Sheffield United star "feared for his life" during Nottingham Forest pitch invasion that saw Billy Sharp headbutted

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Enda Stevens, the Sheffield United defender, admits he was left “fearing for his life” when skipper Billy Sharp was headbutted by a Nottingham Forest supporter during a pitch invasion following the Blades’ play-off defeat at the City Ground.

Thousands of Forest fans ran onto the pitch after their side beat the Blades in a tense penalty shootout to reach the play-off final at Wembley, with injured United skipper Sharp targeted in a shocking attack on the touchline that left him requiring stitches.

The thug responsible, 30-year-old Robert Biggs from Ilkeston, was jailed for six months after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm and Stevens, who also missed the game through injury, said: “I was out there with him and it was just an absolute disgrace.

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“The thing is with that, you’re actually fearing for your life. You’re on a pitch and thinking: ‘I can be attacked at any moment here’. There was no help for us, nobody there to protect us.

“There were policemen beside us who didn’t help us and didn’t want to get involved. It comes down to protecting us. We are the ones isolated out there, and we had no protection at all. There were people in place to protect us but they chose not to.

“They could see it and they didn’t help us. It was up to ourselves to protect each other and try get ourselves off the pitch, whereas they could probably do better in terms of policing it more with more stewards. It is a difficult one for the them, I understand that, but it is something that has to change.

“What happened to Billy, it was clear as day, and Billy wasn’t too far away from the tunnel. That’s where you should be policed the most. With the stewards, they should be all around there protecting people from getting in.”

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Enda Stevens with Iliman Ndiaye, his Sheffield United teammate: Darren Staples / SportimageEnda Stevens with Iliman Ndiaye, his Sheffield United teammate: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Enda Stevens with Iliman Ndiaye, his Sheffield United teammate: Darren Staples / Sportimage

A worrying trend

The incident was just one of a number of pitch invasions in recent weeks, with Robin Olsen – the former United goalkeeper – reportedly struck by jubilant Manchester City supporters after their title-clinching victory over Olsen’s current club Aston Villa.

“At Portsmouth, we got beat at Plymouth away and it happened there to a few lads,” Stevens, on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, added.

"Not to the extent of Billy Sharp. “But over the course of that week or so, it was happening continuously. Even in the Premier League, which you would never see.

"Obviously they [supporters] have been away from the game for two years with coronavirus. Emotions were high, it was an emotional game and it's all well if you want to run onto the pitch and celebrate. But the attacking of opposition players is an absolute disgrace.

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"If there is a squad of 20 lads and 20,000 people on a pitch running at you from left, right and centre, you don't know what is going to happen. It could come from anywhere.”

Biggs, a £55,000-a-year electrical engineer, was also handed a football banning order while Forest went on to win promotion to the Premier League.

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