SUNDERLAND stars were at the centre of a race-hate storm which saw England Under-21 players subjected to racist and physical abuse in Serbia.
Black Cats striker Connor Wickham’s injury-time goal, which clinched a 2-0 win on aggregate and sealed England a place in Euro 2013, prompted a hail of missiles from the crowd and scuffles broke out moments later.
Sunderland defender Danny Rose was sent off after the final whistle for reacting angrily to apparent racial abuse.
He had been pushed in the back as he left the field and gestured that monkey taunts had been aimed towards him.
Serbian supporters, players and other officials appeared to get involved in scuffles after the match.
England goalkeeping coach Martin Thomas was butted and assistant head coach Steve Wigley was kicked in the stomach.
England goalkeeper Jack Butland also had a seat thrown at him.
Sunderland-born former Black Cats midfielder Jordan Henderson, who captained the team, paid tribute to how the young players handled themselves.
He said: “The players coped with the abuse really well. It’s not nice. They kept their heads and were professional.
“The players completely condemn what happened. There were also stones, coins and seats getting thrown at us.
“There was a lot of racist abuse out there from the stands and a lot going on after the game, which is hard to take for the players.
“I didn’t understand why Danny Rose was sent off at the end – I didn’t see he did anything wrong, other than get abused.”
In a statement, the FA said: “The FA condemns both the scenes of racism and the confrontation at the final whistle during which time our players and staff were under extreme provocation.
“The FA has reported a number of incidents of racism to UEFA following the fixture.
“These were seemingly aimed at a number of England black players by the crowd. The matter is now with UEFA.”
Head coach Stuart Pearce had spoken before the game of his confidence that the issue of racism would not raise itself.
Speaking after the match, he said: “One or two of the technical staff from the opposition, and I don’t include their manager in that, didn’t cover themselves in glory on the pitch at the end.
“Punches, headbutts were thrown, and God knows what else. We will let the authorities deal with this at UEFA.”