police later confirmed a 21-year-old man had been arrested.

That incident came six days after a glass bottle was thrown from the same section of the stadium as Celtic’s Scott Sinclair prepared to take a corner in a William Hill Scottish Cup game and on top of a series of missile-throwing incidents this season.