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SOCCER

Footballer Billy Sharp needs medical attention after violent rival fan flying headbutt

A supporter has been arrested and banned for attacking the opposition captain after the final whistle in a crucial playoff semi-final in England.

Update:
Nottingham Forest fans celebrate on the pitch after they reach the play off final during the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final, second leg match at the City Ground, Nottingham. Picture date: Tuesday May 17, 2022. (Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images)
Zac Goodwin - PA ImagesGetty

It should have been a moment to savour for the Nottingham Forest fans as they reached a Wembley final with a chance to return to the Premier League, English football’s top flight, once again. But for one supporter, he’ll likely struggle to watched his side again in a stadium as he chose to attack the opposing captain Billy Sharp following the end of the Championship play-off semi-final win over Sheffield United on Tuesday night.

Stitches required for Billy Sharp after fan attack

Forest, who held a 2-1 lead from the first leg away from home, were beaten by the same scoreline back at The City Ground but advanced to a Wembley showpiece on penalties. The two-time European champions are bidding to return to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years and will face Huddersfield Town in the May 29 final.

However, the pitch invasion that followed Forest’s dramatic victory saw Sharp – a former Forest loanee and the Sheffield United captain – shockingly assaulted. Video footage appears to show Sharp stood at the side of the pitch when a supporter ran directly towards him, flattening the 36-year-old striker with a headbutt.

Nottinghamshire Police confirmed a 31-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of assault. He remains in custody ahead of questioning while enquiries continue.

Despite the assault, Sharp issued the following post on Twitter congratulating Forest.

Forest “appalled” by assault

“We have spoken to the player concerned, and we are working with both clubs who are supporting us with our investigation,” chief inspector Paul Hennessy added.

A Forest statement late on Tuesday read: “Nottingham Forest Football Club are appalled to learn that our former player, Billy Sharp, was assaulted leaving the pitch after tonight’s match at The City Ground.

“The club will work with the authorities to locate the individual in order they are held to account for their actions, which will include a life ban from Nottingham Forest. The club would also like to apologise to Billy personally and to Sheffield United Football Club.”

Player safety at work back in the spotlight

A furious Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, said: “We watch every TV game and there are always things thrown on the pitch, fan invasions, and the commentators, especially the ex-players, are always talking about the safety of the players, but nothing’s ever been done.

“Bill was minding his own business off the pitch, trying to get our players away. He was blindsided, it was cowardly. He was knocked to the ground [and needed] stitches, he was shook up.

“How can our safety be put at risk like that in our place of work?”

The incident reopens the debate over player and officials safety at work and what can be done to prevent it happening in the future. As is often the case, the small minority - in this case just an individual - can spoil the image and enjoyment of sport for the rest.

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