Sunderland’s Dan Neil finally breaks the silence on Middlesbrough’s red card incident, suspension at Stoke and approach to referees…

Dan Neil, the Sunderland midfielder, has shared his thoughts on the red card he received against Middlesbrough, his subsequent suspension at Stoke, and his changed approach when dealing with referees.

The 21-year-old midfielder was issued a second yellow card for dissent during Sunderland’s contentious 4-0 loss to Middlesbrough. The game was still level at the time, and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) later apologized to Sunderland for the referee’s decision. This red card also led to Neil’s one-match suspension for his team’s match against Stoke, which they lost 2-1. Neil returned to the squad for matches against Leicester and Norwich.

Reflecting on his dismissal against Middlesbrough, Neil expressed the difficulty he faced in accepting it. He felt that he was unfairly treated and emphasized that he would admit if he had said something completely inappropriate. Neil, while serving his suspension, observed numerous instances of players saying similar or worse things to referees, leading him to believe that the referee’s decision was emotional rather than fair. Although he quickly accepted the decision and was eager to rejoin the team, he found it hard to watch his teammates play while he was suspended.

In the match against Leicester, Neil believed he should have been awarded a penalty after being fouled in the box, but the decision went against Sunderland. Pundits even suggested that he should have appealed more vigorously for a penalty, but Neil revealed that he has been working on altering his approach in recent matches. He emphasized that he has been more careful with his interactions with referees, even when there were controversial decisions in recent games.

Before his suspension against Stoke, Neil had started every league game for Sunderland. His suspension allowed him to rest, as head coach Tony Mowbray rotated the midfield. Neil viewed the suspension as an opportunity to recharge and prepare mentally and physically for upcoming matches.

Tony Mowbray fumes at red card as he explains what Sunderland's Dan Neil  was sent off for - Teesside Live

Despite the defeat against Leicester, Sunderland gained confidence from their performance, using it as a foundation to come from behind and win 3-1 against Norwich. Neil scored his team’s second goal just before halftime.

Neil highlighted that the whole team drew confidence from their performance against Leicester, acknowledging the opponent’s status as a top Championship side. He emphasized their strategy to press and put pressure on Leicester, despite not having the finishing touch in the final third. Neil noted that the manager of the opposing team praised Sunderland’s tenacity and their ability to force errors and disrupt Leicester’s possession.

The victory against Norwich elevated Sunderland to seventh place in the Championship table, setting the stage for their upcoming match against Swansea, followed by a home game against Birmingham before the November international break.

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