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'Drunk' soccer fan jailed for attacking English player

Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland was attacked by a Leeds fan during a Championship match last week.

Story highlights

  • Football fan jailed for attacking Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Chris Kirkland
  • Aaron Cawley, 21, also banned from matches for six years following assault
  • Leeds supporter invaded the pitch during match and knocked Kirkland down
  • Leeds spokesman says the sentence was too lenient and club will ban him for life

A drunken English soccer supporter who attacked a former international goalkeeper during a match last Friday has been jailed for 16 weeks and given a six-year banning order.

Aaron Cawley, a fan of English second division team Leeds, pleaded guilty to charges of assault and entering the field of play before being sentenced on Monday.

The 21-year-old was arrested after invading the pitch during Leeds' match at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday and shoving Kirkland in the face, knocking the one-cap England international to the ground.

Cawley escaped back into the crowd after the incident, which came in the 76th minute of the game, but was arrested on Sunday.

"We are pleased to see the matter dealt with by the courts so quickly," said a spokesman for Leeds, which plans to ban Cawley for life once his court order expires.

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"Our one disappointment is that we feel the sentence could, and should, have been considerably longer."

    In March 2007, Timothy Smith was fined £300 and given a three-year banning order after running onto the field and attempting to punch Frank Lampard during Chelsea's FA Cup replay at Tottenham. Two years earlier, a Stoke fan was jailed for three months after attacking Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Simon Royce.

    British media reported that the court in Sheffield was told Cawley had been drinking heavily before the match, and that he had previously breached other banning orders.

    His solicitor said her client "was absolutely disgusted by his own behavior" and that he could not recall the incident due to his state of inebriation.

    Kirkland, who has played for Premier League clubs Liverpool and Wigan and represented his country in 2006, was left shaken by the attack.

    "I caught a glimpse of someone coming towards me on the pitch," he told Wednesday's website after the match.

    "I thought he was going to give me some abuse but then suddenly he came at me with both hands and I was stunned. I felt the full force and I was just shocked because you never know what could have been in his hands.

    "I thought of my family watching something like that and it was not a nice feeling to think my daughter saw me assaulted like that."

    Sheffield Wednesday manager Dave Jones said Leeds fans should be "banned from every league ground."

    "They are vile animals," Jones said after the match. "The authorities have to look at it and sort it."

    Jones, who was found not guilty of charges of child abuse in 2000, said he was taunted throughout the game by Leeds supporters.

    "The abuse aimed at me on Friday was personal. It was also wrong, it was offensive and not the first time I have endured such abuse from Leeds United supporters," he said in a statement on Wednesday's website on Monday.

    "Why make it personal? Why were the chants aimed at me? I cannot emphasize strongly enough that I condemn any abuse of any kind from any supporter and I would stress that the vast majority of fans at every club in the country are decent and law-abiding."

    The Kirkland incident came on the same day that Russian fans attacked Dynamo Moscow players using paintball guns at the club's training ground.

    Having arrived in camouflage at the club's training base in Novogorsk, just north of Moscow, they unleashed a flurry of paintballs at the players.

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