JOHN O’Shea says players know they are currently walking a tightrope as officials clamp down on tough tackling.
Stoke defender Robert Huth’s straight red card in Saturday’s defeat to Sunderland continued the debate over challenges after referee Martin Atkinson deemed the German used excessive force in his tackle on Black Cats midfielder David Meyler.
Vincent Kompany, Kevin Nolan and Jay Spearing have all fallen foul of the officials over recent weeks and stand-in Sunderland skipper O’Shea admits players need to weigh up the potential consequences when making a tackle.
The centre-half said: “In the current climate, it’s possible you’re risking a red card when you go in recklessly.
“Some of the Stoke players were nodding in agreement, while some were disagreeing.
“I think you can understand that’s the debate at the minute.
“It’s a big topic, a lot of the refs are in the same agreement – if you go in a little bit recklessly you run the risk of a red card.
“It hasn’t been explained to us explicitly, but you know yourself, as a player, you run the risk of a red card – some refs might, some refs won’t.”
The fall-out over Huth’s dismissal somewhat overshadowed a fifth victory in six for Sunderland as the Black Cats continued their resurgence under Martin O’Neill.
O’Shea was glowing in his praise for the Black Cats boss, as Sunderland look to complement their league form – they are eighth on 33 points – with a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup in Wednesday’s fourth round replay at Middlesbrough.
The ex-Manchester United man added: “He’s been fantastic. The belief the squad has, it’s fantastic.
“It’s not only the new manager factor, it’s the recipe for success that he brings, the belief he brings, the team he has around him, the whole package.
“The players have to respond and do it on the pitch and thankfully we have been doing that.
“We’ve got a massive replay on Wednesday to look forward to now.
“If we get through that we’ve got Arsenal at home in the cup. That’s a massive opportunity for us.
“The manager has said Europe’s far away from our minds. We’re not talking about that, we’re not thinking about that at all.
“We just want to get as many points as we can. If you go to Stoke and you get three points, you know you’ve done well.”