FORMER Newcastly and England striker Alan Shearer has warned players' lives could be at risk unless the authorities take urgent action to prevent pitch invaders.

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was punched by a fan and Manchester United defender Chris Smalling was also confronted on the pitch in two separate incidents on Sunday.

"It is absolutely disgusting and if we don't stamp it out now, next time it could be a knife," Shearer said in his column in The Sun.

"It's that serious. Where are we at in football when some thug thinks that is what he is going to do?"

Grealish was the victim of an alleged assaulted at St Andrew's.

Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell, 27, pleaded guilty to assault on Monday, while Smalling was confronted in United's defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

The Northern Echo:

"The football authorities have to be seen to nail Birmingham for the behaviour of their fan," Shearer, above, said.

"If that means docking them points, playing in an empty stadium, so be it. There cannot be a strong enough punishment.

"It's completely ridiculous - I can't remember seeing anything as blatant as this."

Birmingham said Mitchell would be banned for life from St Andrew's and Arsenal later pledged the same punishment would be imposed on the pitch invader at their match.

Shearer added: "There has to be the right message here. Come down like a ton of bricks on Birmingham and punish so-called fans where it hurts, with bans and fines.

"It just proves we have a real problem. The authorities have to stamp it out now."

Former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie said the incident at St Andrew's was the worst of its kind that he had seen and backed Shearer's calls for urgent action.

Hendrie told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It could have been someone running on with a knife - how are you meant to stop this?

"It's going to take something, that's going to cause a big, big scene in football, that's going to make people really stand up.

"Why do we need to wait for that to actually happen before someone gets really hurt? Imagine Jack's family sitting at the side and thinking about what could possibly have happened."

Hendrie was also outraged by Grealish's treatment by a steward as the player celebrated his second-half winner.

West Midlands Police confirmed a steward was "spoken to" after television footage appeared to show him pushing Grealish, but no offence had been reported.

"Why can't Grealish go and celebrate with his fans?" Hendrie added. "It's absolutely disgusting what I saw, where a steward has tried to knee him in the back.

"He obviously got taken away by the police, but these are the sort of things we're seeing in football.

"I can't have stuff like that. Why are these people doing it? Where do players get their protection from?"

Pub worker Mitchell also admitted a charge of invading the pitch after magistrates rejected an application for his address to be withheld.

He appeared at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on Monday, after being remanded in custody overnight.

Prosecutor Jonathan Purser told the court that Mr Grealish felt lasting pain after the incident but had suffered no substantial injury from a punch to the right side of his jaw.

In a statement read into the court record by Mr Purser, the Aston Villa captain said: "I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident.

"It could have so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon."

His solicitor Vaughn Whistance told the court: "He cannot explain what came over him yesterday morning. His initial foolish intention was to just go onto the pitch and whip up the crowd."

Earlier, Mitchell's lawyer said his family had had to leave their home due to threats following his arrest after the "high-profile" incident.

Making an application for the court to withhold Mitchell's home address, Mr Whistance, told the court: "There have been various comments posted on different social media

"My client's young family have had to leave their home address to move to outside of Birmingham through fear that they would suffer serious harm or even death."

Magistrates have ordered a pre-sentence report on Mitchell and will pass sentence after 2pm on Monday.