In the lower levels of English soccer, fans often are nasty, brutish, and short-tempered. We saw evidence of this in March when an idiot stormed the field mid-game to sucker-punch a player, and we saw even more yesterday, when a Portsmouth fan punched and kicked Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien after the player fell into the crowd.
The incident occurred in the match’s 61st minute, after O’Nien tussled with Portsmouth player Tom Naylor over a loose ball on the sidelines. O’Nien clattered over the barricade separating the fans from the field, and while he was getting up and out, a mohawked fan kicked out at him. Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole said after the game that the fan also landed a punch before O’Nien made it back onto the pitch.
Stadium security escorted the fan out of the premises after the incident, and police arrested him. O’Nien decided against pressing charges, though, so the fan was released.
After the game, O’Nien spoke to the media about the incident, saying that it was “just a bit of handbags” before owning the already-owned Portsmouth fan: “I’ve seen my little cousin hit harder than that, so not a problem with that.” His manager, Jack Ross, said the incident was not ideal, but that the team “wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.”
Sunderland got the last laugh, thankfully, holding on to a 1-0 aggregate win in the League One promotion playoff that sees them push through to the final with a spot in the Championship on the line. Lose the battle, win the war.