As a matter of record, Salut! Sunderland notes with satisfaction that Stoke have lost their appeal against Robert Huth’s red card. He collects the standard three-match ban but avoids the extra match the FA disciplinary committee adds for “frivolous” appeals.
Stoke supporters will demand to now why I am pleased, having argued that the lunge at David Meyler probably justified a yellow, not red, card.
They already know the answer: the appalling conduct of Tony Pulis became the issue, rather than the extent of Huth’s wrongdoing.
The FA is not permitted to reduce a card from red to yellow. To a committee judging the matter in retrospect, it had to be either red or nothing. Nothing would have allowed Pulis to claim he was right to make his disgusting allegation of cheating against David Meyler, the victim of Huth’s challenge.
Pulis – for reasons explained here – has forfeited any right to respect for failing to recognise, even after the opportunity for calm reflection, that his comments were misguided and distasteful. Many Stoke fans who feel Huth was harshly treated agree with the essential part of my argument and they are to be applauded for their rational, responsible response.
A successful appeal would have been utterly wrong for football, not because Huth – pictured by Ronnie Macdonald – had no case but because it would have been interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as the FA’s endorsement of Pulis’s scandalous and defamatory claims that Meyler, a man who knows what it is like to suffer serious injury, play-acted with the express intention of getting Huth dismissed.Click this text: just £9.50, post free, for the Martin O'Neill ‘Team of all talents’ mug
These were Martin O’Neill’s words, spoken before the FA’s “independent regulatory commission” made it decision:
First of all, I understand what Tony was saying from a general viewpoint because players do have a responsibility to try to keep fellow players on the field of play.
I hadn’t had a chance to see the incident until Sunday. I saw it and I still have exactly the same opinion, it’s a reckless challenge.
It’s one that the referee sees very, very quickly and his opinion of it was my opinion at the time, that it was a red card. Now obviously, you can see he [Huth] has attempted to pull out at the end, but that’s something the referee can’t see in a split-second, and he still catches Meyler, and Meyler on the way down has hurt himself.
This idea that Meyler feigned an injury – I’m sorry, I know David and David is as brave as they come. He has had two horrendous injuries himself that he is just recovering from, so from that viewpoint I think Tony is wrong.
His general viewpoint about players having responsibility themselves to stop play-acting, I totally agree with that point, but not in this case with David Meyler.
I was talking to Tony afterwards and I knew what he was going to do. That’s fine, that’s totally his prerogative.
But in this instance I will stick up for my player. If I thought any of my own players were out of order, I would like to think I would be able to come here and honestly give that assessment, but not in this case.
I need to add no more, save to say O’Neill is kinder – more diplomatic? – than I care to be about the Stoke manager. My guess is that his private thoughts match mine.