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I'd take players off pitch: Managers react to crowd trouble

Steven Gerrard, Alex McLeish and Craig Levein have had their say on hooliganism.

Flashpoint: Police tackle a pitch invader who confronted James Tavernier.
Flashpoint: Police tackle a pitch invader who confronted James Tavernier. SNS

Football hooliganism has reentered the spotlight in recent weeks following a wave of incidents across the British game.

In Scotland, crowd trouble has reared its head at a series of high-profile fixtures this season.

Last month, a glass bottle was launched at Celtic attacker Scott Sinclair during the Hoops' Premiership win over Hibs at Easter Road.

At the same stadium on Friday, Rangers skipper James Tavernier was targeted by a pitch invader whilst retrieving the ball to take a throw-in.

Then two incidents took place in quick succession down south on Sunday

During the Second City derby Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was punched by a Birmingham City supporter, while Man United defender Chris Smalling was shoved by a fan at the Emirates.

Here, managers have their say on how the growing hostility in the stands should be dealt with:

Gerrard: I'd have no problem taking my team off pitch

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he'd have no qualms about taking his team off the pitch if he was at all concerned about player safety.

Asked if he would be happy to take his players off, he said: "Yes, of course, if there was a situation where I felt that was necessary.

"We'd speak to the officials and police on the day and make a collective decision but it is a decision I'd support if any of my players or the opposition were at risk."

He added: "People entering the pitch and striking players is a huge concern.

"For the image of the game, it is not right at all.

'It is a decision I'd support if any of my players or the opposition were at risk.'
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard

"Fans have to take responsibility and think before they do these type of things.

"If it continues, someone is going to get hurt badly and no-one wants it to get to that stage."

There have been calls for Birmingham to be sanctioned under strict liability after Aston Villa playmaker Grealish was assaulted by a Blues fan.

Gerrard, however, believes police deterrents, and not club punishments, would be a better option going forward.

He said: "I don't agree with that.

"The police should come out and say the next person to enter the pitch without permission, like for example yesterday, gets a very strict sentence in jail.

"That's the only way it will stop."

McInnes: Severe punishments needed to cure societal issue

Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes says the current wave of hooliganism stems from a societal problem and believes severe punishments are needed to cure it.

He said: "The Scott Sinclair incident was embarrassing and we have to act as if he was hit with it.

"There has to be real leadership and real strength shown that it will not be tolerated.

"James Tavernier, it could have been so much worse, an idiot is allowed to run onto the park and confront him that way. I said a few weeks ago, this isn't exclusive to Scottish football.

"There was a train of thought this, probably more so with sectarianism, was a west of Scotland issue, it's not.

"This is a society issue. It infests itself on social media, people think they can be abusive and do what they want on social media and it is now transmitting into real life.

"People feel they can go into a stadium and just because they feel they have paid their money they can act and say what they want, a certain amount of supporters at each club.

"This isn't a west of Scotland thing, it is a society thing we are dealing with. The most severe of punishments should be dealt out, it isn't enough just to ban someone, to throw them in a cell for the weekend.

"There has to be strong leadership or the government will get involved and whether it is punishment for clubs with closed door, points deducted, all that nonsense.

"We are a long way from that but we are on our way if we don't act and do something now."

McLeish: Scottish clubs could face stadium closures

Punishment: Alex McLeish believes stadium closures may be necessary.
Punishment: Alex McLeish believes stadium closures may be necessary. SNS

Scotland boss Alex McLeish believes stadiums may have to be closed as punishment if the problem persists long-term.

McLeish told the Herald: "It is a real worry. The one thing which has to be assured is player safety.

"The players can't be on the park thinking that someone is going to run onto the pitch and hit them from behind.

"Take the Grealish incident; that guy could have been carrying something.

"But the whack he gave Jack, who I had as a young player at Villa, was vicious enough.

"It was disgraceful. I'm just thankful he was good to play on. Anything could have happened.

"It's completely unacceptable. Fans should not come over the barriers. I still remember the days when the fences came up in response to hooliganism and the fans were fenced in at every ground.

'Clubs will be punished and it may come down to them playing in an empty stadium.'
Alex McLeish

"We don't want to go back to those days but something needs to be done.

"Clubs will be punished, you now have to think that, and it may well come down to them playing in an empty stadium. There has to be that threat and I'm sorry to say this. But I can see it happening.

"When I was at Rangers, we played Inter Milan in an empty San Siro. It was a closed-door game. That was punishment for the misbehaviour of Inter fans - and that was the Champions League. If it can happen there and that level, then it surely could happen at a league game in Scotland or England.

"But players' safety is everything. They are at their place of work. It's important to remember that."

Levein: Football has to move on like it managed to in 70s

Progress: Levein called for the authorities to find another solution to football hooliganism.
Progress: Levein called for the authorities to find another solution to football hooliganism. SNS

Hearts manager Craig Levein says the British game has to move once again, like it managed to in the 1970s in an effort to rid itself of a growing hooligan element.

"It's annoying I am talking about stuff like this," he said.

"What has been noticeable, if we go back to the 70s... there was a lot of fan trouble in particular, running battles outside clubs, casuals... there was certainly much more trouble than there is just now.

"I think it is a testament to how far football has come, just about all of that has disappeared.

'It's annoying I am talking about stuff like this.'
Hearts manager Craig Levein

"Now, when these unsavoury incidents happen, they become big talking points.

"In some ways, I think it is a good thing we have moved on, what we need now is to do the same thing again with these, I was going to say isolated incidents, but there have been too many for them to be isolated.

"We have to work hard to make sure these situations don't happen.

"I'm sure the attention will be turned onto this and we'll have to find ways to counter the problem."

https://stv.tv/sport/football/1436167-spfl-to-take-appropriate-steps-after-pitch-invasion/ | default

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