Former Leeds United striker Peter Lorimer has described the attack by a Leeds fan on Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland as “total stupidity”.
But the 65-year-old said a call by Wednesday manager Dave Jones for United’s supporters to be banned from away fixtures in response to Friday’s derby was excessive and “very unfair.”
Leeds were at the centre of police and Football Association inquiries today after one of their fans assaulted Kirkland during the second half of a volatile 1-1 draw at Hillsborough.
United made an immediate response to the incident, apologising to Kirkland and condemning the fan responsible while promising to co-operate fully South Yorkshire Police and the FA, both of whom launched investigations within hours of the final whistle.
The attack on Kirkland – a two-handed push in the keeper’s face moments after Michael Tonge scored a 75th-minute equaliser for Leeds – was one of several moments at Hillsborough which are likely to be studied closely by the police and officials at Soho Square.
Wednesday boss Jones was subjected to chants relating to charges of child abuse brought against him more than a decade ago – charges he was cleared of – and sections of the home crowd goaded United’s away following by singing about the death of two Leeds fans in Istanbul in April 2000.
Coins and bottles were thrown between opposing sets of supporters, including a flare launched from a section of the stadium containing Wednesday fans, but an angry Jones laid the blame at the feet of United’s contingent and called for Leeds to face an immediate ban for their supporters at away ground.
The Wednesday manager, who had endured similar treatment in matches against Leeds for several years, said: “You can’t let them get away with that. They’re vile animals.
“They need to clean their house and get it in order. They should be banned from every away ground from now until they sort it. That was an absolute disgrace.”
Lorimer, who is a director at Leeds and was present at Hillsborough on Friday night, told the YEP: “I won’t have that. It’s very unfair to call for that sort of punishment when what we’re talking about is a moment of total stupidity on the part of one lad.
“You can tell by the reaction of our supporters that none of them are condoning his behaviour or proud of what happened. To attack a player on the pitch is an absolute disgrace and it won’t be brushed under the carpet, not by Leeds.
“The club came out straight away to condemn this guy and without question it was totally wrong.
“He’ll be dealt with, you can be sure of that. It does our reputation no good and the supporters I’ve spoken to are angry about it. They don’t want to be associated with it.
“Every club in the country has a fringe element and but Leeds United have worked hard over many years to eliminate ours, and we’ll continue to do so. This is a reminder never to let your guard down.
“But in general the supporters here are excellent. I’ve been home and away to every Leeds game for more years than I can remember and the idea that they cause trouble all over the place is nonsense. I don’t accept it.”
Asked about the chanting towards Jones, Lorimer said: “From where I was sitting it wasn’t easy to hear everything but there were chants from both sets of supporters which crossed a line. None of us want to see that, not us or Sheffield Wednesday.”
Leeds issued their apology to Kirkland immediately after the final whistle on Friday, saying most of their supporters would be “ashamed” by the violent shove which flattened Kirkland in front of his goal.
United are facing fresh punishment from the FA less than a month after receiving a fine of £25,000 for failing to control their players during a Championship game against Doncaster Rovers at Elland Road last season.
The governing body made initial contact with Leeds, Wednesday and match referee Eddie Ilderton on Saturday, with Ilderton’s match report due to arrive at Soho Square today. The FA’s investigation was expected to begin in earnest this morning.
United’s statement said: “Leeds United publicly apologise for the actions of the fan who came onto the pitch and attacked Chris Kirkland.?
“The club will fully co-operate with police and football authorities in identifying the individual concerned.
“After the week football has endured, there’s no place for this type of behaviour and the majority of Leeds fans will be ashamed of his actions.”
Lorimer said: “I saw Kirkland after the game and he was very upset about what went on.
“He’s every right to be upset. This will be sorted out and our fans will want action as much as anyone else.”
The chairman of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, Gary Cooper, echoed Lorimer’s view, speaking out in condemnation of the assault which occurred during a live broadcast by Sky Sports.
“It’s pretty clear that the overwhelming majority of our members see this as an act of thuggery,” Cooper told the YEP. “We don’t condone it.
“What pleased me was the quick response of Leeds United to the incident and also the attempts made by supporters on social media to identify this guy and give the police as much help as they could to catch him. Let’s have him face the repercussions.”
But while Cooper called for an end to what he called “distasteful chanting” among United’s fanbase, he criticised the comments made by Jones in the aftermath of Friday’s draw.
“It appears that Dave Jones wants to blame the Leeds United supporters for everything that happened at Hillsborough,” Cooper said.
“As a Trust we’ve said for a while that we need to address the issue of distasteful chanting and we stand by that. But the Leeds fans at Hillsborough were themselves goaded with chants about Istanbul from the Wednesday fans.
“What does Mr Jones think about that? Are those supporters vile animals too?
“I’m not excusing the supporter who attacked Chris Kirkland but the two issues are completely separate.
“When Mr Jones talks about vile animals, he’s talking about women and children as well as grown men. We should have the finger pointed at us when we deserve it but perhaps Mr Jones should think about pointing the finger at some of his own too.”
Asked to justify his “vile animals” comment yesterday, Jones said: “I apologise for tarring all the (Leeds) supporters amongst them but that’s what it’s going to take to sort this out.
“Everyone got carried away with one person, as if it was just one person that caused all the trouble. It wasn’t.
“It was an accumulation – that’s why I said what I said.”