Czech hooligans attack Foulkes

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FORMER Hearts chairman George Foulkes has been attacked by Balaclava-wearing football thugs while following Hearts in Prague.

The Labour peer was enjoying a drink outside a busy bar with fellow Jambos when the hooligans stormed in.

The 64-year-old was knocked to the ground and kicked in the head as a dozen Czech thugs dressed all in black struck.

A fellow fan saved him from more serious injury by dragging him inside the pub as the attack continued.

Lord Foulkes was left with a cut on his forehead after the incident which took place just 50 yards from the stadium where Hearts played.

The attack happened as an estimated 5000 Hearts' fans descended on the Czech Republic capital for Hearts' Uefa cup tie with Sparta Prague on Thursday night.

Some of the other fans were more badly beaten than the 64-year-old, with around six thought to have picked up cuts and bruises.

The incident appeared to be in stark contrast to most fans' experience of the trip. The British Embassy officials said today there had been no reports of any trouble at the game from local police.

Lord Foulkes, who returned to Edinburgh on a charter flight last night, said the attack came completely out of the blue.

He said: "It was a shock more than anything else and I think some of the other fans took more of a punishment than me.

"We were in the city centre but decided to try a few of the bars around the ground before the game.

"The bar we were in was only about 50 yards from the stadium. I was outside chatting to some fans when we saw around a dozen guys dressed in black, some with Balaclavas, come towards us.

"I was knocked to the ground and got a kick in the head but it was only a minor cut.

"Someone dragged me into the pub. I was shaking but I was fine just a few minutes later.

"It was over in seconds and it was mainly punching and kicking.

"What happened was completely out of keeping with the rest of the day because the locals had been very welcoming and the atmosphere was very good."

Sparta Prague's 20,500-capacity Toyota Arena stadium is about a 45-minute walk from the city centre and thousands of Hearts fans congregated at pubs around the ground in the hours leading up to the game.

Derek Watson, secretary of the Hearts Supporters Club, said: "I am shocked to hear this because all the reports coming back seem to indicate that it was a really friendly atmosphere.

"Hearts fans tend to make friends wherever they go, but I suppose there will always be the chance of these sort of one-off incidents in any city in Europe.

"It is surprising that it happened so close to the stadium because you would have thought the policing would be tighter but I'm glad it sounds like nobody was too badly hurt."

Hearts drew the game against Sparta Prague 0-0 but lost the tie 2-0 on aggregate.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock is set to return to frontline politics at next year's Holyrood elections after coming top of one of the party's regional lists for Labour.

He is expected to become an MSP if Labour loses any directly-elected seats in Lothian, where at least two members are regarded as vulnerable.