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Sickening scenes of violence caught on camera; MAIL NEWS FOCUS.

Byline: By Mark Cowan

THE sickening violence orchestrated by football thugs shattered a summer evening and brought terror to a Birmingham street.

Police described the clash, in Oxhill Road, Handsworth, as the worst hooliganism seen on West Midland streets for many years.

It happened in the aftermath of a hard-fought 1-1 draw between West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa two years ago.

Police said hooligan groups attached to both clubs arranged their own "fixture" of a different kind.

What they didn't know was that one of the key thugs was being secretly taped by police.

Police said a crowd of Villa hooligans, some already banned from football matches for hooliganism, had been drinking in the Rose Villa Tavern, in Highgate, just outside the two-mile cordon imposed by their banning order.

Meanwhile, Albion fans were in the Royal Oak, in West Bromwich.

A flurry of phone calls was exchanged between the two groups but police were secretly videoing Baggies fan Simon Hamblett as he spoke to an unknown Villa counterpart.

"How many do you want?" he asked. "How many's a good knock like? How many, 40-50?"

After apparently spotting police he said: "Old Bill got us now. See you later."

When police arrested him he dropped a pool ball under a hedge.

Text messages were found on the mobile phones of two other fans, Matthew Brittle and John Craw-ley.

One read: "Not going to match. Just going to smash town up."

The Villa group, their numbers buoyed by other so-called fans, left the Rose Villa Tavern for the Uplands Pub, in Oxhill Road, Handsworth.

By a stroke of "good fortune and good policing" as the trial judge said, police spotters were on the scene as they thugs clashed.

They capture seven sickening minutes of violence which proved the crucial evidence that led to the thugs being brought to justice.

CAPTION(S):

CLOSING IN... police raid on suspected thug's home in Smethwick.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 5, 2006
Words:320
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