KEVIN FRIEND’S failure to award Sunderland the most blatant of penalties at Bradford was no mitigation for the manner of the FA Cup humiliation.
But you have to wonder how different this season would look if bungling officiating had not cost Sunderland several stonewallers.
Steven Fletcher was clearly poleaxed by Fraser Forster at Southampton in October, yet Andre Marriner somehow missed it. The Sunderland striker is still scratching his head over the decision.
Sunderland may not have got anything at St Mary’s with Southampton 2-0 up at the time, but with a penalty and the Saints down to 10 men, the Black Cats certainly wouldn’t have lost 8-0.
Marriner was again culpable for missing a couple of handballs in Boxing Day’s defeat to an awful Hull City side, with Sunderland incapable of mentally moving on from that injustice.
Had Sunderland been given a penalty on the stroke of half-time, then there has to be a strong suspicion that the mentally fragile Tigers would have folded.
And again, a spot-kick, plus a man advantage, would have left Sunderland in pole position to progress to the quarter-finals at Bradford on Sunday.
Yes, teams have to make their own luck, but such incompetent refereeing can have big, big repercussions when the livelihoods of managers, players and regular club staff are on the line.