Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom has called for police action after Billy Sharp was shockingly headbutted by a fan who had ran onto the pitch on Tuesday night.
The unprovoked incident occurred after Nottingham Forest had beaten the Blades on penalties in the Championship play-off semi-final on a dramatic night of football. With emotions running high, the City Ground pitch was invaded after Brice Samba’s penalty save saw the home side clinch victory.
But the celebrations turned sour when one supporter charged at full pace towards Sharp, who was standing at the sideline before being wiped out with no warning. The footage has since circulated on social media while Sheffield United are calling on police action.
United boss Heckingbottom said: “Bill was minding his own business off the pitch, trying to get our players away. He was assaulted on the blind side cowardly and knocked to the ground.
“He has had stitches and is shook up. His safety was put at risk at a place of work. It is a prison sentence waiting to happen.
“We have the footage and something will be done about it.“
Sharp had been an innocent bystander at the time of the attack and had not even taken part in the match as he was ruled out through injury. After the fan had headbutt the 36-year-old, there was widespread shock and outrage from those nearest to him.
Forest have since released a statement, which 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.”
The incident soured what was otherwise a brilliant game of football after the Blades beat Forest 2-1 in the night to take the match to extra-time. A winner could not be found and the game went to penalties.
Goalkeeper Samba was the hero of the night after saving three spot-kicks – including from Morgan Gibbs-White to send Forest to Wembley. Steve Cooper’s men will face Huddersfield at Wembley after the Terriers beat Luton Town in their own semi-final.