Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp has blasted the ‘mindless idiot’ who assaulted him in the aftermath of the Championship play-off semi-final last night.
The Blades won 2-1 against Nottingham Forest in normal time, sending the tie into extra time and then penalties. But a masterclass from Forest keeper Brice Samba, who saved three United penalties, sent Steve Cooper’s side to the play-off final.
Forest fans descended onto the pitch in celebration. They have the chance to return to the Premier League for first time in 23 years.
But amid the celebrations, one Forest fan headbutted Sharp, forcing the striker to have stitches.
Nottinghamshire Police are completing an investigation and have made an arrest in connection with the attack.
Chief Inspector Paul Hennessy said: “A 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault in connection with this incident. He remains in custody and will be questioned by officers.
“Our enquiries into the circumstances surrounding the incident are ongoing. We have spoken to the player concerned and we are working with both clubs who are supporting us with our investigation.”
Billy Sharp calls attacker a ‘scumbag’
On Twitter, Sharp said: “One mindless idiot ruined what was an unbelievable night of football. Congratulations to Nottingham Forest on their victory and good luck in the final. As an ex-Forest player I will not let one scumbag ruin my respect for the Forest fans.
“Incredibly proud to be captain of this group of Sheffield United players. They gave their all and can hold their heads up high. We will be back and go again. Thanks for all your messages and support after the incident.”
Sharp hit 11 goals in 40 matches for Forest during a loan spell back in 2012-13.
The 36-year-old was unable to feature in the play-offs this season due to a calf injury he picked up in training prior to the 3-1 victory at QPR.
His absence meant Heckingbottom was left without any senior strikers. The manager has gone with Iliman Ndiaye, Morgan Gibbs-White and Sander Berge as a forward three in recent weeks.
Gibbs-White scored in the 47th minute to get United back into the second leg, before John Fleck made it 3-3 on aggregate.
Ndiaye could have won the match for United when firing at goal on his right foot from just a few yards out. But Samba somehow managed to block the shot. Clearly this gave him added confidence heading into the shoot-out.
The Blades will now have to dust themselves down and prepare for another promotion push next season.
Heckingbottom has done a great job in the dugout since replacing Slavisa Jokanovic in November. If they can maintain their form under Heckingbottom for a full season then there is no reason why they cannot gain promotion.