A MIDDLESBROUGH footballer has apologised for saying he “hates” Sunderland – just weeks before the sides meet in the FA Cup.
The Teessiders will visit the Stadium of Light at the end of the month in the fourth round.
It will be the first time the two sides have faced each other since Boro dropped out of the top flight at the end of the 2008/9 season.
One member of the squad has sparked an online war of words with Sunderland fans in his excitement over the North East clash.
Stockton-born midfielder Jonathan Franks took to social networking site Twitter immediately after Sunday’s draw, to predict a resounding win for the Boro – even though he will be unable to take part.
He wrote: “As i am cuptied im gunna be in the crowd with the die hards at sunderland! Get up their! With the lads comon! I hate sunderland! #scum”
Word of the post soon spread and messages began coming in from SAFC supporters.
However, the England U-17 international was defiant: “For all u sunderland fans biting like a crocodile in australia we r going to turn u over! Also sing louder than u all day #justsaying.”
The 21-year-old was soon back on line, indicating he would rather insert a firework into a delicate part of his anatomy than support Sunderland, but later sought to strike a more conciliatory tone: “Alright i will be carefull! last 1 lets let the football do the talkin.”
Franks has now officially apologised for his tweets.
A spokesman for Middlesbrough Football Club said: “We are aware of the comments Jonathan Franks made on Twitter, and it is a matter that has been addressed directly with the player.
“Jonathan would like to apologise for any offence he has caused to Sunderland Football Club and their supporters.”
Black cats supporters had their say about Franks’ Twitter comments, including via online messageboard Ready to Go.
Poster SAFC_Marc said: “The big time Boro player who has a strike rate to rival Emile Heskey has been piping up on Twitter, well excited about the “derby” in the cup, bless.
A poster called Mr Redknapp was equally dismissive and claimed Boro fans were jealous of Sunderland’s intense rivalry with the Magpies: “I think they are bitter that the real rivalry for the fans is always Newcastle.
“MFC always the bridesmaid.”