Football: Aston Villa's Jack Grealish attacked by Birmingham spectator during match

Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish was punched in the head by a pitch invader during his side's derby match at Birmingham on Monday (NZ time).

In the 10th minute of the match a man wearing a flat cap came on to the pitch and attempted to punch Grealish from behind.

While the wild swing didn't connect clearly, Villa captain Grealish fell to the ground as stewards quickly restrained the intruder, several Villa players rushing to intervene.

The fan, wearing a Birmingham jacket, blew kisses when being led off by the stewards.

Police later confirmed a man had been arrested, while Birmingham City said the supporter will be banned from St Andrew's for life.

Grealish had the last laugh however as he went onto score the match-winning goal in the 67th minute, which saw Aston Villa leapfrog their arch-rivals into ninth in the Championship (England's second division) standings.

"It was the best day of my life," Grealish told Sky Sports UK after the match.

"To come here for the first time, captain Aston Villa and score the winner - it is what dreams are made of being a Villa fan.

"I understand there are rivalries in football, but there is no place for that. I just tried to get on with my job, and I did." 

Both clubs are based in Birmingham and are fierce rivals, with games between the two clubs known as the Second City Derby. Their stadiums are located less than 5km from eachother.

Aston Villa said they were "appalled by the disgraceful attack".

"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."

The Birmingham fan was escorted off the field.
The Birmingham fan was escorted off the field. Photo credit: Reuters

Birmingham also released a statement apologising to Grealish.

"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."

The ugly incident came days after a Hibernian fan confronted Rangers captain James Tavernier during a Scottish Football Premiership match over the weekend.

The 21-year-old spectator ran onto the field and attempted to kick the ball away from Tavernier as he moved to pick it up to take a throw-in during the first half of their 1-1 draw.

The two then pushed each other before police intervened.


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