Martin O’Neill looked genuinely crestfallen when he met the Press this afternoon in the wake of Sunderland’s game against Reading being postponed, writes Graeme Anderson.
The Black Cats’ boss agreed with Neil Swarbrick’s decision to call the game off an hour-and-half before kick-off, with pools of standing water on the pitch.
But he sensed that this was an opportunity missed for his side with Sunderland spirits buoyant in the wake of Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson’s signing while Reading faced a third game in a week.
Sending a message to the thousands of disappointed fans, he said: “On behalf of the football club, I’m really, really disappointed about what has happened.
“I’m sorry I have to apologise.
“I know there’s been a lot of rain and it’s a new pitch – I haven’t got to the bottom of what has happened just yet.
“The water was just not going away and the referee and the linesman called our attention to it immediately.
“They have decisions to make, and they wanted to check with us – myself and Reading manager Brian McDermott – that we would accept their decision.”
O’Neill confessed to being stunned at the game having to be be cancelled. “There’s not much I can say about that – I’ve never had a game called off in August,” he said.
“The ball is just not rolling and no matter how much you spike it, with the constant rain, it’s didn’t look as though it was going to change – not in the next couple of hours and the fact was that at the time of the inspection the ball just wasn’t rolling.
“I’ve no complaints about the referee’s decision.”
The disappointment of the postponement, though, was made even greater for O’Neill by the fact that he was going into the game full of confidence, as were his players.
“I thought the advantage might be with us with Reading looking to battle through their third game in a week.
“On top of that, I thought the psychological advantage of having signed a couple of players just before the game would have buoyed everyone connected with Sunderland.
“I was looking forward to the game immensely but at least we expect the pitch to be OK by Tuesday evening and now we look to move on to the cup game against Morecambe.”
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