Burnley defender Phil Bardsley has disclosed the abuse he suffers away from the football pitch following the shocking attack on Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish last weekend.
Grealish was punched from behind by a spectator who ran on to the pitch during the derby clash between Birmingham and Villa at St Andrew’s, knocking the midfielder to the floor.
Burnley players were confronted by a Blackburn fan who ran on to the pitch during last season’s Carabao Cup tie, while last weekend also saw an Arsenal fan breach security to confront Manchester United defender Chris Smalling.
Bardsley said: “Obviously it’s not nice to see spectators running on to the field and attacking players and abusing players.
“We have to put up with that a lot of the time away from the game, so when you’re on the pitch you feel like you can go there and enjoy a game of football and be treated the right way, but unfortunately last week’s events have shown that you can’t.
“It’s part of modern society and social media and stuff like this, the s**t you have to put up with. It’s part of being a professional footballer that you’re going to get stick off opposing fans. It’s never nice, but you grow thick-skinned and try and ignore it.
“It’s not too bad when you’re with the kids, it’s more if you want to go for a drink or a bite to eat in city centres and somebody’s had a few too many to drink and they get brave to say stuff to you that they wouldn’t dream of saying if they weren’t full of alcohol.”
Asked if it was hard not to react, Bardsley said: “You want to take the safety catch off sometimes, but it’s probably not the right thing to do in this day and age.”
Clarets boss Sean Dyche has not experienced the same issues away from the pitch, but has seen a change in the shouts directed towards him on the touchline from opposing fans.
“I’ve been in the game all my life but what’s changed is it used to be quite good humoured, you could have fun with fans,” he said. “It’s fair to say there’s been a few ginger jokes down the years. Now the difference is it’s very angry and people can be really harsh.”
Of the Grealish attack, he added: “It’s angry England. Everyone’s got an angle, social media seems to get more harsh by the year and, unfortunately, if you get kudos from those sort of things, that can grow your own ego and then it can spill out into situations.
“On this occasion I don’t know why the fella got involved. It’s not acceptable, we know that. But it’s difficult. Clubs are trying to do the right thing. We’ve moved a long way since the cages were up and that sort of thing. You are looking for a bit of responsibility from fans.”