Lampard ‘concerned’ by spate of pitch invasions

Frank Lampard, who once narrowly avoided being punched by a pitch invader, has revealed his concern at the spate of similar incidents over the weekend.

Sunday’s attack on Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish by a Birmingham fan came two days after Rangers defender James Tavernier was confronted by a supporter against Hibernian, and was followed by another pitch invader shoving Manchester United’s Chris Smalling at Arsenal.

In 2007 Lampard had to dodge a punch thrown by a fan who had run onto the pitch after Chelsea had beaten Tottenham 2-1 in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.

Recalling that incident, Lampard said he was lucky the intruder “swung and missed”.

The Derby boss is worried players could now become fearful of their own safety on the pitch.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of Derby’s Championship clash with Stoke, Lampard said of the Grealish attack: “Yes, it is a concern.

“It was a terrible incident, everybody could see that. We have to make sure we put player safety at the top of the list.

“Security has to be looked at and the deterrent has to be big. We should be very, very strict on it.

“I thought Grealish handled it very well. His demeanour afterwards was spot-on, and how it was dealt with after.

Jack Grealish celebrates scoring Villa's winner having been punched by spectator Paul Mitchell earlier in the game
Jack Grealish celebrates scoring Villa’s winner having been punched by spectator Paul Mitchell earlier in the game (Nick Potts/PA)

“It shouldn’t happen. I hope players aren’t playing with any fear of this happening again. You have to deal with it.”

Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell, 27, was jailed for 14 weeks for his attack on Grealish after pleading guilty to assault and invading the pitch.

He was also banned from all football stadiums for 10 years by Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, while Blues imposed a lifetime ban from their fixtures.