A section of Coatbridge town centre was closed to the public on Saturday afternoon as rival mobs of football hooligans fought a pitched battle.
A police officer in plain clothes was taken to hospital suffering from a head wound after being hit with a bottle as he tried to intervene when the casuals clashed a short distance from Sunnyside rail station.
Around 60 men were involved in the disturbance at the car park in Baird Street, with bricks, bottles and other items used as weapons.
The hooligans who attach themselves to Airdrie United and Ayr United, battled it out in what police said was a pre-arranged fight.
It is thought that so-called Section B casuals from Airdrie waited in a nearby pub for their counterparts from Ayrshire, known as Ayr Service Crew, arriving by train.
Ayr were set to play Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill while Airdrie were at home to Partick Thistle that afternoon.
Two plain clothes cops witnessed the trouble taking place and went to intervene when one of them was seriously assaulted by a thug wielding a glass bottle.
The officer was taken to Monklands Hospital for treatment where he had five stitches inserted in a head wound.
The trouble broke out at around 2pm and dozens of police, including officers from the specialist Football Coordination Unit for Scotland (FoCUS), were quickly on the scene.
Sunnyside Road was sealed off to traffic as the police tried to bring the situation under control and track down the thugs who had dispersed into surrounding streets.
Readers took to the Advertiser’s Facebook page to voice disgust at the event which shocked shoppers in the busy town centre. One woman said: “I was unfortunate to witness it while having a family lunch. Grown men using their fists, feet and bottles on one another. It wasn’t lads and it was in front of my two young children.”
There is a history of bad blood between the rival hooligan factions from Airdrie and Ayr.
In April 2002, Airdrieonians played their final match before being liquidated at Ayr United’s Somerset Park where Airdrie fans invaded the pitch and broke the crossbar in a protest aimed at Ayr’s owner at the time, Bill Barr, whose company Barr Construction had built the Excelsior Stadium and was a major creditor of the old club.
Rivals groups of casuals also fought in Airdrie town centre prior to a match in March two years ago and one supporter was arrested following a disturbance involving casuals when the teams met in October 2009.
Police made nine arrests following Saturday’s disorder, including six men from Airdrie aged 36, 32, 28, 24, 19 and 18; a 38-year-old man from Hamilton; a 39-year-old man from West Lothian; and a 32-year-old man from Maybole, South Ayrshire.
They all appeared at Airdrie Sheriff Court on Monday charged with breach of the peace and made no plea or declaration and were released on bail.
No one has yet been charged with the serious assault but police are following a definite line of enquiry.
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