Football

Fan trouble in the Midlands reignites the English hooliganism issue

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With incidents of disorder at Villa Park and in Wolverhampton city centre on Saturday, the issue of fan behaviour has once again arisen. 

As one fan lay in intensive care in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, a few miles down the road thousands of supporters were storming the pitch at Aston Villa as the club beat rivals West Brom to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. 

Yet the win was overshadowed by disturbances before, during and after the game. Both sets of supporters clashed in the Witton Arms pub outside the stadium, with the late kick-off time of 5:30pm blamed for the amount of alcohol some supporters had consumed. 

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Late kick-off time an issue

When the tie was announced, all logic pointed to the 12:45pm slot for the game to be played. The rivalry between the two clubs is understated. Birmingham may hold the biggest hatred in the hearts of most Villa supporters but on Saturday's evidence, the Baggies cannot be far behind. 

The BBC has declined to accept responsibility for the kick-off time as it was agreed by both clubs well in advance. 

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Increased allocation

Not only was the late kick-off time an issue, Villa had to hand West Brom an increased amount of tickets due to cup regulations. 6,500 fans in a stand directly above home supporters is not going to end well in a derby game. Baggies manager Tony Pulis has called for life bans for any away fans identified by police who ripped up seats in the North Stand. 

Scott Sinclair's second goal also sparked a small minority to invade the pitch in celebration. Whilst pitch invasions at the end of the game when you have just beaten your rivals twice in five days may have some logic to it, doing it with five minutes still to go in the game is bordering on unhinged.

Players have also complained about the treatment they received by the fans at the final whistle. Villa midfielder Fabian Delph has claimed that he was bitten by a supporter and West Brom midfielder Callum McManaman was also involved in altercations as he battled his way towards the tunnel. 17 people were arrested over the course of the day.  

Fan fighting for his life

Whilst all this was taking place, a 44-year-old Watford fan was fighting for his life after being attacked as he returned to Wolverhampton railway station following the Hornets' 2-2 draw with Wolves. 

West Midlands Police have said Nick Cruwys of Hemel Hempstead is currently in a coma following the attack when his group of friends were "completely outnumbered" by a savage mob. 

Wolves fans have set up a fundraising appeal to help Cruwys' recovery. The message being that the majority of supporters can speak louder than the thug minority. 

The issue of hooliganism within the English game is always going to be discussed when incidents such as these happen within a couple of hours of each other. 

It comes after recent reports of Chelsea fans racially abusing a black Parisian on the metro and West Ham fans allegedly singing anti-semitic songs on the way to their match at Tottenham. 

Bans are the only way forward

Yet we are a distance away from the trouble that tarnished football in the 1980s. It is not the time for cages to be installed to treat the fans like animals once more. 99% of match-going fans like a couple of drinks and a laugh pre-game before going to enjoy an entertaining game of football.

There will always be the few idiots intent on spoiling the experience for everybody else but giving them extensive coverage, as has been the case in the aftermath of the Villa match, is exactly what they want. Target them, find them and ban them and the problem will go away.

Does English football still have a problem with hooliganism? Have your say in the comments below!

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Topics:
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Football
West Bromwich Albion
Watford
Aston Villa

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