SUNDERLAND chairman Niall Quinn has apologised to Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper after a young fan pushed him over during the trouble-hit derby.
Violence flared inside the ground after yesterday’s clash at the Stadium of Light, with seats, coins and bottles hurled between rival fans.
The shameful scenes came despite best efforts by police who erected an 8ft wall outside the stadium in a bid to keep supporters apart.
A small group of chanting troublemakers battered the metal divide before being charged by mounted police and officers wearing riot gear.
The yobs fled up Millennium Way on to North Bridge Street and police escorted a number of supporters over the Wearmouth Bridge.
There was a big police presence inside and outside the stadium for yesterday’s 143rd derby.
Northumbria Police praised the behaviour of the majority of fans, but said a “small number” remained intent on causing trouble.
Despite warnings to troublemakers in the run-up to the game, 24 arrests were made before, during and immediately after the match for offences including drunk and disorderly, disorderly conduct and going on to the playing area.
The actions of one Black Cat fan, who ran on to the pitch in the closing minutes of the game and pushed Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper, today prompted wide-scale condemnation.
The FA will receive referee HowardWebb’s report this morning and is expected to launch an investigation.
Black Cat chairman Niall Quinn has also personally apologised to Harper.
Temporary Chief Superintendent Steve Neill, Northumbria Police’s Match Commander, said: “The crowd was mainly good natured and the overwhelming majority wanted nothing more than to enjoy the action on the pitch in an atmosphere free from violence and disorder.
“However, there were still some troublemakers who were determined to spoil things for the genuine fans.
“We had anticipated the potential for disorder and had the resources in place to deal with it swiftly and firmly.
“The policing operation went well and I would like to commend the actions and professionalism of all the officers involved who managed to diffuse a number of difficult situations.
“I would also like to thank the stewards for their assistance.”
Police carried out a number of pre-planned operations ahead of yesterday’s fixture.
They carried out searches on about 110 European football supporters at North Shields ferry terminal on Saturday and Sunday morning.
A number of Swiss fans were searched in Sunderland on Sunday morning and one man was arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled drug.
Chief Superintendent Rachel Kearton, Sunderland Area Command, said: “Public safety is always our priority during any football match and extensive planning went into policing this derby.”
Temp Chf Supt Neill also praised the new barrier system, adding: “The use of the new cordon system was effective and helped ensure that fans reached and dispersed from the ground safely.
“A great deal of consideration and planning was given to the use of this tactic, in a situation where there would otherwise have been the potential for significant disorder.”