Monday 22 January 2018

McClean 'not sharpest tool in box', says Pulis after celebration row

James McClean of West Brom is grappled by Sunderland's Lee Cattermole after his celebration
James McClean of West Brom is grappled by Sunderland's Lee Cattermole after his celebration Newsdesk Newsdesk

West Brom boss Tony Pulis vowed to talk to James McClean if he finds the midfielder crossed the line yesterday. The former Sunderland man sparked anger after he celebrated in front of the visiting fans following the Baggies' 1-0 win. He claimed he was hung out to dry by the club following his refusal to wear a Remembrance Day poppy in 2012.

Saido Berahino cashed in on Costel Pantilimon's second-half error to condemn Sam Allardyce to defeat in his first game in charge of the Black Cats.

Ireland international McClean, who left Sunderland in 2013, was jeered by the visiting fans all game and while Pulis did not see the incident - which saw McClean confronted by Danny Graham and Lee Cattermole after the final whistle - he insisted he would study the evidence.

"Let me have a look at it first," he said. "I'd heard a roar or whatever and didn't know whether the players were involved in something. If he's out of order I'll speak to him. He played really well today, James. He's settled in really well and is a smashing lad. The lads have really taken to him - he's a really nice lad.

"He's not the sharpest tool in the box, and that's not being disrespectful to him, but he's a smashing lad."

Victory moved Albion seven points clear of the bottom three, and Pulis admitted the win was vital.

"It was a tough game," he said. "The good thing for us was getting a result after the Everton match when we were 2-0 up and then conceded three goals in the last 20 minutes, which was a real kick in the stomach. For confidence as much as anything else, it was important to come and win here."

Boaz Myhill saved from Billy Jones in the first half but the game was instantly forgettable until McClean's fist-pump gesture to the visiting supporters.

The result left Sunderland second bottom, and they could fall to the foot of the Premier League table if Newcastle avoid defeat to Norwich today. But Allardyce claimed Berahino fouled Pantilimon for Albion's winner.

"We'll probably get a ticking off for surrounding the referee after the goal went in, but I could hardly blame them for that because the referee has made such a big error," he said. "If we get a double punishment it'll be pretty difficult to take. It wasn't our fault we lost the game. I thought it was his fault on a decision he made not to give a free-kick."

Sunderland face Newcastle at the Stadium of Light next Sunday with both teams yet to win in the league this season, and Allardyce hopes the Black Cats can continue their winning sequence against the Magpies.

He said: "All they have to do is carry on from five times before. They have been in this position before. The last five games they have played Newcastle, they have won.

"They didn't look like conceding a goal today, which is a great platform for us to build on."

Claudio Ranieri, meanwhile, praised the "fantastic" Jamie Vardy after the in-form forward inspired Leicester's comeback in their dramatic 2-2 draw at Southampton.

After their flat performance throughout the first half and conceding goals to Southampton's Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk, Leicester's Vardy scored twice to secure what had appeared an unlikely point for his team.

Producing the finest form of his career, Vardy, who so far this season has scored nine Premier League goals and who has already spoken of the need to continue his prolific run if he is to make the England squad for Euro 2016, headed Leicester's first goal before missing an exceptional 81st-minute, close-range chance to equalise. However, he swiftly recovered from his disappointment and responded a minute into stoppage time by shooting powerfully into the top corner beyond Kelvin Davis to rescue a point.

"Jamie Vardy is important for us," Ranieri said. "If I was a player I'd think, 'Oh, Jamie can score, Jamie can score' and this is important. He's got good stamina, and it's good to think during the match, 'Jamie can score'.

"Jamie in the Championship scored 16 goals, last season he (experienced) the Premier League, a lot of confidence he took with the (England) national team, and now maybe he's more sure, more confident. He's fantastic. He ran a lot, pressed a lot, but also at the right moment was very, very clear to choose the best solution."

Late goals from Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet floored 10-man Crystal Palace as West Ham snatched a dramatic 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park.

The Eagles appeared to have held on for a point despite playing the entire second half with 10 men following Dwight Gayle's brainless red card.

But West Ham's pressure paid off when Argentinian winger Lanzini rifled home in the 88th minute and Payet put the icing on the cake in injury time.

Carl Jenkinson had put the visitors ahead with his second goal in two matches, but Yohan Cabaye equalised moments later with a twice-taken penalty.

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