Sportsview by David Eidlestein
NUTCASES have always lurked on football's fringes, ever sniffing around for something new to demonstrate their stupidity to the world.
Sometimes it's hurling coins or lighters on to the pitch, or the foulest of insults at an opposition player. The super-thick grab their moment of infamy by running on to the field to disrupt the match or perhaps confront a player.
The latest craze among football's ever-present contingent of loonies is to smuggle flares or smoke bombs into the grounds and then to fling them at people.
Assistant referee David Bryan was struck on the back of the neck by a flare thrown from among the Tottenham supporters in their match at Aston Villa. He wasn't hurt but he easily could have been and badly. These things burn at a ferocious temperature.
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Five months ago a teenage boy suffered lung damage from a smoke bomb thrown during Villa's match at Wigan; in February a young fan was killed when a flare was thrown during a match in Bolivia.
At Villa Park on Sunday, the flare was thrown just after Spurs had taken the lead, and although the victim did not require treatment, the game could not be restarted until the smoke cleared.
Two people were arrested and the police voiced concern at the escalating number of such incidents occurring at English football grounds.
Flares and multi-coloured smoke missiles have long been part of the backdrop to matches in Europe and South America. Some fans believe they add to the atmosphere of a top-level game.
A Police spokesman said: "It is prevalent abroad but I'm anxious that we don't head the same way and it does not become embedded in the culture of English football. It is in no way appropriate to let off either smoke flares or fireworks inside a stadium."
The FA are also taking the incident seriously and have launched an investigation into this unsavoury recent trend. Only last month there was an outbreak of flare throwing in a match between Manchester United and Liverpool.
It is to be hoped that those responsible for the incident at the weekend are dealt with severely enough to send out a clear message that such behaviour has no place in the English game. It has enough home-grown problems without needing to import them.