Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill has vowed that his club will hunt down the thug who was responsible for throwing a coin which struck assistant referee Phil Sharp during the match against Portsmouth, insisting the culprit will be banned from Villa Park for life.
O’Neill quickly united with Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp after the match in condemning the actions of an idiot behind the Pompey dugout whose injury-time madness marred the contest.
Villa immediately launched an investigation into the incident in Saturday’s 0-0 Premier League draw. The club issued a statement promising to work with the Football Association and West Midlands Police to scour the ground’s CCTV cameras in order to find the Villa supporter responsible for leaving the linesman with a one-inch gash above his right eye, which did not require stitches.
Redknapp was clearly incensed by the behaviour of a small group of Villa fans behind the Pompey dug-out – insisting that the 50p piece had been meant for him at the end of an afternoon where banter with the supporters turned ugly.
He said: “Some idiot threw an object and made a very bad cut on the linesman’s head. I think it was probably thrown at me, in all honesty.
“Who deserves to have anything thrown at them by a coward and a moron? It must take ‘very brave people’ to throw a coin like that.
“Hopefully, they’ll catch whoever did it on the cameras and ban them from football for life. Football clubs need to be strong and Aston Villa will hopefully come out and condemn what’s happened today in strong terms.”
O’Neill was clearly shocked and saddened that the perpetrator had been one of his own supporters – fans not normally linked with such moronic behaviour. He said: “Harry’s got a point. I’m sure we will start discussing it now because it’s happened so close to the dug-out. A young linesman’s been hit there and it shouldn’t happen. He should be able to get up and down the lines and flag decisions. It’s just not right. If he’d turned around at the wrong moment, it could easily have put his eye out.”
The FA are expected to release a report over the next 48 hours but O’Neill hopes they will not punish the club as a whole. He said: “I would hope the FA sanction would not be strong against the club. Harry came here and was subjected to verbal abuse last year, which no-one likes. But that was nasty today, really nasty. We need to do something about it and will do. It’s unacceptable.
“Maybe dug-outs should be protected a bit more but then in my two years here, apart from words with one or two boys behind the goal telling me how to do my job – quite forcefully at times – that’s been it.”