Jack Grealish was on Cloud Nine before he was face down in the 18.
The Aston Villa man was handed the captain’s arm band for a Sunday derby at Birmingham City, and incredibly proud of it.
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But early in the Second City Derby, a pitch invader attacked Grealish from behind. The punch in the side of the face floored Grealish, and teammates rushed to his aid.
“I was just unaware at the time,” Grealish said. “I was walking into position and I just felt a whack around the side of the face. Obviously there’s rivalry in football but I don’t think there’s any place for that really.”
Grealish would get the last laugh, scoring the lone goal as Villa kept its promotion playoff hopes alive and leapt over Birmingham City on the table.
“I just tried to get on with my job in the end and I think I did. It was unbelievable to get the winner in front of the fans after what happened. … It’s the best day of my life to come here for the first time, captain Aston Villa and score the winner. It’s what dreams are made of, especially being an Aston Villa fan.”
As for the managers, Villa boss Dean Smith ripped the security at St. Andrew’s while Blues manager Garry Monk said that “one idiot does not reflect Birmingham fans and I’m sure they don’t condone it as well.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Villa, saying the act has “no place in football or society.” The club said in a release that the fan will be banned from St. Andrew’s forever, and that it will back the fullest enforcement of the law.