“Old bald headed bloke” * – see comments – considers the response from Wearside, the East End and beyond to the Jones/Ilunga incident during the 2-2 draw between SAFC and West Ham …
West Ham supporters have rallied gamely to the cause of their side following events at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
They have done it with a mixture of solid defensive work and aggressive counter-attack (there have also been a couple of more cretinous offerings, but the ratio of joined-up thinking to no thinking at all has been high).
Not everyone leaving comments appears to have read what was actually written – by Sunderland fans – before wading in with tit-for-tat retorts.
By way of a reminder:
* most or all of us here have accepted that the referee cannot, strictly speaking, be faulted for sending off Kenwyne Jones even if some – plus Zola – consider a yellow would have sufficed
* most or all of us believe the second yellow for Kovac was extremely harsh
* the Salut! Sunderland party line is to oppose cheating in football WHOEVER does the cheating. It is no coincidence that each Who Are You? feature this season, since a certain game between between Arsenal and Celtic, includes the “Eduardo question” (ie how would you feel about winning something important through a blatant act of cheating by one of your players?)
If a Sunderland player acted as Ilunga did, I would be ashamed. If a Sunderland player set out deliberately to injure an opponent, I would be the first to criticise. Diving is a sin against the spirit of the game whether the diver wears your team’s colours or someone else’s.
The Premier League has acquired a tradition of cheating which must be tacitly if not expressly endorsed by managers. It is a tradition we could do without.
Like Steve Bruce, I want the game to retain a physical edge. That is not the same as condoning thuggery.
Like some of the West Ham fans who have used this forum to argue for even-handed comment, I want fans, pundits and managers to treat with contempt ALL cheating, from the theatrics of uninjured or barely injured players intent on gaining unfair advantage to career-threatening challenges.
It means, for the committed supporters, facing up to some unpalatable home truths from time to time. It means, for example, that Steve Bruce has to back his noble words with actions and ensure that his own players observe the principles he articulated.
But I still think it wouldn’t be a bad start to make all players aware that if they fall in apparent agony to the ground, however accomplished the dramatic skills, they should face the possibility – subject to the referee’s discretion – of enforced substitution.
None of that resolves the controversies stemming from what was otherwise a pulsating Premier League game between two teams with much to offer the middle tier of the division (assuming one stays there and the other reaches it).
But football thrives on controversy. And it shouldn’t affect the respect that, I believe, most reasonable SAFC fans feel for the Hammers (and, I hope, works in reverse).