"A brief return to the dark ages," is how Phil McNulty described Saturday's Villa Park pitch invasion. He tells us that "Many Villa fans were on the pitch in jubilation but this misses the point entirely. This is still an offence and it was clear that the safety of some West Brom players was threatened and compromised." The emphasis there was added by me, because if there has been any legitimate issue with the jubilant crowd it was charges that player safety was threatened.
But a video from Saturday shows that it was West Bromwich Albion players who threatened Aston Villa fan safety, and not the other way around. The video, which was posted by Instagram user phil_hold, clearly shows James Morrison going out of his way to trip a fan. (Note: The Instagram video has, for some reason, been taken down. Luckily phil_hold is also this gentleman's twitter handle. He has reposted the video there and it is embedded in place of the Instagram one.) You can see him here; he's the first West Brom player heading tunnel-ward:
Morrison tripping up an Aston Villa fan at the end of the game. #avfc #wba pic.twitter.com/3HfzFhMYH3— Philip Holdsworth (@phil_hold) March 10, 2015
You can also see a player (identified by many as Callum McManaman) going out of his way to throw his shoulders into several fans. While it's impossible to tell if they were yelling anything at the West Brom player as they ran onto the pitch 1) yelling is not cause for attacking someone and 2) by the way all of the affected fans keep sprinting, it seems pretty clear that they were not focused on the player and thus posed no real threat.
So yeah, about those threatened players (amongst whom McNulty specifically referenced McManaman)... maybe we should give the video another look. If Villa fans really DID threaten West Brom staff and players, this in no way forgives that. This should go without saying, but those actions are reprehensible regardless of what else happened on the pitch. This does, however, shed a new light on the team who have cast themselves as innocents sent to slaughter in the face of an angry mob.