View from the Bridge: Sunderland’s struggles are deserved but the Black Cats have had little help from officials

Sunderland Head Coach, Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United.
Sunderland Head Coach, Dick Advocaat gestures on the touchline against West Ham United.
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WHILE Sunderland’s struggle is a deserved one, it has to be said that they have had little change out officials this season. And yes, I am moaning.

The BBC’s radio and online reports did not bother to point it out, but West Ham’s goal should obviously not have counted.

Seconds before Diafra Sakho scored, Sebastian Larsson was squashed by Nenê in a manner rarely seen since the heyday of Wile E Coyote.

The counter-argument is that West Ham should have earlier been awarded a penalty – as indeed they should (the BBC’s radio and online reports managed to notice this one).

But this would only have been lucky had Sunderland gone on to win or draw the game, so it turned out to be of little value.

Sunderland’s good fortune this season has been extremely limited. They should have conceded a first minute penalty at Crystal Palace in November, but were easily the better side in the other 89 and deserved to win.

At home to West Ham home they were awarded a very soft penalty, but denied a second for a blatant handball by Winston Reid.

At White Hart Lane a ridiculous offside decision meant that Tottenham were denied a late goal, meaning that Sunderland lost 2-1 instead of three-one. Joy unconfined.

It felt like winning 20 pence on the National Lottery (Spurs had also taken the lead with a very jammy deflection).

That’s about it for the good luck box. The bad luck box is rather more densely populated.

During the season’s two biggest pastings – away to Southampton and home to Villa – with the scores at 2-0, Sunderland were denied penalties that were beyond certain.

Had they managed to reduce the deficit to two-one in those games, then who knows? It does not simply follow that those matches would have finished 8-1 and 4-1. Football doesn’t work like that.

At home to Hull, the visitors’ equaliser was scored by a divot and they were the beneficiaries of two more awful decisions not to award penalties. The same thing happened to Sunderland at Swansea and Bradford. However, West Brom were given a penalty for nothing on the first game of the season.

Then there was the wrongful sending off against Liverpool, as well Diego Accoster staying on the pitch during the Chelsea game.

The only people to have disputed anything in the bad luck box are Steve Bruce and José Mourinho who – owing to long and illustrious careers in claiming that black is white – don’t count.

Some will resort to the saying: “You make your own luck.”

However, just because something is a saying doesn’t mean it isn’t nonsense. Watched kettles most definitely boil. If you have made your bed you are under no obligation to lie in it. A friend in need is actually a pain in the bum.

Regrettably, there is another saying that is arrant cobblers: “Luck will even itself out.” If this was true then we could look forward to the next fixture with a modicum more gusto.

I do not claim for a moment that Sunderland’s plight isn’t almost entirely attributable to bad play rather than bad luck. But it would be amusing, just occasionally, to see them play terribly – and win.

Regardless of whether you agree with any of this; in a season of minimal fun, you can at least afford me the pleasure of exercising a good gripe.

REGULAR attendees of Sunderland games will be familiar with the unfinished sentence: “If that had been Cattermole....”

This came to mind when Steven Gerrard, or Stevie G as he is known to the nation’s peasantry, was sent off for the eighth time in his career, 38 seconds after his introduction in Liverpool’s home defeat to Manchester United.

The question afterwards was: “Did he bother to have a shower?”

Gerrard’s appalling stamp on Ander Herrera brought some variety to his career in red-cardery, which also includes a waist-high tackle and a studs-up lunge or two.

Lee Cattermole’s dismissals have been for second yellows, or for late, rather than malicious tackles. Several were wrong and there were certainly no stamps.

Most of Cattermole’s cautions have been deserved, but largely more stupid than nasty, while a fair few were for being Lee Cattermole. Yet he is generally – and wrongly – considered a dirtier player than Gerrard, although the Liverpool man is also an incontestably more accomplished diver.

Gerrard’s eight reds are only for misdemeanours he didn’t get away with. His unpunished elbow on Sunderland’s Danny Welbeck in 2010 was just one occasion when he did avoid justice.

Sunday’s crime was described as “a wee bit of frustration” by Brendan Rodgers.

Jamie Carragher said: “Steven Gerrard is an emotional player. You see that in his career and it’s taken teams I’ve played in into some unbelievable moments.”

Feeble mitigation though this was, it did emphasise a point. In football, if you are a good enough, your reputation won’t be nearly as bad as it should be. Lee Cattermole is a good player. Steven Gerrard, with 94 career yellow cards, is a fantastic player.

Here endeth the lesson.