Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Honours Even as Chapter Closes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Honours Even as Chapter Closes

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards at Molineux

Wolverhampton 1

Sunderland 1

THEY have been the most talked about peace talks this side of the Middle East this week but Neill Collins, the man who helped heal the biggest rift in European football, had to make do with a place on the substitute's bench last night.

Whether they liked it or not, this match - from which Sunderland emerged with a barely deserved point - was always going to be about Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy, Sunderland's managerial past and present' two former international team-mates and their turbulent and tempestuous past.

It has been just over four years since Keane's frustration boiled over on the eve of the Republic of Ireland's World Cup campaign in Japan and South Korea and McCarthy felt the full force of his star player's anger.

Who knows how long the animosity between them would have lasted had the fate of the fixture list and a centre-back from Scotland not brought them back together.

Neill Collins has had an unspectacular career at Sunderland since a pounds 25,000 move from Dumbarton but he has succeeded where far bigger personalities and illustrious names have failed - he made Keane and McCarthy talk again.

Out of the side at Sunderland, a player brought to the Stadium of Light by McCarthy was wanted at Wolves. A phone call was made, a brief conversation was had, Collins was allowed to leave and history was, as both men have been keen to stress this week, laid to rest.

The wounds may never be properly healed but the poison has at least been removed and there was a handshake - accompanied by almost as many flashing cameras as Tom Cruise's wedding - before kick-off, even if Keane looked far from comfortable with the fuss and attention McCarthy's grand gesture brought.

Finally the match could begin. It would have been poetic if Collins made an impact with a goal or a moment of controversy but he remained on the bench, like the United Nations, as an impartial observer.

Instead, it was Wolves striker Jemal Johnson who lit up the evening with a magnificent goal and a celebration which looked suspiciously as though it were intended to antagonise Keane.

The forward, who spent some time on loan at Darlington earlier in his career, lashed an unstoppable shot past Darren Ward from 25 yards after Danny Collins had failed to close him down. It was a sensational strike and the celebrations were inevitably exuberant. However, was there really any need to run towards the Sunderland bench and then slide on his knees while appearing to glare at Keane? The goal came just a minute before the break, although Keane was already fuming by that point, having seen Sunderland begin brightly and then allow the home side to dominate. Dwight Yorke had been one of the Black Cats' star players against Colchester but he was awful here, slow in the tackle and sloppy with the ball. …

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