Hooligans mar Brum derby ahead of World Cup vote
Published 22:13 01/12/10 By Mike Walters
Troublemakers at the Second City derby left 14 people including four police officers needing hospital treatment.
Riot police were used at St Andrews after Birmingham fans invaded the pitch following their 2-1 Carling Cup victory over Aston Villa.
And there were five arrests made in the aftermath of the final whistle.
Two police dogs were also injured after being struck by missiles, while a pub near to St Andrews was damaged as were a number of parked cars.
"This incident must have been very frightening for the vast majority of spectators," said Superintendant Steve Graham, match-day commander.
Alex McLeish blasted the derby hooligans who dragged English football back into the "dark ages" last night.
Feral thugs invaded the pitch then hurled flares and seats at each other on a night of shame at St Andrews, stripping the gloss from Birmingham's first win against arch-rivals Villa in eight games.
On the day Prince William and David Beckham hope to deliver the 2018 World Cup, the 22 FIFA executives casting their votes will wake up to shocking images of the old English disease.
The Football Association will launch an investigation into the crowd trouble and Blues boss McLeish raged: "It was pretty horrible to see punters on the pitch - we don't condone that behaviour, it's a return to the dark ages.
"I know we hadn't beaten Villa for a long time, and our fans were treating it like a cup final, which is fair enough. But when you see flares being thrown into the crowd, it's not something you want to be associated with.
"It would have been nice if my players had been able to celebrate reaching a semi-final by giving our supporters a wave from the middle of the pitch, but that was denied us.
"I don't think it will affect the World Cup bid - I think the vote has probably been decided already and I hope England win it because they deserve it."
Villa's defeat piles the pressure on manager Gerard Houllier and extends their run to just two wins in 11 games.
But Villa's poor results were overshadowed by the violence and Houllier's assistant Gary McAllister said: "I know there were a lot of meetings involving the police and management groups before the game, warning the world would be watching this game because of what is happening tomorrow.
"Both sets of players did their jobs, but it's difficult for Birmingham, the police and stewards to keep everyone in their seats at the end of the game.
"I don't think it will affect the World Cup - I still believe England is the outstanding candidate and it's time the World Cup came here."
West Midlands police were fearful of crowd trouble in the first evening kick-off for a powderkeg fixture since 2002-3, and their reservations were dismally vindicated.
Last night an FA spokesman promised a "full" investigation into the Battle of Birmingham and urged for the "stiffest available sanctions, including banning orders" for offenders.
And late last night, Birmingham issued their own statement promising a thorough probe into the worst outbreak of crowd disorder this season.
Amid the mayhem, the Blues' triumph in reaching their first major semi-final for eight years was reduced to a footnote.
After Nikola Zigic's winner six minutes from time, hundreds of Blues fans invaded the pitch and rushed 100 yards to taunt nearly 4,000 Villa supporters at the Railway end.
Rising to the bait, Villa fans ripped up dozens of plastic seats and threw them on to the pitch before a grotesque tennis match in which both sets of morons flung a burning red flare at each other.
It took a baton charge by police in full riot gear to clear the pitch fully 10 minutes after the final whistle, but the trouble spilled into the streets outside.
Vote for England? After Lord Triesman's indiscreet sweet nothings and Panorma's unpatriotic documentary, the 2018 campaign team assembled in Zurich can only hope FIFA turn a blind eye to the Battle of Birmingham.
After more than their fair share of derby heartbreak since 2005, Serbian beanpole Zigic's winner was little more than Bimingham deserved - but the result will heap more pressure on Houllier.
Villa have slumped to 15th in the Premier League table, just three points above the drop zone, after a turbulent autumn following Martin O'Neill's sudden resignation five days before the start of term.
And although they dominated after the break at ice-age St Andrews last night, they were unable to capitalise on Gabby Agbonlahor's first-half equaliser against the run of play which cancelled out Sebastien Larsson's early penalty.