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Jack Grealish: Birmingham City fan admits pitch attack


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Reuters

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Jack Grealish was attacked from behind by Paul Mitchell

A Birmingham City fan has admitted attacking Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish on the pitch during the second city derby.

Paul Mitchell, of Cock Hill Lane, Rubery, Worcestershire, hit Grealish from behind about 10 minutes into Sunday’s game at St Andrew’s.

He admitted assault and encroachment on to the pitch, at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.

The 27-year-old is due to be sentenced at 14:00 GMT.

Grealish was able to continue with the game and went on to score the winning goal in the 67th minute.

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PA

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Pub worker Mitchell blew kisses while being led off the field at St Andrew’s

Birmingham City apologised to both Grealish and Villa immediately after the game and said Mitchell would be banned from St Andrew’s for life.

The club said there were “no excuses” for his behaviour and it was reviewing its stadium safety procedures.

West Midlands Police said it was also investigating “offensive social media posts” that appeared after the goal referencing the Villa midfielder’s younger brother, who died when Grealish was four.

‘Brought shame’

During the court hearing, defence solicitor Vaughn Whistance said online threats had been made to Mitchell.

Mr Whistance said the pub worker’s family had left the area “through fear that they would suffer serious harm or even death”.

He said Mitchell “cannot explain what came over him yesterday morning”.

“His initial foolish intention was to just go on to the pitch and whip up the crowd,” Mr Whistance added.

Mitchell, a Birmingham City season ticket holder for 20 years, was said to be “very remorseful” and realised he had “brought shame” on his club.

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Reuters

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Grealish sat on the turf while Mitchell was apprehended

In a statement, Grealish, who did not suffer any substantial injury, 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 chief executive Gordon Taylor condemned the attack as “disgraceful” and “cowardly”.

“It’s a real fear for the safety of players,” he said.

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PA

Image caption

Grealish went on to score the winning goal for Aston Villa

After the attack, and another pitch invasion during the Manchester United and Arsenal match, former England player Phil Neville said drastic action was needed to ensure the safety of players.

“Either through points deductions or by emptying stadiums and making clubs play behind closed doors,” he said.

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