Saturday 20 January 2018

Black Cats deserve praise, not protests

Delighted Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet celebrates alongside a disappointed Ryan Giggs after his team virtually secured their Premier League safety with victory
Delighted Sunderland manager Gustavo Poyet celebrates alongside a disappointed Ryan Giggs after his team virtually secured their Premier League safety with victory
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

Those adverts on television which target the vulnerable or the manipulative and compensation-seeking may have missed a trick by not turning some of their attentions to the Premier League.

"Have you been relegated from the Premier League and it was someone else's fault?" they could ask.

"Have you been denied millions of pounds, not due to your own incompetence, but because of another person's mistake?

"Are you so desperate to stay in the Premier League that you'll clutch at any available straw in the hope that you can somehow survive a scenario which your poor performances have deserved.

"Call us – we might save you. Because you can't save yourself."

Given how tenuous the claims tend to be, the law firms would take any business that is going, it's unlikely that they would take the cases on a no win, no fee basis.

From their idiosyncratic owner being caught booing his own players off the field to the farcical sacking of Malky Mackay, Cardiff City have had several embarrassing moments this season but, right up there was their complaint that the result against Crystal Palace shouldn't stand because, they claimed, Palace had seen their team sheet.

"A formal complaint has been submitted, concerning what we consider to be a serious breach of Premier League rules," said a Cardiff spokesman a little more than a fortnight ago.

"We have asked for an investigation into the matter, which is now in the hands of Premier League officials who will report their findings in due course."

EXCUSES

Presumably by using a large font, Cardiff somehow managed to outline their case across a five-page letter to the Premier League which seemed to feel that the reason for victory wasn't that Palace had a decent owner, proper manager and players giving their all, it was all down to the alleged insider knowledge.

"This was not merely an attempt to obtain confidential information – Crystal Palace succeeded in their efforts and achieved an unexpected 3-0 win over the club," the letter said. "We will never know the extent to which the confidential information affected the outcome of the match."

Quite what excuses Cardiff come up with for the other 20 defeats that leave them rooted to the foot of the table is anybody's guess. But even had Crystal Palace known Cardiff's corner routines, their marking plans at corners and what the players had for breakfast, it doesn't excuse such a capitulation in the "unexpected 3-0 win".

On Saturday, having been on the receiving end of three goals from Newcastle at St James's Park – the same tally which Newcastle had managed at home in their previous eight league games in 2014 – reports emerged in the 'Observer' newspaper that Cardiff are one of three signatories to a letter protesting against the decision not to deduct points from Sunderland for fielding an ineligible player.

Unsurprisingly, the other two are reportedly Fulham and Norwich City who, barring a miracle for the latter, will play in the Championship next season.

There are times when teams are genuinely unlucky to have lost points, such as Doncaster Rovers who were 3-1 up against Charlton at the Valley in August before the game was abandoned and then lost the re-fixture 2-0.

After their relegation to League One on Saturday, Doncaster manager Paul Dickov at least had the good grace to admit that it wasn't one moment that cost them their Championship status and took responsibility on himself and his club – something that those heading for the Championship next season should learn from.

Sunderland played Ji Dong-won in four league games earlier in the season in which, due to a technical error, he wasn't registered as he had needed international clearance as he had been on loan at FC Augsburg.

Sunderland are believed to have been the ones who reported the error and were fined. However, because other clubs outside of the Premier League have been docked points in such an instant, the relegated teams want to know why Sunderland are being treated as an exception.

Sunderland only picked up one point during the four games in which Ji featured and when the issue was brought up at a shareholders' meeting last month, according to the same newspaper, no objection was forthcoming.

All of which makes it a little pathetic that the three clubs poised to be relegated are looking for excuses against a team who have produced one of the most remarkable escape acts of recent years.

From trips to Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, Sunderland amassed seven points at a time when two of those were at full tilt in pursuit of the title.

By comparison, Arsenal took one point from the same three games, Liverpool and Everton both took three while Tottenham didn't even get one. It was, by any standards, an incredible run of performances from Sunderland and three games which have shown the sort of fight lacking in those teams facing relegation.

Rather than heading for the lawyers, Fulham, for example, would be better served conducting an investigation into how you can spend £12m on a striker – Kostas Mitroglou – in January and see him play just one game.

Cardiff, too, might do a full review of their practices on and off the field, while Norwich should check the transfer policy of signing two strikers for a total of £13.5m and getting seven league goals between them in return.

That would, however, require an admission that relegation with just 24 wins out of 111 games between the three of them might just be their own fault.

Tweets of the week

MONDAY

LUIS SUAREZ (@luis16suarez)

With my mate @Phil_Coutinho #SayNoToRacism #WeAreAllMonkeys

The Liverpool pair lend support to Dani Alves. Hopefully they disposed of the banana skins safely to avoid any more slips.

TUESDAY

Conor Devlin

@ccmufc91: Enjoying success

The Cliftonville goalkeeper enjoys the sights in Belfast along with the league trophy.

WEDNESDAY

Stephan El Shaarawy (@OfficialEl92)

Un grande!!! @nr147 #snookerworldchampionship

In one of the more random congratulations, the AC Milan striker praises Australian snooker player Neil Robertson on reaching 100 centuries in a season.

THURSDAY

Joey Barton (@joey7barton)

Do politicians ever answer a question they are asked directly?

The QPR midfielder asks a question which a politician probably wouldn't answer directly.

FRIDAY

Darren O'Dea

(@odea_darren)

Traveling to Crimea today! Can't wait! Oh and no airplanes aloud so just a 10hour bus trip! Welcome to the circus! #Ukraine #backache

The former Celtic defender not quite living the footballers' glamorous lifestyle.

SATURDAY

Sean St Ledger (@seanstledger12)

I'm feeling a John terry moment coming on today....watch this space!! #trophylifter

Despite not doing much to help them to the title, the Leicester City defender plans to enjoy the celebrations.

SUNDAY

Joey Barton (@joey7barton)

Our season comes down to 3 wars in May. I am going to leave twitter now till the evening of May 24th. #findaway

It's rare the same player features twice, but then again it's rare Joey Barton promises not to tweet.

The question nobody asked

HOW MANY TIMES HAS A CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL BEEN BETWEEN TEAMS FROM THE SAME COUNTRY?

For the second season in a row, two teams from the same country will meet in the Champions League final with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid following the lead of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

While this will be the first time that two teams from the same city have met, it is the fifth time in Champions League history that the finalists have come from the same country.

Manchester United’s victory against Chelsea on penalties in 2008 was the only time that two teams from England have met. It was the same method of victory as five years previously when AC Milan beat Juventus in the only all-Italian final.

The fifth and final time two teams from the same country met was in 2000 when Real Madrid beat Valencia.

Bet you should have done

Sunderland to beat Manchester United, 8/1

Sunderland have produced an incredible run of recent results and although they have often struggled against everyone other than the best sides, the form of both teams in this game gave them a great chance of causing what, under normal circumstances, would have been a monumental upset.

Instead, this defeat was almost greeted with a shrug by United fans who have got used to such a sinking feeling, although for Sunderland, and anyone who took the bet, there was cause for great celebration.

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