Players ‘feared for their safety’ after shameful scenes in Edinburgh Derby

Hearts goalkeeper Zdnek Zlamal lies on the ground after an altercation with a Hibernian fan
Hearts goalkeeper Zdnek Zlamal lies on the ground after an altercation with a Hibernian fan

FOOTBALL chiefs Ann Budge and Leeann Dempster have called on their own fans to shop the hooligans responsible for shocking scenes during Wednesday night’s Edinburgh derby.

Four players were targeted with missiles, Jambos goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was “punched” by a fan while Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon was struck by a coin – and both assistant referees were hit with objects.

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon

“The two clubs are united in their condemnation of the isolated events which marred an otherwise compelling fixture,” read a joint statement from the clubs.

“And will together work with Police Scotland to ensure those individuals concerned are identified and face appropriate sanctions.”

Following on from a Hearts’ fan’s bottle-throwing attack outside Sunday’s Murrayfield semi-final with Celtic, the night of shame cast fresh doubt on plans for alcohol to be available at football matches from 2020.

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said the week’s events proved some fans’ behaviour is “still some distance” from warranting any lifting of the booze ban.

Hibernian fans at the game at Tynecastle.

Hibernian fans at the game at Tynecastle.

A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with an alleged assault on one of the assistant referees.

Hibs star Marvin Bartley revealed that he feared for his own safety during the ill-tempered clash, claiming he and two teammates were targeted by missile-throwing thugs. Head coach Neil Lennon was felled by a pound coin thrown by a Hearts fan.

Bartley, now in his fourth season with Hibs, revealed that the match was the worst he had experienced, describing how a coin whistled past his own face which, he said, could easily have struck him in the eye and left him blinded.

Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was also assaulted by a Hibs fan as he attempted to retrieve the ball from behind his goal.

Both Lennon and his Hearts counterpart Craig Levein, who was shocked when he saw his opposite number crumple to the turf, called for the culprits to be severely dealt with.

Bartley added: “Obviously we didn’t know what had happened. He [Lennon] looked out, he wasn’t moving. The referee said he was going to stop the game but the gaffer got up and the game went on. It’s not something you want to see.

“I get it’s a derby, but people have to be more responsible in their actions. Everyone wants to win, everyone is passionate but you can get involved in the atmosphere without throwing coins or anything else. There is no place for it and I think the supporters around him or her should say who it was.

“I had a coin thrown at me, it just went across the front of me. If it hits me it’s going to scar me, open me up, especially at the pace it’s thrown down at me. I don’t think people think about potentially blinding a player.”

Former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans condemned the coin-throwing and Lennon for goading fans – and said earlier kick-offs may need to be considered.

“I have to say, I was rather disappointed to see the actions of the Hibs manager when the goal was chalked off. His actions to the Hearts support behind him was frankly not what you’d expect from someone in his position.

“I’m in no way condoning the idiot who threw a coin at him but nevertheless Mr Lennon’s behaviour was extremely disappointing.”

Asked about earlier kick-offs, Mr Deans added: “It’s got to be looked at if it helps cut down on boozing.

“If it has to be that way, then it has to be that way – we certainly can’t have scenes like these,” he said.

Fraser Wishart, Chief Executive of PFA Scotland, said it was “like Groundhog Day.”

He added: “We stress again that any form of verbal abuse, violence or the throwing of objects at players and managers needs to be taken seriously and we trust that the authorities will take the appropriate action to ensure that this dangerous practice is stopped.”

Police arrested five fans during the game and officers are investigating the attacks on Zlamal and Lennon.

Chief Inspector Murray Starkey said: “Police Scotland condemn the mindless acts of violence which included missiles being thrown during last night’s Edinburgh derby.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com