Salut! Sunderland has made no formal count, but reckons most – certainly many – Sunderland fans agree Robert Huth was unlucky to be sent off for his challenge on David Meyler.
In the awful conditions of Saturday afternoon at the Britannia, allowance ought to have been made by Martin Atkinson. A yellow would have sufficed, although the referee could point out that the rules require a red card if – irrespective of the extent of actual contact – a lunge is dangerous enough to fall into the category of serious foul play.
Serious foul play occurs when a player uses excessive force on challenging for the ball and is in danger of injuring his opponent. It does not require the victim to be maimed or roughed up. “So basically,” as someone in the know puts it, “it doesn’t matter if there is little or no contact”.
At best, Huth was rash to slide in but did so without intent (namely to clatter Meyler). The clip below shows the SAFC player trying to jump over the arriving Huth leg, presumably fearing yet another serious injury in a troubled career. A foot thuds the ground as he falls heavily; intent or not, he is lucky not to have been hurt. Huth may also have been trying to avoid contact, which is why he perhaps deserved the benefit of the doubt.
Interestingly, some thinking Stoke fans are embarrassed that Pulis should have gone far beyond complaining about Huth’s arguably excessive punishment and labelled Meyler a cheat.
This was bad enough in the heat of the moment, aggravated by his insulting or feigned ignorance of Meyler’s name; it is despicable that after a chance to reflect and show an some maturity, he has chosen to repeat the allegation.
From the Mail:
We will be appealing, because we’ve seen it again, and we are convinced there was no intent. We’ve got photographs that show he was nowhere near the Sunderland player, and that will be part of our case. We run the risk of the ban being increased if the FA deem it a frivolous appeal, but we hope that won’t happen.
Robert is a vitally important player for us, but more importantly we think he was harshly treated. I also stand by what I said about the Sunderland player. I don’t think he helped the situation with his reaction, and when players are doing that, it is cheating a fellow-professional. It is like a disease in the game, and it needs stamping out as soon as possible.
Also in the Mail, Graham Poll uses his regular column on the weekend controversies to make a number of good points. On Pulis’s outburst, he writes:
… I think he picked on the wrong player, who later in the game made no fuss when being crudely fouled by Ricardo Fuller. It should have been a red card but, perhaps thanks to Meyler’s actions, Fuller got away with the challenge.
Credit also to young James McClean who despite being fouled by Ryan Shawcross, stayed on his feet and was rewarded with a goal.
I won’t shirk this: Poll, who had no doubt Meyler was fouled, also criticised Sunderland players who “charged at and surrounded” Atkinson to demand Huth’s dismissal. He is right; such conduct, though widespread, is wrong and the FA should announce that referees will be instructed to show yellow when it happens (I don’t think this can, at present, be done retrospectively).
In return, will Pulis accept that whatever the FA does with the appeal on Huth’s behalf, Fuller should now serve a three-match ban for his “crude”, red-deserving foul – revenge? – on Meyler?
Of course he won’t.
And he has completely lost the respect we had for what he has achieved at Stoke City. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support the disgraceful slur against Meyler – put your photographs away Pulis, for heaven’s sake, and look properly at the filmed incident – and he should now be sued by him for defamation, with SAFC’s blessing, or punished by the FA.
* See also: Pete Sixsmith’s match report