MARTIN O’NEILL has clinically dismantled Alan Pardew’s claims that Sunderland employed bullying tactics in the Tyne-Wear derby.
Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Sports Direct Arena was a bad-tempered affair with referee Mike Dean producing two red cards and nine yellows.
And the battle on the pitch spilled over into a war of words off it as Newcastle boss Pardew claimed Sunderland set out to rattle his side, accusing Black Cats skipper Lee Cattermole of “setting the scene” for an “ugly” game when he was booked for a foul on Cheik Tiote inside the first minute.
O’Neill had no complaints about the Cattermole booking, or the two red cards shown to his players, but he insists the match facts contradict Pardew’s opinion.
“You go into your post-match Press conference in good faith, but, after you’ve given what you think is a reasonable analysis from your own viewpoint, you hear the opposition manager has come in and said you had a gameplan to upset them and unnerve them and to basically say that we tried to kick them off the pitch – that’s essentially the message he was trying to get across,” said O’Neill.
“So I thought I’d analyse it again and it just proved what I knew in the first place.
“Lee Cattermole was booked inside the first minute of the game – and quite rightly so – and we also committed the second foul of the game when Gutierrez went between Seb Larsson and Phil Bardsley after three-and-a-half minutes.
“But the irony is that we didn’t commit another foul for about another 17 minutes, during which time Newcastle had committed seven.
“The half-time stats totally contradicted what their manager was saying, because they had twice the number of bookings and committed twice the number of fouls.
“So it was an extraordinary analysis of the game and that’s why I have had to defend our position.
“I’m not sure I should have to do that, but, in the course of everything that went on before, during, and after the game, I think it is only right that we should be able to back things up with facts.
“In fact, if any team was trying to intimidate I would have thought it was Newcastle.
“So I’m just taking this is an opportunity to set the record straight because I think it’s important for the sake of the players that that is done.”
Sessegnon will miss the next three games through suspension and Cattermole four – two for reaching 10 bookings this season, and two for his straight red card – and O’Neill has confirmed he will also hit both players with a club fine.
But he was unhappy with Tiote’s over-reaction in the incident that led to Sessegnon’s dismissal.
O’Neill said: “Sessegnon deserved to be sent off the pitch because he raised his arm in retaliation and swung his arm back.
“But what happened was really ridiculous. This hardman of the Premier League, Cheik Tiote, has clutched a part of his anatomy that hasn’t even been touched – he was hit between the chest and the neck – and he fell down about two-and-a-half seconds after the incident and rolled over about 14 times clutching his face.
“I had a disagreement with the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, a few weeks ago when Robert Huth was sent off for a foul on David Meyler. Tony said after the game that too many players are trying to get other players sent off.
“I agreed with his point, but felt he picked the wrong subject in Meyler.
“But I think this would be the type of thing, with Tiote, that Tony was referring to.
“It happens in the game and it is really disappointing.”