FLASHBACK – The day Brian Clough punched his own fans

The City Ground is no stranger to deplorable scenes during pitch invasions. 

Tuesday evening saw one of the worst incidences of fan violence against a player in recent memory, when a fan headbutted Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp. The police have since arrested a man in connection with the incident.

The actions of the individual have been condemned from every direction, including Forest. The same cannot be said for the last time an individual chose violence on the City Ground turf.

Scenes on Tuesday night at the City Ground were reminiscent of another pitch invasion, which saw Brian Clough take action

Scenes on Tuesday night at the City Ground were reminiscent of another pitch invasion, which saw Brian Clough take action

Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was attacked by a pitch invader after play-off defeat

Astonishingly, the individual in question was then Forest boss Brian Clough, who struck no fewer than four of his own supporters as they stormed the pitch following a League Cup quarter-final win in 1989. 

Clough was, of course, renowned for his battling behaviour in football. A maverick to his core, the former Forest and Derby County boss straddled that fine line between confidence and arrogance. He was well known for his litany of one-liners and his bolshie attitude during interview and pundit appearances.

He was incredibly successful – winning the European Cup twice with Forest – but he is remembered just as vividly for his failures, not least his disastrous 44-day stint in charge of Leeds in 1974. 

One of his most famous moments however came in 1989, during the end of a Littlewoods Cup victory over QPR.

Clough struck four different supporters during the pitch invasion at their League Cup clash

Clough struck four different supporters during the pitch invasion at their League Cup clash

Clough grabs hold of one of the invaders in a bid to drag him off of the playing surface

Clough grabs hold of one of the invaders in a bid to drag him off of the playing surface 

A thumping 5-2 victory had sealed a place in the semi-finals for the Tricky Trees, sending some supporters into delirium as they charged on to the pitch. 

Taking umbridge with the actions of some of his own supporters, Clough took the law into his own hands and started dishing out his own form of policing. 

Cameras caught the unmistakable figure in his green jumper lamping several individuals who had the misfortune of stepping near him. Another was dragged off the playing surface by his collar.

After the initial shock of seeing one of the most recognisable figures in the game assault four individuals, many were quick to condemn as the issue dominated the front and back pages of the country’s newspapers, while MPs also had their say. 

‘It’s absolutely deplorable. He should have been sacked this morning,’ said Conservative’s David Evans. 

Backbencher Robert Adley and Leader of the House John Wakeman also waded in. However, not everyone was convinced of his guilt. 

‘I back his actions 100 per cent,’ said Forest chairman Maurice Roworth. ‘Perhaps I’m a hardliner when it comes to law and order, but hooligans deserve a clip round the ear. 

Clough meets one of the fans he punched during the pitch invasion at the QPR match

Clough meets one of the fans he punched during the pitch invasion at the QPR match

‘If some of those had a clip round the ear five years ago, the incident wouldn’t have occurred last night.’

In a bizarre turn of events, the club managed to track down some of those who were attacked by Clough and, amazingly, managed to stage a little reconciliation between supporters and manager for the cameras. The Forest boss even pecked some of them on the cheek, taking the message to kiss and make up a little too literally. 

That is not to say that Clough got off with it entirely. He was handed a record fine by the FA of £5,000 and was banned from the touchline for the rest of the season. However, he was still allowed to lead his team out at Wembley when they reached – and won – the Littlewoods Cup final. 

It all seemed a little too lax. As one victim, Sean O’Hara pointed out: ‘If I had done that I would be in the cells by now.

‘I thought it was a QPR fan, but I turned round to see Brian Clough. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.’ 

Clough actually received apologies from the supporters, as well as dishing out his own sorry

Clough actually received apologies from the supporters, as well as dishing out his own sorry 

Sheffield United footballer Billy Sharp slams ‘scumbag’ who headbutted the ex-Nottingham Forest star in playoff pitch invasion and says ‘one mindless idiot ruined an unbelievable night of football’ 

Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp has branded the Nottingham Forest fan who headbutted him during a pitch invasion after the Championship play-off semi-final last night a ‘scumbag’.

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.

Footage of the incident was captured live on Sky Sports and shows Sharp being floored having not seen the man coming. 

Mr Sharp, who previously played for Forest, needed stitches and police have arrested a man, 31,  on suspicion of assault.

The footballer said this morning: ‘One mindless idiot ruined what was an unbelievable night of football.

‘Congratulations to Nottingham Forest on their victory and good luck in the final. As an ex Forest player I will not let one scumbag ruin my respect for the Forest fans.

Veteran striker Sharp had a spell with Nottingham Forest during the 2012-13 season

Veteran striker Sharp had a spell with Nottingham Forest during the 2012-13 season

Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was attacked by a pitch invader after play-off defeat

Billy Sharp posted his views on Instagram this morning after the incident late last night

Billy Sharp posted his views on Instagram this morning after the incident late last night

‘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.’  

Forest vowed to ban the arrested man for life for one of the most appalling attacks on a player ever seen on a football pitch. 

Nottinghamshire Police’s chief inspector Paul Hennessy 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 who are supporting us with our investigation.’

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has called for the fan to be jailed.

He said: ‘Billy was minding his own business and he was assaulted, blind-sided. It was cowardly. Billy is shaken up and he needed stitches. We have the footage. We always see people talking about player safety but nothing is ever done about it.’

The incident last night was on the same touchline where Forest’s greatest manager Brian Clough famously began slapping and punching fans who took part in a pitch invasion in 1989. 

As fans spilled on to the pitch to celebrate their victory on penalties, one ran towards Sharp

As fans spilled on to the pitch to celebrate their victory on penalties, one ran towards Sharp

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was left furious by the incident involving Sharp

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom was left furious by the incident involving Sharp

These events soured what had been a fabulous semi-final, with Forest goalkeeper Brice Samba the hero in the penalty shoot-out.

Samba saved three of United’s efforts – including the decisive one from Morgan Gibbs-White – to set up a Wembley meeting with Huddersfield Town on May 29, with the winner sealing promotion to the Premier League.

This is the second night in a row there have been problems at a play-off semi-final, after Luton boss Nathan Jones complained about Huddersfield fans’ behaviour after his side’s defeat.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom not only provided an update on Sharp, but he was left furious by incident and made it known in his post-match interview.

‘We’re seeing things thrown on the pitch and things that are thrown on putting players’ health and safety in danger and nothing’s ever done about it.

‘There will be something done about that. We’ve seen what’s happened, we know what’s happened. There’s a prison sentence there without a doubt.

‘How can you come to a place of work minding your own business and be assaulted in that fashion?

‘It’s just bang out of order and it’s everything that’s wrong. Too many times we hear people condemn it, but nothing’s done about it. We’re the ones that suffered.

‘It’s upsetting for a lot of reasons – I don’t want to say too much more about it. He’ll be dealt with.’

Covering the game for Sky Sports, former Forest defender Michael Dawson condemned the incident, saying: ‘That is an absolute disgrace.’

Nottinghamshire Police said they were working alongside both clubs after making their arrest.

Chief inspector Paul Hennessy 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 who are supporting us with our investigation.’

* Do you know who the arrested fan is? Email: dan.sales@mailonline.co.uk 

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