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Aston Villa fans sent packing before Wolves derby as game marred by damage to toilet

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Dozens of football fans were sent packing from Wolverhampton following police fears of trouble before the Midlands derby against Aston Villa.

The game, which Wolves won 1-0, was marred only by an isolated incident in which a disabled toilet at the ground was vandalised.

Officers surrounded The Angel Inn on Bilston Road, Stow Heath, where around 55 Villa supporters had gathered for drinks before Saturday's 5.30pm kick-off.

A total of 35 fans were issued with dispersal orders and escorted to the nearby Priestfield metro station where they were put on a tram back to Birmingham despite having tickets.

The Midland Metro service was briefly disrupted as a tram was handed over to police for the purpose of transporting the fans out of the city. About 30 police officers, some with dogs, took part in the operation between 3pm and 5pm.

Inspector James Merchant confirmed there had been no fighting but police were concerned that the size of the group could have lead to an outbreak of disorder. Officers asked bar staff to stop serving drinks.

Some bystanders felt the police action was heavy-handed. Parminder Shergill, landlord of The Angel Inn, said: "It seemed like a bit of an over-reaction.

"Two police officers came in initially, saw the number of fans in here and called for back-up. I don't know why because there was no trouble. This is a neutral pub. There was some good-humoured banter with other people but everyone behaved themselves."

But in a statement, West Midlands Police said yesterday: "To be really clear, these were a group of people we strongly believed were together to cause trouble."

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Officers took the names and addresses of the Villa supporters before issuing them with dispersal orders, banning them from the city for 24 hours.

The Gate Inn pub on Bilston Road was told to lock its doors. At the stadium, yobs ripped panels off the walls of the disabled toilet and pulled the light from the ceiling.

A Wolves spokesman said: "It is disappointing to see the damage that has been done, but it is worth noting that the vast majority of supporters from both sides were very well behaved in what was a passionate local derby played in front of over 27,000."

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