Cheltenham man arrested over goalkeeper Chris Kirkland pitch incident
Police arrested 21-year-old Aaron Cawley in the town on suspicion of assaulting former England goalie Chris Kirkland during a Leeds match against Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.
Cawley, from Hester’s Way, was arrested at around 1pm today.
The incident happened when a hooligan ran from the Leeds fans onto the pitch at the Hillsborough ground and struck Kirkland in the face, before running back into the crowd.
It was caught on camera by Sky Sports who were broadcasting the derby game live, which saw the keeper need several minutes of treatment after falling awkwardly from the attack.
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Football commentators were joined by hundreds of fans, who went online to condemn the actions in the aftermath of the game.
Paul Baker, chairman of Cheltenham Town Football Club, described the behaviour as “abhorrent”.
“From a Cheltenham perspective I’m pleased to say we have an excellent record of crowd behaviour,” he said.
“But clearly those kind of scenes, including the abuse and assault of a player on the pitch, is totally abhorrent.
“It’s the sort of thing I had thought was in the past, but unfortunately it’s not.
“I hope the police do whatever they can to bring the offender to justice.”
Wednesday manager Dave Jones – himself the subject of vile chants during the game – called for all Leeds fans to be banned from away games.
“Do you know what needs to happen?,” he said. “The people that go to the games that are disgusted – and it’s going to be hard – they are the ones who should walk out and isolate the people there who are doing it or point out who are doing it.”
Leeds boss Neil Warnock blasted the offender as a “moron”.
“There shouldn’t be any way whatsoever that people should be allowed to run on the field of play,” he added.
Kirkland, 31, needed treatment following the two-handed blow at Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. He said he was “shocked” by what had happened and called for the man to be punished.
“It was scary,” he said. “I want the authorities to take the appropriate action because sooner or later, we could be talking about something even more serious.”
It was one of a series of ugly incidents marring the match, which finished 1-1.
A large number of the Leeds fans housed in the ground’s Leppings Lane End sang about child abuse allegations which were dropped against Wednesday manager Dave Jones.
The Wednesday fans also stoked things up with songs about two Leeds fans killed in Turkey in April 2000. Leeds supporters responded by throwing bottles onto the field and clashing with police.
The Football Association said it will investigate events.
There were five arrests for various offences including public order before and after the game, while three people were ejected from the ground and 12 were subject to dispersal orders.
South Yorkshire police released a statement saying the arrested suspect would be brought in for questioning.
“During the Sheffield Wednesday FC and Leeds United FC game at Hillsborough, it is alleged the suspect ran onto the pitch and pushed over the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper,” it said.
“The suspect was located in Cheltenham just before 1pm and is being transported to South Yorkshire for questioning.”