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Ex-Saints boss in touchline brawl
FORMER Saints manager Steve Wigley was involved in a tunnel brawl as ugly scenes marred England’s Under-21 side qualifying for Euro 2013 tonight.
A 90th minute England winner against Serbia sparked a series of scuffles between players and staff on both sides as missiles were thrown onto the field.
Assistant manager Wigley was involved in a fight near the tunnel and England’s Danny Rose was sent off, complaining he had been racially abused.
The 2-0 aggregate victory takes England Under-21s through to an unprecedented fourth successive major tournament but the night will be remembered not for the football but for the minutes after the final whistle.
England, who led 1-0 after the home leg, had been on the brink of progressing as the game seemed destined for a 0-0 draw.
When Serbia committed goalkeeper Branimir Aleksic up the pitch for a last-ditch free-kick, England broke swiftly to score the goal that wrapped up the tie through Connor Wickham.
Then, as the England players celebrated, a series of objects were thrown on the field as the crowd expressed their frustration.
The final whistle was blown almost immediately but Serbia and England players then clashed, before coaches and even officials on both sides became involved.
A series of monkey chants were heard around the stadium as Rose kicked the ball into the crowd and was shown a red card.
The Football Association has already reported the latest incident to UEFA.
A statement from the FA read: "The FA condemns both the scenes of racism and the confrontation at the final whistle during which time our players and staff were under extreme provocation.
"The FA has reported a number of incidents of racism to UEFA following the fixture. These were seemingly aimed at a number of England black players by the crowd. The matter is now with UEFA."
England head coach Stuart Pearce said: "One or two of the technical staff from the opposition, and I don't include their manager in that, didn't cover themselves in glory on the pitch at the end.
"Punches, headbutts were thrown, and God knows what else. We will let the authorities deal with this at UEFA."
Pearce had spoken before the game of his confidence that the issue of racism would not raise itself.
A match between the two countries at the 2007 Under-21 European Championship in Holland was marred when England defender Nedum Onuoha was racially abused.
Serbia were fined £16,000 by European governing body UEFA after that incident, but Pearce had said he thought the game in the Balkan country had moved on since then.
Former England captain Paul Ince, working as a pundit on ESPN, believes tougher action is necessary this time.
Ince, whose son Thomas had been playing in the match, said: "It is disgraceful. There is no excuse for the scenes we have just seen.
"There were punches being thrown. If it was me they would be kicked out for the next five tournaments, European, World Cups."
The under-21 side's captain Jordan Henderson was also proud of the reaction of his team-mates under the circumstances.
Henderson said: "The players coped with the abuse really well. It's not nice. They kept their heads and were professional. The players completely condemn what happened. There were also stones, coins and seats getting thrown at us."
Wigley was in charge of Saints for just five months – August to December 2004 – in the season the club was relegated from the Premier League.
He succeeded Paul Sturrock but won just one of his 14 league games in charge, although that victory was against arch rivals Pompey, before being relieved of his duties.
Wigley was replaced by Harry Redknapp.