MARTIN O’Neill has hit back at Alan Pardew’s claims that Sunderland set out to rattle Newcastle United in the Tyne-Wear derby with an overly physical approach.
And in a dispatch that may increase the ill will between the rival camps he has also ridiculed Cheick Tioté’s claims to be a “hard man”, saying the Ivorian made too much of Stéphane Sessègnon striking him in the second half.
In the aftermath of a feisty afternoon, the United boss was highly critical of the first-minute Lee Cattermole foul that he said appeared to be “pre-meditated”.
Pardew said that he felt that set the tone for the game.
Those claims have upset Sunderland, who moved forward a Press call with the local evening newspapers and radio stations in order to offer a staunch defence of their conduct during a fierce derby clash, which continues to divide North East opinion. The Black Cats spent Monday afternoon analysing the game and their manager sough to present “proof” that his team had not been the aggressors.
“The half-time stats are a total contradiction to what their manager said,” O’Neill said.
“They’ve twice the number of bookings we have, and twice as many fouls. It was an extraordinary analysis of the game, and that’s what I’ve set out to defend, as much as anything else.”
There is clearly some bad blood flowing between Tyneside and Wearside, and O’Neill was not willing to let the weekend events lie.
Newcastle’s Press call is not until the end of the week, but the Ulsterman felt that he had to “set the record straight”.
“You think you’ve watched the game, given a reasonable analysis, certainly your own viewpoint, and then you hear the opposition manager saying that Sunderland had a game plan to upset them, to unnerve them, to basically – and he used the word ugly – attempt to kick them off the pitch.
“Lee Cattermole was booked after a minute and a half and quite rightly so, too. The second foul was committed by ourselves when (Jonas) Gutiérrez goes by Seb Larsson and Phil Bardsley after three and a half minutes.
“The irony is that we didn’t commit another foul then for about 17 minutes, during which time they conceded seven.
“This is an opportunity for me to set the record straight, as it were.
“It’s not a case of taking moral high ground, but putting across what I felt during the course of the game almost entirely the opposite of what their manager was saying.”
O’Neill did not dispute that Sessègnon and Cattermole deserved to be sent off, and The Journal understands the midfielder will be fined for his red card following the final whistle.
But he feels Tioté’s conduct, which followed his clash with Sessègnon, was deplorable.
“Sessègnon deserved to be sent off the pitch, I said that at the time, because he raised his arm in retaliation,” he said.
“He’s flung an arm back in the manner that if the referee sees (it) he has no option but to send him off.
“Tioté, this ‘hard-man’ of the Premier League, has clutched part of his anatomy that wasn’t even touched, he was hit between the chest and neck, enough to hit a fly over.
“He’s gone down two and a half seconds after the incident, and rolled around 14 times.”