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A MAN has been arrested on suspicion of assault after Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp was attacked when Nottingham Forest fans spilled on to the pitch at the end of Tuesday’s Championship play-off semi-final.
Nottinghamshire Police Chief Inspector Paul Hennessy said: “A 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault in connection with this incident. He remains in custody and will be questioned by officers.
“Our enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident are ongoing. We have spoken to the player concerned and we are working with both clubs who are supporting us with our investigation.”
The Blades captain was sidelined for the second leg because of injury and was on the touchline when Forest secured a dramatic 3-2 penalty shootout victory after a 3-3 aggregate draw, which prompted a pitch invasion at the City Ground.
Footage shared on social media appears to show a supporter running at the 36-year-old former Forest striker and knocking him to the ground.
Sharp called the man a “scumbag” who “ruined an unbelievable night of football.”
Posting on Twitter this morning, the 36-year-old said: “One mindless idiot ruined what was an unbelievable night of football.
“Congratulations to Nottingham Forest on their victory and good luck in the final.
“As an ex-Forest player I will not let one scumbag ruin my respect for the Forest fans.
“Incredibly proud to be captain of this group of Sheffield United players, they gave their all and can hold their heads up high. We will be back and go again. Thanks for all your messages and support after the incident.”
Forest have condemned the incident and said that any offender will be subject to a life ban from the club.
In a statement, the Professional Footballers’ Association said: “We are shocked and appalled by the senseless assault by a fan on Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp.
“The football pitch is a place of work for our members, this is one of a growing number of incidents this season.
“Matchday security and fan disorder needs to be reviewed ahead of next season, and we will be raising player safety with the clubs, leagues and the UK football policing unit.
“There is no place in football for this behaviour. We recognise that stewards and the police have a very difficult job.”
The incident overshadowed Forest’s win, securing a play-off final showdown against Huddersfield on Sunday May 29 at Wembley and the chance of a top-flight return for the first time since 1999.
They were pushed all the way, though, after squandering a two-goal lead. After leading 2-1 from the first leg, Brennan Johnson gave them a cushion — but second half goals from Blades duo Morgan Gibbs-White and John Fleck pushed the tie to extra time and then penalties.
Brice Samba, who produced a point-blank save from Iliman Ndiaye late on, then kept out the spot kicks of Oliver Norwood, Conor Hourihane and Gibbs-White, to the delight of a packed-out crowd.
Forest head coach Steve Cooper, who took charge of the club when they were bottom of the second tier in September, said: “To get through a two-legged play-off semi-final, you have to do everything.
“We’ve managed to come through a lot. I would have loved to have won the game 3-1 and walked off, but the fact we’ve done it like we have means we’re more tooled up now to go to the final.
“I promise you I will work even harder than I’ve worked to get this. No days off, I’ll be the first one at the training ground and we’ll be ready.”
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