Martin O'Neill critical of Sunderland fans' chants about Steven Taylor

 

Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager, has condemned chanting by his own club's supporters towards Steven Taylor during yesterday's Tyne-Wear derby.

Significant numbers of home fans at the Stadium of Light repeatedly sang "We wish you were dead" towards the Newcastle United defender as the teams warmed up before kick-off, again when he warmed up on the sidelines and when he came on in the 80th minute.

Northumbria Police also confirmed they were investigating an allegation of racist abuse directed at the black Newcastle players. A spokesman said: "There was one report of racist language having been used by a supporter in one area of the stadium – enquiries into this report are ongoing."

The chant against Taylor was not heard by either manager during the game, in which Cheick Tioté became the first Newcastle player to be sent off in the fixture. But O'Neill, when informed of the song's words, said: "If that is what they were singing then it would be in very poor taste. If I had heard that I would have been disappointed with that."

The chant was in reaction to comments made by Taylor on the eve of the game when he said he would rather collect stamps than play for Sunderland and that no Sunderland player would get into the Newcastle team.

The Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, did not pass comment on the song about his player, but looked genuinely shocked when he was told of its content. He claimed that fear of such a reaction to the player's pre-match remarks was in no way responsible for the 27-year-old being on the substitutes' bench.

O'Neill did admit that the comments had annoyed his players. "It did not figure in my team talk, but some of the players had passed comment," he said. "He is entitled to his opinion. I am delighted he made their bench."

Newcastle fans also sang "Jimmy Savile, he's [Lee] Cattermole's dad."

Newcastle had taken a third-minute lead through Yohan Cabaye. Tioté was then sent off in the 25th minute when he was shown a straight red card by the referee, Martin Atkinson, for a lunge on Steven Fletcher that was high and left the Sunderland forward grounded and in need of treatment.

However, O'Neill's side only made use of the extra man advantage in the 85th minute, when a Seb Larsson free-kick from the right was deflected into his own goal by Demba Ba. "I've kind of accepted to accept it [the sending-off]," Pardew said. "I know Cheick and there is absolutely no doubt he has not tried to do the player but he is just late and the referee deemed that a red. I think the fourth official had a part to play in it as I don't think Martin could have seen it. I was surprised to see the red, to be honest.

"It would have been one of the greatest ever victories if we had held on but just towards the end of the game we tired and couldn't keep the ball as we liked.

 

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"Maybe if Colo [Fabricio Coloccini] had stayed on we would have held on; he was absolutely phenomenal today. If you want an example of a centre-half who can tackle, head it, kick and have the calmness to play, that was your example. I came from a famous club at West Ham and it was like watching Bobby Moore, it was terrific."

O'Neill admitted his side had failed to impose themselves, despite their numerical advantage.

"Newcastle were strong," he said. "They played to their strengths and their two forwards were causing plenty of problems. They were strong.

"The sending-off allowed us an opportunity to get more poise into our game and to try and stretch them going wide, but we were anxious and we were trying to play a ball that might not have existed instead of taking more care.

"In the second half sheer pressure alone yielded the goal; it was not flamboyantly brilliant," O'Neill added. "Maybe we had time to win it but in the circumstances, with Newcastle down to 10 men, and having defended so strongly, that would have been harsh.

"We came through it and didn't get beaten and that point might stand us in good stead. It is a long season ahead. There are a lot of games to play."

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