ALEX McLEISH last night admitted stadiums may need to be closed as a punishment to clubs if this wave of football hooliganism continues.

The Scotland manager watched in horror yesterday as a Birmingham City fan attacked Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish 10 minutes into a derby match involving two teams McLeish once managed.

The man, wearing a Birmingham City jacket, ran towards Grealish and hit him on his head from behind. He was led away from stewards while blowing kisses towards the crowd. West Midlands Police confirmed a 27-year-old had been arrested.

READ MORE: SPFL condemn Hibs fan who 'confronted' Rangers captain James Tavernier

Scottish football has witnessed several unsavoury incidents this season involving players, managers and officials being threatened or having missiles thrown at them, the latest being James Tavernier, the Rangers captain, having to deal with a Hibs supporter who ran out of the stand towards the player during Friday’s match between the two teams.

That indovidual was arrested and will appear in court today.

Those in charge of football on both sides of the border are coming under increasing pressure to act before a someone is seriously hurt and severe punishments may be soon handed down to clubs.

McLeish said: “It is a real worry. The one thing which has to be assured is player safety. The players can’t be on the park thinking that someone is going to run onto the pitch and hit them from behind.

“Take the Grealish incident; that guy could have been carrying something. But the whack he gave Jack, who I had as a young player at Villa, was vicious enough. It was disgraceful. I'm just thankful he was good to play on. Anything could have happened.

“It’s completely unacceptable. Fans should not come over the barriers. I still remember the days when the fences came up in response to hooliganism and the fans were fenced in at every ground. We don’t want to go back to those days but something needs to be done.

“Clubs will be punished, you now have to think that, and it may well come down to them playing in an empty stadium. There has to be that threat and I’m sorry to say this. But I can see it happening.

READ MORE: Hooliganism in football is now endemic - the authorities must act before someone is seriously hurt

“When I was at Rangers, we played Inter Milan in an empty San Siro. It was a closed-door game. That was punishment for the misbehaviour of Inter fans – and that was the Champions League. If it can happen there and that level, then it surely could happen at a league game in Scotland or England.

“But players’ safety is everything. They are at their place of work. It’s important to remember that.”

The SPFL got around to commenting on the Tavernier incident almost 48 hours after the match in Edinburgh, which did not go down well with football supporters on social media with many pointing to the fact the English League put out a statement when the Birmingham-Villa game was still going on.

To make matters worse for Hibs, the ‘fan’ had been sitting in the same section from which a bottle was thrown at Celtic’s Scott Sinclair last weekend.

McLeish said: “That wasn’t good enough. There must be decorum at a football game and by that, I mean coming from the supporters.

“With the guy at Easter Road, and this goes for other incidents we’ve seen up here this season, it’s maybe too much to drink and they think they’re being adventurous or something. It’s wrong. Plain and simple.

“You would think that everyone goes to a game to support their team and behave themselves. It seems that’s not the case which is so sad.”

The Grealish attack could be a line in the sand. With hooliganism creeping back into the game in Britain, there will be a demand for sanctions such as heavy fines, points deduction and, as McLeish suggested, stadiums being shut.

READ MORE: Rangers captain James Tavernier calls for clubs to stop supporter attacks after being confronted at Easter Road

The Scotland manager said: “When I was at Birmingham, we beat Villa on the way to winning the Carling Cup and our fans ran on at the end. It was a mini-pitch invasion.

“It was said at the time it was over-exuberance, but it was out of order.

“Sadly, too many believe that they it’s okay for them to act like this once in a football ground, and they would never behave in such a way away from the game.”