Sunderland news

O'Neill defends Meyler over acting claim

February 7, 2012

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has leapt to the defence of midfielder David Meyler after Stoke boss Tony Pulis accused him of play-acting to get Robert Huth sent off during the Wearsiders' 1-0 victory last Saturday.

Robert Huth Stoke City red card
PA PhotosRobert Huth was given his marching orders for a challenge on David Meyler

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Pulis hit out at the Irishman in the wake of his side's 1-0 defeat at the Britannia Stadium, after Huth was dismissed by referee Martin Atkinson for a tackle which sent Meyler hurtling to the ground.

The Potters have appealed against the red card, but O'Neill - who did not see a replay of the incident until the following day - insists the official got it right.

"First of all, I understand what Tony was saying from a general viewpoint because players do have a responsibility to try to keep fellow players on the field of play," O'Neill said. "I hadn't had a chance to see the incident until Sunday. I saw it and I still have exactly the same opinion, it's a reckless challenge.

"It's one that the referee sees very, very quickly and his opinion of it was my opinion at the time, that it was a red card. Now obviously, you can see he [Huth] has attempted to pull out at the end, but that's something the referee can't see in a split-second, and he still catches Meyler, and Meyler on the way down has hurt himself.

"This idea that Meyler feigned an injury - I'm sorry, I know David and David is as brave as they come. He has had two horrendous injuries himself that he is just recovering from, so from that viewpoint I think Tony is wrong.

"His general viewpoint about players having responsibility themselves to stop play-acting, I totally agree with that point, but not in this case with David Meyler.''

Asked if he had spoken to Pulis in the wake of his post-match comments, O'Neill replied: "I was talking to Tony afterwards and I knew what he was going to do. That's fine, that's totally his prerogative.

"But in this instance I will stick up for my player. If I thought any of my own players were out of order, I would like to think I would be able to come here and honestly give that assessment, but not in this case.''

Speaking after the game, Pulis urged the Professional Footballers' Association to act to stamp out simulation.

"The game is difficult enough for the referees because of the pace and tempo at which it is played. Then you get situations when players are falling around and rolling around when they have not even been touched," Pulis said.

"We don't want to take challenges out of the game - we want to be as competitive and fair as we possibly can. But it is creeping into the game, where players I think are going down now with the intention of getting other players booked or even sent off when they have not really been hurt.''