Hammam provokes furore

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The Independent Football

Peter Ridsdale, the Leeds United chairman, was forced to step between his manager, David O'Leary, and the Cardiff City owner, Sam Hammam, after the two men became embroiled in a furious war of words following yesterday's controversial FA Cup tie.

O'Leary confronted Hammam outside the reception area of Ninian Park and let fly with an angry tirade following the former Wimbledon supremo's actions during the 2-1 win for City. Hammam, as a bitter third-round tie was drawing to a close, had walked around the perimeter of the pitch, in what is a regular finale to Cardiff's home matches.

The Lebanese businessman, however, only served to send the City fans into an even greater frenzy, particularly when he then stood behind the goal in front of the Grange End of the ground, where the Bluebirds were attacking.

The tension was already high as a number of missiles had been thrown at players and officials. The trend was set in the first minute when a plastic bottle was aimed at the Leeds defender Ian Harte as he prepared to take a throw, while the worst incident arose 10 minutes from time when the referee, Andy D'Urso, was struck by a coin.

Hammam joined in the celebratory pandemonium when Scott Young, the club's longest serving player, poked home the winner five minutes from time. When D'Urso sounded the final whistle it sparked a pitch invasion by jubilant Cardiff supporters, only for the scenes to turn ugly as they confronted the 2,200 Leeds fans packed into one corner of the ground.

Further missiles were hurled between the sets of fans, forcing the South Wales Constabulary to intervene in a bid to restore order. As the baiting continued, the police then waded in with batons, while dogs were also called into the ensuing mêlée. There were some casualties as at least two people required treatment as they lay on the pitch.

However, the Cardiff manager, Alan Cork, defended his team's fans, saying: "We've got passionate fans. If you can't enjoy yourselves when you've beaten Leeds, when can you?"

In ebullient mood after his team's victory over the Premiership leaders, Cork added: "They will have a good drink and cause havoc all night."

Later, the bitterness spilled over into a nasty head-to-head confrontation between O'Leary and Hammam, before Ridsdale pulled O'Leary away.

Hammam also refused to condemn the thugs who had wrecked his side's historic day as Cardiff pulled off one of the greatest shocks of recent times. He even ejected from the stadium a radio reporter who asked for a response regarding what happened after the final whistle. Hammam snatched a tape out of the reporter's recorder, and it is understood it was later destroyed, an action only serving to underline the level of acrimony which had quickly descended on the tie.

When O'Leary was asked about Hammam's actions, he responded: "I just thank God my chairman does not do what he does."