Billy Sharp: Attack video prompts Forest fan assault accusation
“Bill was minding his own business off the pitch,” United manager Paul Heckingbottom said. “Is loose”.
But the jubilant scenes were dimmed when TV footage emerged of a man charging United striker Billy Sharp as he stood on the touchline.
Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom has since revealed Sharp needed stitches after he was “attacked” as Forest fans poured onto the pitch.
Police investigating the alleged on-the-ground attack on Sharp have now charged a 30-year-old man with assault.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What happened to Billy Sharp?
Sheffield United captain Sharp was sidelined for the game itself through injury and found himself on the touchline after Forest secured a dramatic penalty shootout win 3 -2 after a 3-3 draw, which precipitated a pitch invasion at the City Ground.
Footage shared on social media appears to show a supporter running at the 36-year-old striker and knocking him to the ground with what appears to be a headbutt.
The man rushed away from the scene as Sharp lay on the ground.
“It’s an assault,” said Paul Heckingbottom, furious. “We saw one of our players attacked. He is shaken, bleeding, angry.
“Bill was minding his own business off the pitch, trying to keep our players away. He was blind, it was loose. He was thrown to the ground (and got stitches), he was shaken .
Heckingbottom added on Sky Sports: “There will be something to do about it. We saw what happened, we know what happened.
“There is a prison sentence there, for sure. We see things thrown on the pitch putting the health and safety of players at risk and nothing has ever been done about it.
“How can you come into a workplace minding your own business and be attacked that way?” he added. “It’s just out of order.”
The incident eclipsed Forest’s victory, a victory which secured a play-off final against Huddersfield on Sunday May 29 at Wembley, and the possibility of a return to the Premier League for the first time since 1999.
The Professional Footballers’ Association said ‘matchday security and fan disorder must be reviewed before next season’, and that this would ‘strengthen player safety with clubs, leagues and UK Football Policing Unit”.
What happens now?
A 30-year-old man has been charged with assault by police investigating the alleged on-the-ground attack on Sharp.
Nottinghamshire Police have charged Derbyshire’s Robert Biggs with assault causing actual bodily harm and going to the field of play during a football match.
Biggs is being held and is due to appear at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Thursday May 19.
Deputy Chief Constable Rob Griffin, Nottinghamshire Police, said: ‘I am pleased that we have now charged a suspect in relation to this assault. This is the result of hard work done all night and involving many police services today.
“Cases like this will hopefully act as a deterrent to anyone contemplating getting involved in violent disturbances at football matches. Incidents are treated extremely seriously by the force and football clubs and people involved will be held responsible.
Forest issued a statement apologizing to Sharp – who had a loan spell at the club during the 2012-13 season – and warned that anyone found responsible would be banned from the club for life.
The club’s statement read: “Nottingham Forest Football Club is appalled to learn that our former player, Billy Sharp, was assaulted while leaving the pitch after tonight’s game at the City Ground.
“The club will work with the authorities to locate the individual so that he is held accountable for his actions, which will include a lifetime ban from Nottingham Forest.
“The club would also like to personally apologize to Billy and Sheffield United Football Club.”
What did Sharp say?
In a statement posted to Twitter, Sharp called the individual a “scumbag” but said he would not lose his “respect for Forest fans”.
“A stupid idiot has ruined what was an amazing night of football,” he said. “Congratulations to Nottingham Forest on their win and good luck in the final.
“As a former Forest player, I won’t let any bastard ruin my respect for Forest fans.
“Incredibly proud to captain this group of Sheffield United players, they have given their all and can hold their heads high. We will be back and coming back.
“Thank you for all your messages and support after the incident.”