Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill not singing in the rain

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was a disappointed man after the Wearside weather literally rained on his parade.

On the day the Black Cats had intended to introduce big-money signings Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher to the fans ahead of their Barclays Premier League clash with Reading, torrential rain at the Stadium of Light forced a rare August postponement.

O'Neill, who sealed a double swoop which cost owner and chairman Ellis Short in excess of £20million on Friday, said: "On behalf of the football club, I am really, really disappointed. I'm sorry and I have to apologise. There's been a lot of rain on the pitch - I know it's a new pitch - I haven't got to the bottom of it yet at the moment."

He added: "We trained on the pitch on Thursday lunchtime just to get a feel of it because it's a new pitch that's been laid, but apparently that might not have been the problem, I don't know. But the water was just not going away and we have had an awful lot of rain."

By the time O'Neill and his players arrived at the stadium, match referee Neil Swarbrick and his fellow officials had already made an assessment of the conditions, and with the weather forecast suggesting there was more to come, consulted the Ulsterman and Reading counterpart Brian McDermott before calling the match off at around 1.40pm.

Swarbrick, who revealed he had never before had to order a postponement, said: "Talking to the groundsman, the water banks were already full, which is obviously just down to Mother Nature and the fact it has been raining all night and all morning.

"There was nowhere for the water to go, so whatever water came down was just going to stand on the pitch, so at that point as officials, we talked about the situation and before we made any final decision, we just wanted to talk with both Martin and Brian about our thought-processes, which we did.

"We waited for them to come there around about 1.30pm, went down to the pitch with them and straightaway they could understand our concerns and the issues with the pitch.

"The pools of water were getting larger and longer, and they agreed that the game should be called off due to the factor of safety of the players - the ball would hold up in the pools of water - and the spectacle of the game. It would have just been a farce, so on the grounds of the waterlogged pitch, the game was called off."

McDermott said: "We walked on the right-hand side of the pitch and it was unplayable."

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