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'Everyone remembers what happened to Monica Seles' - Neville recalls stabbed tennis star in wake of Grealish assault

01:05 EAT 12/03/2019
Phil Neville
The Lionesses boss has bemoaned the foolish and dangerous actions of fans and has warned that things could get worse if measures are not taken

England Women’s team manager Phil Neville has had his say on the shocking incidents this weekend at three different football matches across Britain.

A fan was able to get on the pitch in each of those games, with Chris Smalling of Manchester United, James Tavernier of Rangers and Jack Grealish of Aston Villa all directly confronted.

And Neville believes that strong action is necessary to prevent someone being seriously hurt.

The former Manchester United and Everton man raised the case of Monica Seles, who was stabbed on the tennis court by an obsessive fan in 1993.

“We have reached the point where banning individuals for going on the pitch is simply not enough of a punishment,” Neville told the BBC.

“Drastic action is needed – either through points deductions or by emptying stadiums and making clubs play behind closed doors.

“I don’t want to over-dramatise things, but everyone remembers what happened to the tennis player Monica Seles, who was stabbed on court during a match in 1993.

"We need to start protecting players properly because all it takes is for one of these people who get hurt on the pitch to have a knife or other weapon and it will be a footballer who is badly hurt next time.”

The Lionesses boss thinks this part of a wider trend of poor behaviour at football grounds, and went on to lament the death threats sent to one of his international charges.

“I have seen many incidents this season that worry me about the way football is going, and we need to nip things in the bud before they get worse.

“In the past few months, there have been displays of racism at grounds, with a banana thrown towards Arsenal players after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had scored in the north London derby and derogatory chanting about the Pakistani community during the Millwall versus Everton FA Cup tie

“Homophobic abuse is a problem too, and now we have had these attacks and confrontations from people running on to the pitch.

“One of my players in the England women team, Karen Carney, received death threats last year. It was disgusting, but that just seem to be seen as part of being a public figure these days, whether you are male or female.”

Neville also recounted a scary incident from his own playing days.

“It happened to me when I was playing for Everton in a Merseyside derby in 2008. I was taking a throw at Anfield, and I got a punch in the back from a Liverpool fan.

“At the time I thought nothing of it and I just got on with the game. It was not until I came off afterwards that I thought that jab in the back could have been something else – and he could have had a weapon in his hand.”