Sunderland, Reading match postponed

Sunderland, Reading match postponed

Published Aug. 25, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Sunderland's Barclays Premier League clash with Reading on Saturday afternoon was called off after torrential rain on Wearside.

Referee Neil Swarbrick postponed the fixture at around 1.40pm after several inspections, with managers Martin O'Neill and Brian McDermott both having viewed the playing surface for themselves.

Rain had been falling all morning and with no sign of a break in the weather, Mr Swarbrick took his decision, it is understood with the support of the managers.

The Black Cats had intended to introduce big-money signings Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher to the fans ahead of the clash.


O'Neill, who sealed a double swoop which cost owner and chairman Ellis Short significantly 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. 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."

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.

Neither manager had any complaints about the decision, although O'Neill could not hide his surprise. He said: "I don't remember a game called off in August in Britain, so it's another first. It's inexplicable, really. There was a bit of rain around on Thursday when we trained, but the pitch was absolutely perfect and the players thought it was perfect.

"But now for it to lie, then there must be a problem with the drains. I don't know. But there has been rain like this here in Sunderland before in the last century."

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

O'Neill could now hand Johnson and Fletcher debuts in Tuesday night's Capital One Cup tie against Morecambe with his elation at their capture still fresh.

He said: "Obviously, I am delighted, really, really pleased. It seemed a long-running saga with the Fletcher affair, but I am delighted it got resolved and delighted that he is part of it.

"And then to get Adam, it's really, really big news for us, big news. It's a real coup. He's a fantastic football and he's really exciting. I just think if he stays clear of serious injury, he will be great for us, really great.

"I am pleased he has chosen to come here because at Manchester City, he might not have been playing all the time there and maybe it seemed as if he might be leaving.

"But to come to us instead of a number of other teams who were definitely in for him, I was just very, very pleased, pleased for everyone."