Sunderland’s O’Neill backs referee over Huth red card at Stoke

Robert Huth
Robert Huth
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MARTIN O’Neill insists television replays have not altered his view that Stoke defender Robert Huth deserved to be dismissed against Sunderland last weekend, writes CHRIS YOUNG.

Huth was shown a straight red card for his tackle on Black Cats midfielder David Meyler after a reckless lunge in the wintry conditions at the Britannia Stadium.

The FA confirmed yesterday that the ex-Middlesbrough man had been unsuccessful in his appeal against the sending off and will serve a three-match ban.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis accused Meyler of over-reacting and claimed play-acting was a “disease” which need to be “stamped out” of the game.

Although TV replays suggested there was limited contact between Huth and Meyler, the Irishman undoubtedly suffered an awkward fall as he attempted to ride the challenge.

O’Neill has leaped to the defence of Meyler and still believes referee Martin Atkinson made the right decision.

“I’ve got the utmost regard for Tony,” said O’Neill. “I think in general he has a point – there is too much diving around. If it is an attempt to get someone sent off, it makes the referee’s job very, very difficult.

“That said, I saw the challenge back again on Sunday and I didn’t change my mind on it at all. I thought it was reckless.

“They (the pundits) were saying that maybe the referee should take the conditions into consideration – no, sorry, players should take the conditions into consideration.

“He (Huth) has gone through (Meyler) and in slow-motion you can see that he probably has to try to pull out, but there is no place for David to go other than into the air.

“He’s going to get hit by some part of his body, he has to go into the air, he has been hit and you can see he came down awkwardly.

“The referee has decided it is a red card and I don’t think there were too many people inside the ground who were surprised by that.

“Whatever Stoke do in terms of appealing against it, that’s entirely up to them. It’s their prerogative and they will want to try to protect their players as much as possible.

“But given the conditions, I thought it was a poor challenge.”

The fall-out from Huth’s sending-off has brought renewed vigour to the debate surrounding tackling, with referees’ chief Mike Riley sending out a DVD trying to clarify the situation last week.

O’Neill added: “Whatever referees do now, it seems to work against them.

“Everybody has been talking about two-footed challenges and saying they should be outlawed, but then there will be some kind of mitigating circumstance.

“But in general terms, two-footed challenges are usually going to be a sending-off.

“Where two-footed challenges are concerned, they are reckless and should be a red card and I don’t think there is any sympathy for the offenders if that’s the case.

“What the players were looking for is maybe a little bit more clarification.”