Police are investigating death threats directed at Sunderland winger James McClean on Twitter from a man claiming to be a former British soldier.
McClean was criticised for refusing to wear a Remembrance Sunday poppy on his shirt during Sunderland's 2-1 defeat at Everton last weekend, although the club have insisted they were happy to let the 23 year-old from Derry make a personal choice.
Cody Lachey, a 29-year-old doorman from Manchester who claimed to have served in the Army, posted images of bullets on the player's Twitter timeline and, although he has denied he intends to carry out any sort of attack, he has refused to tone down his criticism.
Lachey even sent one of his threats directly to Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht, saying "he deserves to be shot dead and [his] body dragged past the Cenotaph". Lachey later withdrew his threat.
"I wanted him dead," Lachey was reported as saying by the Derry Journal. "But there's no threat from me to James McClean now, although I can't be held responsible for what other people may do. I think he's a f---ing disgrace."
His Twitter account has since been suspended, but Sunderland have confirmed police are looking into the matter.
McClean did not start yesterday's (Sunday's) match against Fulham, but he was booed when he came on as a substitute. "James will deal with it," his manager Martin O'Neill said. "It's a free choice in this world. James has lived with a lot of things."
Meanwhile, his team-mates were delighting in overturning the form book. Normally so meek going forward, Sunderland took full advantage of a stretched Fulham side, a man light after the first-half dismissal of Brede Hangeland. Adam Johnson crafted all three goals, the perfect rejoinder to Roy Hodgson, who overlooked him in midweek.
Over the next few weeks, as he languishes on the sidelines waiting to return from suspension, Hangeland may well relive the moment when he decided to attempt a slide tackle on Lee Cattermole. It was a decision with grave consequences: not just for this match, but perhaps for Fulham's season as well.
Not only did Hangeland fail to win the ball, but he was sent off by referee Lee Probert for lunging in with both feet airborne. For an hour, Fulham toiled and ultimately lost with 10 men, and a better team than Sunderland might have picked them off with even greater frequency.
But it also rules him out of the next three games. Fulham will travel to Stoke and Chelsea and host Tottenham without their best defender, captain and rudder.
Nor was Hangeland entirely to blame. Giorgos Karagounis's pass had sold him woefully short. Cattermole was poised to reach the ball first before Hangeland desperately flew in, both feet leaving the ground.
Hangeland's dismissal threw Fulham into chaos. By the end, they were shattered and exhausted, vulnerable to the lightning break, even from a Sunderland side distinctly lacking in lightning this season. It was one of those breaks that led to Sunderland's goal early in the second half.
Johnson's cross was low and early. Steven Fletcher's control was exquisite, gathering the ball and pushing it past Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham equalised quickly. An unmarked Damien Duff gathered Hugo Rodallega's header and pulled the ball back to Mladen Petric, who tucked the ball in from four yards.
But three minutes later, Carlos Carlos Cuellar drifted unchecked to the near post to meet Johnson's corner with a glancing header.
Stephane Sessegnon added a third, a magnificent curling shot, and thus was settled a fairly ordinary match.
Sunderland were by no means outstanding, but that will scarcely matter to their long-suffering fans who for the first time in nine months had a win to toast on their long trek back up north.