MARTIN O’Neill admits he sympathises with Lee Cattermole for allowing his emotions to boil over at the conclusion of Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby, even though he has hit the Sunderland skipper in the pocket.
Cattermole was handed a straight red card for foul and abusive language following the final whistle at the Sports Direct Arena after confronting referee Mike Dean as the players trudged off the pitch following the 1-1 draw.
The dismissal, coupled with a 10th yellow card of the season for the Black Cats skipper earlier in the game, will see Cattermole sidelined for Sunderland’s next four outings, including their FA Cup quarter-final clash at Everton.
Both Cattermole and Stephane Sessegnon, dismissed just before the hour for elbowing Magpie Cheik Tiote, have been fined by the club for their indiscipline.
But Sunderland boss O’Neill can understand Cattermole’s frustration after he was involved in a clash with Tiote seconds before the sending off.
O’Neill said: “Stephane Sessegnon will be fined, as will Lee Cattermole, because, in the aftermath of the game, you have to leave it.
“I understand why Lee was pretty frustrated by it all, especially considering just before the Sessegnon sending off, he was blatantly hit in the face himself by Tiote in full view of the referee, who chose to do nothing about it.
“I do feel for him because it’s the sort of the thing that he said at the end to the referee that I’ve said umpteen times myself.
“It doesn’t excuse me, but what am I going to get? I’ll get a game or two in the stands, but we’re missing him from the field now.
“Four games is a long, long time. It’ll happen quite quickly because we’ve got a midweek game anyway, but it’s pretty poor.”
O’Neill also rubbished Newcastle boss Alan Pardew’s suggestion that Cattermole’s booking just 38 seconds into the game for a scythe on Tiote was part of Sunderland’s strategy.
“It must have been some game plan I had for Cattermole to set the tone by being booked in the first minute of the match and then having to tread carefully for 89 minutes,” added O’Neill.
“I don’t think any manager with an ounce of intellect would be managing too long if that was the case.”