Belfast Telegraph

Ban unruly fans for life

By Scott Young

Watching the distressing scenes of West Brom's Chris Brunt being struck in the face by a coin thrown by one of his own fans on Saturday brought back some unpleasant memories for me of the Big Two games involving Glentoran and Linfield.

When I went to take corner kicks for the Glens I was pelted with all sorts but I was very fortunate not to be hit by a missile.

Flares, fireworks and missiles were part and parcel of the games. They were part of the atmosphere and occasion regardless of the rights or wrongs of it.

One time when we played the Blues, coins were thrown at Colin Nixon and I can remember him picking one up and motioning to throw it back at the supporters. About 50 Linfield fans ducked thinking a coin was coming at them!

Of course Colin didn't throw the coin back but you never want to experience that.

I also remember Stuart Elliott's wife being hit on the leg with a firework that was thrown from the Linfield end at Windsor Park.

Our goalkeeping coach Davy McClelland was struck on the side of the head by a firework at The Oval and when it happened we were all deeply shocked. Pete Batey was close to the area and he was affected too.

Former Linfield player Conor Hagan was hit by a firework during a County Antrim Shield final and press photographer Darren Kidd was also struck during a Northern Ireland match.

What happened to Northern Ireland ace Chris was disgusting and disgraceful and there were similar coin throwing incidents at the Chelsea-Man City game.

Players can lose their eyesight, threatening their careers. Fans are entitled to express their opinions but throwing any sort of missile is totally unacceptable.

In sharp contrast to the idiot who threw the coin, I thought Chris conducted himself in an exemplary manner and had the class to go and hand a young girl his jersey.

Some fans think players don't care but Chris is a Northern Ireland boy who is enjoying a superb career in England and despite all that he has achieved with club and country, he has remained grounded.

No-one deserves to be treated in this manner and it's the location of the offence which was also surprising.

You might anticipate something like this happening in a hostile environment in Turkey or Greece but not in an FA Cup match at Reading.

Managers can't say they are immune to the verbal abuse that comes their way. If they do, they are kidding themselves. I got plenty of abuse as Glentoran manager but thankfully not to the level suffered by the late Alan McDonald, abuse that was absolutely disgraceful.

When you take a manager's job you will get the flak - it comes with the territory but not everyone can handle it very well.

If someone had hit me with something then I'd imagine I would have found it very difficult to keep my emotions in check.

Players have a mental toughness and they will try to block it out and get on with their jobs but they should be able to play without the fear of something like this happening.

Anyone caught throwing missiles onto the pitch should be dealt with by the police and banned for life.

What sort of example does that set to kids at matches?

There is no place for it in the modern game.

Belfast Telegraph

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