“There’s people on the pitch…”


Unfortunately I’m not talking about England’s famous 1966 World Cup win and Kenneth Wolstenholme’s now iconic piece of commentary.

It’s a more pressing matter, that of pitch invasions, following the events at the end of the FA Cup Quarter-Final Replay between Reading and Bradford yesterday, which I attended.

After a historic 3-0 win for the Berkshire side which sent them through to the semi-finals for the first time since 1927, many Royals fans spilled on to the pitch to celebrate on the turf.

But things began to turn slightly ugly as some fans surged towards the remaining Bradford supporters as soon as they stepped onto the grass. They then proceeded to goad the away fans, shouting over a line of riot police. Sporadic missiles began to fly back and forth. One even seemed to throw a flare into the Bradford fans.

At least one fan was seen with a flare
At least one fan was seen with a flare

I too, was on the pitch, I’m not afraid to admit that. Whatever the occasion, if there’s a chance to celebrate on the hallowed turf of my football club, I’ll take it. Even if it is for finishing seventh…

But moving swiftly on, during my time on the pitch, I sprinted towards the dugout, sang Que Sera Sera, and then, grinning sheepishly, slowly made my way back to the stands. This is a harmless pitch invasion. We had a bit of fun, it was slightly silly, and everybody went home happy. I’m not embarrassed by my actions last night, even if there were other fans shouting “Off, off, off”. It was a joyous moment, and one that doesn’t happen every game. After all, no one does comical pitch invasions quite like Reading.

I do however, now have to move on to the sour events that I described I earlier. Bottles and flares were thrown by both sets of supporters, whilst an eyewitness told MailOnline : ‘Celebrating your team’s victory is one thing, goading the opposition fans with sick taunts is another.

‘There were kids showing off lighters and mouthing the words “fire, fire, fire” which we all knew was a reference to what happened at Bradford in 1985.

‘One youth quite clearly launched the flare into the crowd, while, as they had done all game, the stewards sat back and allowed it to happen.’

There’s two things I want to pick out from this. Firstly, the description of the behaviour. I am sickened and disgusted reading what some fans did. I’m all for banter between both sets of supporters, it creates a great atmosphere, but it should never, ever get violent or intimidating.

How these people can call themselves ‘fans’ is unbelievable. Whether they were caught up in the moment or whatever, there is no excuse and I am ashamed to say I support the same football club as them. They are thugs. Hopefully the fans involved are given lifetime bans. You should go to a football game for entertainment, not a fight.

Secondly, the eyewitness comments on the lack of action by the stewards. And I strongly agree. Throughout the whole night, the stewards were shocking.

When one solitary fan ran on to the pitch during the second half, there was a small attempt to stop him when he first appeared, but the fact that he was allowed to run the length of the pitch, and then perform multiple front flips before being detained shocks me. In fact, it could even be said the steward is laughing in the picture below. The stewards didn’t do their job properly then or at the end of the game.

The comical pitch inavder midway through the second half
The comical pitch invader midway through the second half

The fact that a group of fans were allowed to get as close to the Bradford fans as they did amazes me, and the stewards made no attempt to push them back, stop the abuse or confiscate bottles or flares that could have caused harm. In fact if it wasn’t for the stewards, I wouldn’t have gone on to the pitch. Whether they received an order or not, several stewards opened the ‘gates’ onto the pitch to allow fans through. Almost as if they were encouraging people to go on to the pitch. In my view, it is as much their fault as the fans’ for the problems of last night. Poor, poor stewarding.

The pitch invasion also follows the ugly scenes at Villa Park earlier this month, when there was chaos as thousands of Aston Villa supporters piled on to the pitch following victory over rivals West Bromwich Albion in their FA Cup quarter-final.

Fabian Delph claimed he was bitten, while Boaz Myhill, Craig Dawson, James Morrison and Callum McManaman all appeared to be barged aggressively. And video footage appeared to show further player altercations with on-rushing fans.

Obviously I wasn’t there, but I assume that again it was a group of idiotic thugs that did the worst of it, whilst the majority of fans were just harmlessly celebrating on the pitch.

The pitch invasion at Aston Villa also hit the headlines last week
The pitch invasion at Aston Villa also hit the headlines last week

That’s what sickens me the most. I was on the pitch last night. Having a good time. But what I did and many other fans won’t be remembered or talked about. It’ll be the fans who threw flares, shouted abuse and overall embarrassed and ashamed the club.

I think I’ll leave it there as I’ve probably gone on long enough. But to conclude, I’m not ashamed of going on the pitch. I’m angry at the some of the other fans that were on there and marred a historic evening. The stewards might have been dreadful as well, and have to take part of the blame, but the mindless idiots, as they have repeatedly been described, are the ones hugely, hugely, in the wrong.


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