'We will be back': Sheffield United's Billy Sharp, attacked at Forest, sends message to fans
Nottinghamshire police have arrested a man after Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp appeared to be head-butted by a fan at the end of the Championship playoff semi-final.
A pitch invader marred Nottingham Forest's most memorable night this century following a brutal attack on Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp seconds after their 3-2 penalty shootout win in the Championship play-off semi-final.
The Blades overturned a two-goal deficit to level the tie at 3-3 on aggregate and force extra-time and penalties. Still, their spirited fightback was extinguished in the shootout when goalkeeper Brice Samba saved three spot-kicks to send Forest to Wembley.
Forest jubilation at the prospect of ending their 23-year absence from the Premier League, providing they beat Huddersfield in the play-off final on May 29, spilt from the stands into a pitch invasion overshadowed by an unprovoked attack on Sheffield United striker Sharp.
The stocky supporter in yellow broke away from the celebrations to charge headfirst into Sharp, who was standing with his arms crossed in the technical area at the City Ground. The 36-year-old club captain was injured and left bloodied in the chaos. However, an undettered Sharp took to Twitter to thank fans for their support and messages following the incident.
Billy Sharp's classy response
"One mindless idiot ruined what was an unbelievable night of football," Sharp said in a statement.
"Congratulations to Nottingham Forest on their victory and good luck in the final. An as ex Forest player I will not let one scumbag ruin my respect for the Forest fans," Sharp added.
"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," Sharp concluded.
Earlier, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom said, "It's assault. We've seen one of our players attacked. He's shook up, bleeding, angry. It'll be dealt with."
Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest moved swiftly to denounce the attack on Sharp, who played for the club on loan during the 2012-13 season, issuing an apology and vowing to ban his assailant for life.
"Nottingham Forest Football Club are appalled to learn that our former player, Billy Sharp, was assaulted leaving the pitch after tonight's match at The City Ground," a statement read.
"The Club will work with the authorities to locate the individual in order they are held to account for their actions, which will include a life ban from Nottingham Forest. The Club would also like to apologise to Billy personally and to Sheffield United Football Club," it added.
Police arrest fan after alleged attack on Billy Sharp at Forest playoff win
Nottinghamshire police launched an investigation following the incident. Chief Inspector Paul Hennessy of Nottinghamshire Police 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 supporting us with our investigation," Hennessy added.
Football community condemns attack; lauds Billy Sharp's response
Former Nottingham Forest defender Michael Dawson expressed his disbelief at the attack on Sharp.
"That's an absolute disgrace," he said. "Too many people run on the pitch, we've spoken about Forest having a special night but Billy Sharp was stood there doing nothing wrong. And one stupid fan runs on and does that has spoilt everything. I hope Sharp is OK."
"It happens every year at the end of a season when one team has disappointment and one team has joy, I worry for the opposition when fans run on. It only takes one situation for someone to be really hurt," Dawson added.
Former Sheffield United midfielder Michael Brown echoed Dawson's sentiment adding, "It's absolutely ridiculous."
"It does concern me when fans run on. It ruins it a little bit. I understand fans want to go on, but idiots can ruin it. It will become compulsory for fans not to run on despite these special occasions," he added.
The football community condemned this incident, with several lovers of the sport taking to Twitter to call the attack on Billy Sharp 'outrageous'. Here's a look at some of the reactions: