It was always going to be a hostile atmosphere for Jack Grealish during his first Second City derby at St Andrews, but surely nobody expected that Villa’s young play-maker would be on the receiving end of a punch from a pitch invader?
While the Bluenose didn’t fully connect with Grealish - it was still an unsettling event that brought shame onto the proceedings. How did this happen? While Grealish was completely unfazed by the attack, and eventually went onto score, it’s all rather redundant. Someone got onto the pitch and took a free swing at a player. That should never, ever occur.
In light of this - all three parties involved have issued statements. We have one from Birmingham, one from Villa and one from the EFL.
Aston Villa Football Club is appalled by the disgraceful attack on Jack Grealish during today’s game. 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.
Birmingham City used their platform to highlight Grealish’s Brummie origins while issuing an apology:
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
Finally, the EFL assured fans of football that the ‘appropriate action will be taken’ whilst also making a trademark gaffe by apparently ‘condoning’ the violence that sought out Jack Grealish:
This action does not at all represent Birmingham City as a whole, but is also an unprecedented event that occurred in their ground and was actioned by one of their loyal supporters. It was even applauded by a portion of their fanbase, in the stadium. Why? There are too many questions about this to fully answer, but at the very least - justice might just be actioned.
We will now have to meditate mindfully on our social media output - the assault on Grealish is simply an evolution of the bile poured forth on football twitter. This was always going to happen - and now that it has happened, let’s see how football clubs can combat it.
I will be praying that this doesn’t happen again, and I will hope that no Villa fan reduces themselves to a similar level to bring shame upon the club.