Bruce in hot water after warped rant at 'rookie' ref
Birmingham City 2
ANTHONY Taylor possesses the splendid middle name Northampton. Perhaps it's a Beckham-like nod to the referee's conception, like the former England captain's son Brooklyn. Given the town's shoemaking history, Steve Bruce might suggest it's because the official was a load of old cobblers.
Whatever its derivation, Bruce's warped post-match dissemination of Taylor's display in defence of the indefensible actions of his feral skipper Lee Cattermole, a jaundiced verdict more at home in a partisan fan phone-in, will see the Sunderland manager asked by the English FA to explain himself, and rightly so.
Given Sunderland's nine red cards last season, no prizes for guessing which recidivists earned the first one of the new campaign.
Cattermole's idiocy as good as cost his side victory, failing as he did to reach the interval before racking up two yellow cards, first for kicking the ball away, then for felling Lee Bowyer. He also escaped a straight red for an elbow-first challenge that left Garry O'Connor needing stitches in a gashed head. Bruce directed his ire at Taylor, for the crime of being fast-tracked through the divisions when, according to the Sunderland boss, he wasn't fit for such a meteoric rise four years after making the Football League list.
Bruce used emotive terms like "out of his depth", claiming referees are now targeting his captain. If that's the case, at least they're trying to bring the 22-year-old into line, something Bruce is unwilling or unable to do. "We've had so many dubious reds I brought it up in a Premier League meeting last week," said Bruce.
"The referee put himself under pressure. We're a team from a tough working-class area, the fans want a team which mirrors that but I believe Lee is victimised. They're looking for him before he's made a tackle and the referee was totally inadequate, absolutely awful and it's cost us. It's a huge decision to promote him and, for me, he wasn't ready. The Premier League have thought 'it's Sunderland versus Birmingham, we'll throw him in, it's not important'."
Had Bruce checked, this wasn't Taylor's first match at this level, having already taken charge in the top flight last season. Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was happy with the Greater Manchester-based official.
It was also an afternoon to forget for Birmingham captain Stephen Carr. Having conceded the first-half penalty converted by Darren Bent after a foul on Fraizer Campbell, the defender then sent a looping header into his own net from Jordan Henderson's cross soon after the break.
However, Sunderland capitulated in the final 13 minutes as Scott Dann headed past debutant goalkeeper Simon Mignolet before Liam Ridgewell profited from another pinpoint Seb Larsson free kick at the death as sub Nikola Zigic injected panic in the box. (© Daily Telegraph, London)