Tony Gillan: Why Sunderland were right to appeal Luke O'Nien red after 'shameless' acting by ex-Newcastle striker

It is perfectly understandable that Sunderland appealed the red card that was wrongly shown to Luke O’Nien at Peterborough United on Saturday.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 4:30 pm

First exhibit in Mr O’Nien’s defence m’lud is his alleged victim Ivan Toney – and what an exhibit he was.

His shameless ham acting may well have been inspired by one of the more upsetting scenes in Saving Private Ryan. But as auditions go, it wouldn’t land him a bit-part in Rentaghost.

More saddening still is that Toney had nothing whatsoever to gain from his “acting”, other than the dismissal and three-match suspension of a fellow professional. His team were already in an unassailable 3-0 lead.

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Sunderland have appealed Luke O'Nien's red card against Peterborough United.

Still, a spot of writhing and uttering the dubious statement “Phew! My face hurts” was enough to convince referee Craig Hicks, who wrongly sent off Max Power last season.

Mr Hicks can surely have no future as a theatre critic if he rates Toney’s thespian talents so highly.

The question arises: if the referee thought O’Nien’s silly wrestling bout was genuinely worthy of dismissal, then why doesn’t every referee in the professional game show at least four red cards before every corner is taken?

O’Nien fell for it, as did Mr Hicks. The decision was wrong, but the player invited it.

Nevertheless, you may have heard afterwards, possibly from “experts” in the media, the old and completely erroneous claim that “to the letter of the law, if you raise your hands, you’re off.”

O’Nien wasn’t dismissed for merely raising his arms; it was for supposed violent conduct, defined in the laws of the game as “excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.”

We’ve seen games of charades with more excessive force or brutality than Ivan Toney saw on Saturday.

The “if you raise your hands ...” cobblers is one of football’s prominent rule myths. So is “30 seconds must be added for each substitution”, “you can shoulder-charge an opponent” and “they did away with the six-second rule.”

I think all that’s worth mentioning and I feel better now.