Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill defends David Meyler over suggestions he feigned injury against Stoke City

The Black Cats manager has insisted that the young Irishman was innocent of play-acting for Robert Huth's red card, but agreed it should be stamped out

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has defended David Meyler over claims he feigned injury in order to get Stoke City’s Robert Huth sent off.

Huth was issued a straight red card for a lunge on Meyler in the first half of the Black Cats’ 1-0 victory at the Brittania Stadium, although replays indicated that the German defender tried to pull out of the challenge before making contact.

Potters boss Tony Pulis reacted angrily after the game, claiming that 22-year-old was play-acting in order to foul the referee, but his manager has leaped to his defence and insisted the decision was correct.

"First of all, I understand what Tony was saying from a general viewpoint because players do have a responsibility to try to keep fellow players on the field of play,” O’Neill told ESPN.

“I hadn't had a chance to see the incident until Sunday. I saw it and I still have exactly the same opinion, it's a reckless challenge.

"It's one that the referee sees very, very quickly and his opinion of it was my opinion at the time, that it was a red card. Now obviously, you can see he [Huth] has attempted to pull out at the end, but that's something the referee can't see in a split-second, and he still catches Meyler, and Meyler on the way down has hurt himself.

"This idea that Meyler feigned an injury - I'm sorry, I know David and David is as brave as they come. He has had two horrendous injuries himself that he is just recovering from, so from that viewpoint I think Tony is wrong.

"His general viewpoint about players having responsibility themselves to stop play-acting, I totally agree with that point, but not in this case with David Meyler.''

When asked if he had spoken to Pulis in regard to the latters’ comments that play-acting in football is a ‘disease’, O’Neill added: "I was talking to Tony afterwards and I knew what he was going to do. That's fine, that's totally his prerogative.

"But in this instance I will stick up for my player. If I thought any of my own players were out of order, I would like to think I would be able to come here and honestly give that assessment, but not in this case.''

Speaking in the aftermath of the match – Stoke’s third League defeat in a row – Pulis urged the game’s governing bodies to stamp out simulation.

The 54-year-old said: "The game is difficult enough for the referees because of the pace and tempo at which it is played. Then you get situations when players are falling around and rolling around when they have not even been touched.

"We don't want to take challenges out of the game - we want to be as competitive and fair as
we possibly can. But it is creeping into the game, where players I think are going down now with the intention of getting other players booked or even sent off when they have not really been hurt.''