SUNDERLAND manager Martin O’Neill saw his team grab their second win in 19 league games yesterday, but confirmed after the match that James McClean was sent death threats following the winger’s decision not to wear a poppy on his shirt the previous week.
Three second half goals from Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon gave Sunderland victory despite Fulham being level at one stage through substitute Mladen Petric, after captain Brede Hangeland was given a straight red in the first half.
Yet O’Neill was forced to dwell on a less welcome turn of events after the game, during which McClean came on as a second half substitute.
“James has lived with a lot of things – he’s getting death threats now as well too, so that doesn’t help,” O’Neill said.
Ireland international McClean is believed to have been the subject of online threats after he played at Everton last Saturday – the day before Remembrance Day – without a poppy on his shirt.
“James will deal with it,” O’Neill said yesterday, referring to possible booing from sections of the crowd. “It’s a free choice here in this world, it’s a free choice,” he added, giving support to his player’s decision.
O’Neill’s Sunderland side visited Fulham seeking only their second win of the Premier League season. On the half hour mark their chances were given a boost as a two-footed lunge by Hangeland resulted in referee Lee Probert sending off the big Norwegian centre-back.
Ten men Fulham battled on and five minutes into the second half a John Arne Riise effort deflected onto the bar. But Sunderland went straight up the other end with Adam Johnson curling a pass from the left wing behind Fulham substitute Philippe Senderos, for Fletcher to pounce with a deadly, calm finish.
Ten minutes later Fulham drew level as Petric slammed home Damien Duff’s low cross, but the Black Cats hit straight back as Cuellar rose above Steve Sidwell to head a corner in off the post.
And Sessegnon sealed the win with a breathtaking 69th minute strike from over 20 yards out.