Swindon Town striker Harry McKirdy hit out at Port Vale’s supporters as he claims they targeted him with bottles, lighters and coins before ‘hitting and kicking’ him and his team-mates during a post-match pitch invasion.
Darrell Clarke’s Port Vale won 6-5 on penalties against Swindon to progress to the League Two play-off final and thousands of fans raced to get onto the pitch after the result was secured.
Writing on Instagram after a shootout defeat which left him ‘f***ing gutted’, McKirdy wrote: ‘I’ll take the stick & the songs. But bottles, coins, lighters thrown @ me, running on & hitting & kicking me/team-mates. Too far.
‘Somethings got to happen @efl.’
Swindon boss Ben Garner echoed McKirdy as he called on football’s authorities to ban every fan that went on to the pitch in an ‘appalling’ invasion.
Garner, who described it as a ‘free-for-all’ which left his players exposed to be abused ‘physically and verbally’, wants to see strong punishment doled out to every fan who went on the pitch.
Thousands of Port Vale fans invaded the pitch after they reached the League Two Play-Off Final – with Swindon striker Harry McKirdy (left) detailing abuse he faced during the match
‘We wouldn’t put up with that in any other profession but it’s become like a fashion in football,’ Garner told reporters.
‘It’s just madness. For me, everyone who has gone onto the pitch, just ban them. They were told before and during the game, so ban them.
‘I don’t think they were coming on out of celebration. They were coming on for violence and to antagonise.’
Port Vale fans raced on before Swindon’s players had been safely escorted away from the pitch.
As a result, Vale fans became embroiled in an altercation with Swindon players on the pitch, with footage appearing to show punches being thrown during a melee that ensued.
Jack Payne, Ben Gladwin and Jake O’Brien looked to be three Swindon stars targeted by the fans, along with McKirdy, before security soon intervened to pull them away from the trouble.
‘It was a free-for-all,’ Garner added. ‘I was abused, staff were abused, the players were abused, physically and verbally. It’s appalling, it really is.
‘There is nothing “serious, serious” in the dressing room but there is a cut and a couple of other bits and pieces, although no stitches. But I felt unsafe. The players certainly were and I was just trying to get the players out of harm’s way.
Swindon players were targeted by Vale fans and Garner called out ‘physical and verbal’ abuse
‘It was dangerous and I also worried if one of my players was going to retaliate. If a footballer retaliates in that situation, he would be tarnished with that for the rest of his career.’
Swindon right-back Mandela Egbo later took to Twitter to criticise Port Vale fans following the invasion, accusing them of throwing punches but only managing a ‘scratch’.
Along with a selfie which shows a scratch on his nose, Egbo wrote: ‘How you scummy fans get two free shots and only manage a scratch?
‘And I’m supposed to keep my cool – if I react I’m the bad guy right?’
Port Vale boss Clarke condemned the full-time pitch invasion as ‘out of order’.
He said: ‘We don’t want to see that in our game. The culprits will be dealt with.
‘I know how [owner] Carol [Shanahan] feels about this sort of thing. It’s something we don’t want to see.’
Swindon Town boss Ben Garner labelled it ‘appalling’ and wants to see every fan banned
Port Vale boss Darrell Clarke similarly condemned the pitch invasion as ‘out of order’
The shocking incident comes on a week which has seen a number of fixtures in both the Premier League and EFL marred by fan violence and unrest.
On Tuesday night Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp was headbutted by a supporter during a pitch invasion after their Championship playoff semi-final defeat against Nottingham Forest, with a man subsequently arrested and jailed for 26 weeks over the incident.
EFL chiefs threatened clubs with stadium closures and points deductions on Wednesday night, saying in a statemen after the trouble at Forest: ‘We recognise this lawlessness is being conducted by a small minority of individuals and the majority attending matches are a credit to their club.
‘However, it is not acceptable for fans to enter the field of play at any time given the EFL’s objective is to ensure our matches remain safe and welcoming for all.
‘This summer we will consider what further measures are at our disposal, including the potential use of capacity reductions or similar mitigations. Punitive action will follow for those who continue to disregard ground regulations and break the law at matches.’