Former Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has recalled a fight between defenders Nedum Onuoha and John Mensah which led to then-manager Steve Bruce calling his side “a bunch of p*ssies”.
The Belgian goalkeeper’s performances in three years on Wearside convinced Liverpool to buy him in 2013.
In 2010-11, Bruce signed Onuoha on loan from Manchester City and he made 31 appearances as Sunderland finished 10th in the Premier League.
But despite his side’s respectable campaign, the relationship between he and fellow centre-half Mensah was not the best.
“John Mensah and Nedum Onuoha were two assertive players in the dressing room, not to mention aggressive,” Mignolet told The Times.
“After one of them played a short return pass, the other decided to make amends and make him feel small at half-time. At least that was the intention.
“Our captain [Lee Cattermole] jumped in and Bruce was called from another room where he was with his coaching staff.
“Bruce said: ‘Let them have a proper fight. If they want to fight, let them fight.’ There was nothing more than a little pushing and pulling. Bruce said: ‘See now. You are a bunch of p*ssies in the dressing room and on the field.’”
Both Onuoha and Mensah left the Stadium of Light at the end of the 2010-11 season, with Onuoha returning to Man City and Mensah returning to parent club Lyon after two seasons on loan.
Bruce was dismissed as manager early on in the following season and replaced by Martin O’Neill. But it was O’Neill’s replacement, Paulo Di Canio, who sticks in Mignolet’s memory.
Di Canio arrived with Sunderland fighting relegation, and he was less than impressed by what he found at the club’s training base.
“Paolo went mad when he first saw the players’ buffet, full of grease,” Mignolet said.
“He shouted in his funny English with a heavy Italian accent: ‘What is this? What is this? Is this a wedding?’ It was hilarious.”
Di Canio helped Sunderland avoid relegation in 2012-13, but was sacked just five games into the following season – by which time, Mignolet was settling into his new surroundings at Anfield.