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Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Thursday, 2 December 2010

Birmingham derby fan clashes to be probed by FA


McLeish 'worried' after crowd invasion

The Football Association is to investigate clashes between rival fans following Birmingham's 2-1 Carling Cup quarter-final win over Aston Villa.

Hundreds of Blues fans charged towards the Villa supporters and missiles and flares were thrown at St Andrew's.

"We wholly condemn the actions of any individuals involved in the scenes of disorder," said an FA statement.

After a meeting on Thursday, Birmingham released a statement vowing to strongly punish fans found guilty of disorder.

"No effort will be spared in Birmingham City Football Club's efforts to identify individuals who marred the Carling Cup quarter-final victory over Aston Villa," the statement added.

"The Blues are extremely disappointed that the scenes after the full-time whistle took the gloss off the club's progression to the semi-finals of the competition.


"Club officials are working with police and the relevant authorities in scouring CCTV footage and photography - as well as ploughing through witness statements sent to the club by supporters - to identify culprits.

"Anyone found guilty of any disorder will face stringent action."

Club representatives met at St. Andrew's on Thursday morning with a further meeting set for next week involving Aston Villa, the local authority, safety advisory committee and the emergency services.

Acting Blues chairman Peter Pannu said: "We'll support the football authorities and police in this investigation.

"I promise there will be an impartial investigation by the club as we do not condone the embarrassing actions of certain individuals."

The FA has called on both clubs to impose the toughest available sanctions on fans, including banning orders.

The ugly scenes came on the eve of the vote to decide the hosts of the 2018 World Cup and with Russia winning the vote on Thursday afternoon, some may suggest the events were detrimental to England's chances.

"The whole of English football has worked hard to eradicate scenes of disorder from our game, with Home Office figures this week showing a significant drop in arrests at the many thousands of football matches held every week, the majority of which still pass trouble free," added the FA statement.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish admitted the scenes were reminiscent of the violence that marred English football during the 1970s and 80s.

"It doesn't look good when you see them running on like that. It takes us back to the dark ages," said McLeish. "I'm disappointed. Fans shouldn't come on to the pitch. That's soured the win for us.

"I know they haven't beaten Villa for a while and our fans were treating it almost like a cup final, but when you see flares thrown from and into the crowd it is not something we want to be associated with at all."


There has been a history of clashes between supporters of these two Midlands rivals, which has led to games being moved to early kick-offs following a request from local police.

The last time the two sides played in an evening game at Villa Park in 2002, there were several pitch invasions and ugly clashes between supporters before and after a bad-tempered game in which Villa's Dion Dublin and Joey Gudjonsson were sent off.

"Before the game there were lots of meetings with the police and all the players and management groups saying that the world was probably watching this game because of what's happening on Thursday, and I thought both sets of players did their job," said Aston Villa assistant manager Gary McAllister.

McAllister insisted on Wednesday that he did not think it would affect England's World Cup bid.

Dozens of additional police had been deployed for the match but they struggled to keep the sheer numbers of rioting fans in check and were unable to prevent flares being thrown, while Villa fans appeared to rip out seats and throw them towards the pitch.

Nikola Zigic (left) scores for Birmingham
Zigic scored the winner for Birmingham with five minutes to go

Police eventually managed to gain control and shepherd the City fans off the pitch.

It was an ugly ending to what had been an enthralling encounter between the two sides.

Birmingham now face West Ham in the semi-finals, with the first leg being played at Upton Park in week commencing 10 January before a return leg at St Andrew's in week commencing 24 January.

"When you get draws like that you think the second leg at home will be beneficial," claimed McLeish. "We need to go to West Ham and hope to get a score we can bring back to St Andrew's."

Birmingham have struggled for consistency this season and are only three points above the Premier League relegation zone with 17 points from 15 games.

Houllier 'hurting' after Cup exit

"A result like this lifts everybody and it is a chance to go to Wembley," added McLeish. "We always talk about the bread and butter of the league but we respect this competition and we would like to go the final.

"I had a good feeling about it. I'm delighted for them because they've met a lot of challenges over the last year and half. And they've kept rising to those challenges."

Villa boss Gerard Houllier felt the visitors were the better team, but errors cost them.

"I'm very disappointed for the fans and the players," said the Frenchman. "We were probably the better team overall and probably deserved more. But we made silly mistakes to cost us goals.

"We were stunned because I don't think the boys deserve to be out of the competition. We lacked some goals if we're honest but we can't score three goals every week."


Houllier 'hurting' after Cup exit

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see also
Football violence 'like warzone'
02 Dec 10 |  Birmingham
Violence flares at football derby
02 Dec 10 |  Birmingham
Birmingham 2-1 Aston Villa
01 Dec 10 |  League Cup
Wednesday football as it happened
01 Dec 10 |  Football
Wednesday's football photos
01 Dec 10 |  Football

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