POLICE say they have ‘clearly identified’ a thug - believed to be a banned Leeds fan - who attacked Sheffield Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland during the 1-1 derby.
The incident - seen live by millions of viewers on Sky Sports TV - occurred shortly after Kirkland conceded an equaliser at Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium.
The thug has been unofficially named and shamed on social network sites - some even giving his address and phone number.
It is claimed he is a serial football hooligan well known to police and has been banned from matches following previous incidents.
He is understood to be a man in his 20s from Cheltenham, who was barred from every stadium in the country as a teenager after being caught in a 200-strong riot at Leeds’ Elland Road Ground.
Last night he ran onto the pitch at Hillsborough, pushing the Sheffield Wednesday in the face, causing him to fall to the ground.
Owls manager Dave Jones later branded Leeds United fans ‘vile animals’, and called on the club’s supporters to be banned from away matches.
Last year the hooligan was conviced of breaking another two-year ban, which forbade him from travelling on trains to cities where Leeds were playing on match days.
Senior investigating officer, Det Insp Mark Monteiro, said: “With the public’s assistance we have clearly identified the offender who ran onto the pitch during last night’s game and who is suspected of assaulting the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper.
“We are dealing with the complaint made by the player and we are currently taking statements, collating evidence and making enquiries to locate and arrest the offender.
“We are also using CCTV footage from around the ground to identify suspects who may have been responsible for other offences before, during or after the match.
“I’d like to thank the supporters and general public who have provided information and assisted with our inquiries.”
The Football Association has also announced it is investigating the crowd trouble at the Championship match between Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds.
A number of Leeds supporters ran on to the pitch after Michael Tonge equalised in the 1-1 draw at Hillsborough and one man confronted Kirkland before shoving him in the face with both hands, knocking him to the floor.
An FA spokesman confirmed: “We are investigating the events of last night and awaiting the referee’s report.”
Police are following a number of inquiries and outraged football fans are calling for the culprit to face criminal charges.
He was one of a number of Leeds’ fans who ran on to the pitch in celebration. He shoved Kirkland in the face with both hands, knocking him to the floor.
Kirkland required medical treatment before he could continue.
The match finished 1-1.
Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin, of South Yorkshire Police, said a senior investigating officer would be working with a team of officers to identify those responsible for the disruption.
He said there had been five arrests for various offences including public order before and after the game, while three people were ejected from the ground and 12 were subject to dispersal orders.
In a statement released late last night, he added: “First I would like to thank members of the public who have contacted us with information to help in the ongoing investigations following the incidents at Hillsborough tonight.
“Fans have now left the city and there has been no further reported incidents of violence and disorder.”
Earlier he said there had been several incidents where seats and bottles were believed to have been thrown inside the ground.
Leeds issued a statement after the game pledging to hunt down the man involved in the incident.
It read: “Leeds United Football Club would like to publicly apologise and condemn the action of the fan who came on the pitch and attacked Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. The club will fully co-operate with the police and the football authorities in identifying the individual concerned.
“After the week football has endured there is no place for this type of behaviour and the majority of Leeds supporters will be ashamed of his actions.”
A large number of the Leeds fans housed in the Leppings Lane End sang about child abuse charges dropped against Wednesday manager Dave Jones.
The Wednesday fans also stoked things up with songs about two Leeds fans killed in Turkey in April 2000. Leeds supporters responded by throwing bottles onto the field and clashing with police.
Jones called for Leeds fans to be banned from “every away ground”.
He went on: “You talk about racism, the chanting, that’s a form of racism. And then (for the Leeds players) to go and wave at them... not in my book. You don’t wave at them after that.
“I thought it had gone out of our game. The authorities have to look at it and sort it. I’m talking about an incident when we should be talking about the football. We’re talking about vile animals. That’s what they are. We talk about racism, but that, we need to sort that.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.