Gus’s Pools echo

NO FEAR ... Sunderland boss Gus Poyet.
NO FEAR ... Sunderland boss Gus Poyet.

GUS Poyet says he would be a “hypocrite” if he said he did not believe clubs who break the rules of football should not be heavily punished.

He was speaking after Sunderland found themselves in the dock this week over fielding Ji Dong-won in four league games, when the South Korean should have been ineligible because his international clearance had not been properly updated.

The case had echoes of an incident Poyet was involved in when Hartlepool Utd fielded an ineligible player against his Brighton side in 2010.

The Seagulls boss complained bitterly that not only should Hartlepool have points docked for fielding an ineligible player but that Brighton should be given them.

Hartlepool were docked points but Brighton were not awarded any and Poyet said: “I felt strongly about it then and I feel strongly about it now that if there is a blatant breach of the rules there should be punishments.

“I would be a hypocrite if I denied now what I said previously.”

Hartlepool’s case was far more severe than Sunderland’s when they fielded Gary Liddle, who should have been serving a two-match ban in a game which Hartlepool went on to win.

Ji Dong-won’s problem emerged over a technical error when the club failed to realise Ji needed to have his international clearance re-registered when he returned from a loan spell at Augsburg last year.

It was Sunderland who raised the matter with the Premier League when the oversight was noticed and the Premier League themselves should have flagged up the missing paperwork when they registered Ji at the start of the season.

The incident caused both embarrassment at the time when it was dealt with the club accepting a heavy fine, and embarrassment again this week when the slip-up was made public.

A statement from the club revealed: “The issue of Ji Dong-won was explained in detail at a Premier League shareholders meeting and no issues were raised by any club.

“Sunderland confirmed they had complied with all procedures and the Premier League stated that the player was duly registered on the extranet system and in all other Premier League mechanisms.

“The club has never accepted any wrongdoing, but did acknowledge that a technical fault occurred and as such were fined by the Premier League accordingly in December.

“The matter is now closed.”

The player at the centre of the storm Ji Dong-won, who was transferred to Augsburg permanently in January this year has meanwhile been praised by Poyet for not going public on the matter.

While the issue was being dealt with, Sunderland did not pick the striker.

Ji’s next game, after the error was discovered in October, was not until New Year’s Day when the new registration was rubber-stamped.

And Poyet said: “I can only talk about him as a professional.

“And I have to say he was outstanding in terms of the fact he understood he couldn’t be a player for me.

“He didn’t talk about it. He waited, he didn’t say a word.

“And I think as a professional he deserves credit for the way he handled himself.”